I’ve been working with artist Andrew Howe and filmmaker Jill Impey on this Heritage Lottery funded project to tell the dramatic story of the Cinderloo Uprising, which took place in Telford almost 200 years ago in February 1821. Some 3,000 men, women and children marched in protest at proposed pay cuts and increasing poverty. They gathered on the ‘cinder hills’, the slag heaps, of Old Park – now, in one of history’s ironies, the site of Telford Forge Retail Park. Here the protest culminated in a pitched battle with the Shropshire Yeomanry. Two men were shot dead with many injured as the crowd panicked and fled. One man, Thomas Palin, was hanged in April for ‘felonious riot’.
Cinderloo1821 is a group of local historians, artists, writers and many other interested people who have gathered together to raise awareness of the event and commemorate it in a series of activities leading up to the 200th Anniversary in 2021.
This is a little film showing the children at work with me one day in October.
We walked outdoors with several different primary schools, finding some of the places where the Cinderloo story unfolded, finding lumps of slag now embedded in garden walls, and talking about the layering of history, from the cold February morning in 1821, to the children’s own day with the project in 2019. I wrote collaborative poems with the children, then they wrote poems of their own. Later they built their poems into beautiful collages.
Here’s the collaborative poem the class in the little film made with me. All the words are the children’s own, with my editing.
TOM PALIN IN THE WOODS
The sun fought the wind till it flew.
Late bees carried pollen past my head.
Dusty yellow leaves were trodden by dirty boots
and when I walked out of the mine
the children started to play.
I saw a silver shadow in the tree.
It had a face that stared at me.
Birdsong, birdsong, a beautiful sound
and leaves falling all around –
red, brown, yellow, green, and mud
that sticks to shoes that once were clean.
Greenery today, and beautiful scenery
and heavy slag stuck in damp grass.
Working children saw daylight on a Sunday. Leaves
fell majestically, and conkers with a cracked crown.
The sun glamoured from the sky and
mud was sticky as glue under my feet.
Stones were thrown, bones were crushed.
Watching, glaring out, I was threatened.
The devil’s leaf has fallen.
Squelchy chocolate mud tried to pull
the Yeomen in. People were shot – pow!
And I saw the sun through the trees.
In the mud it was like cement where I stood.
Tip tap, the rain pattered, hitting the ground gently.
And when Tom Palin stumbled to the noose,
his spirit was rising through the stairway of the tree.