The Fielden Project

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Richard Mulhearn


Looking West is a three panel photographic piece produced specifically for the Fielden Project. The key theme is emigration. I am drawn to the common desire shown to break with the conformity embodied in the experience of working and living in Todmorden at the time the Unitarian Church was constructed. Unitarianism attempted to break the conformity engendered by the Church of England. Despite the intention to create better working conditions and living standards, the town and culture remained deeply conformist and structures of class and position remained intact. Work and religion defined the ways to live; this being clearly marked out by social position; breaking this conformity resulted in exclusion. With no place left in a conforming environment, to leave would be problematic. Caught between the limiting constraint of a defined position, and the unknown of everywhere else, a small number chose the latter.

Walking up Meadow Bottom Road, the track continues towards the original Burnley Road, which passes under the Whirlaws. It’s very open up there – to look South West down the valley, the sky is often greyly oppressive, but occasionally opens, shimmers and quickly transforms. The character of the piece is not a ghost or a spirit, but an invention – a character in the literary tradition, who is simultaneously retracing the past and moving outwards, passing through history, fact, imagination and memory, whilst listening to the crows.