When TV caught a key moment in time

WHILE carnival time 2008 this weekend will be a happy time for many townspeople, it was a different story for workers at Smith's weaving factory at Frostholme Mill, Cornholme, 40 years ago.

Then the mill closed, seeing 200 people lose their livelihoods and the BBC made a half hour television programme about the closure.

It is the latest release in a series of local television programmes licensed by Todmorden Tourist Information Centre for issue on DVD with the assistance of Todmorden Rotary Club, and four decades later it makes very interesting if not always easy viewing - as it springs from bad news involving the closure of a major employer in the village and indeed the town.

It captures a moment in time, when one of the major cotton mills in Todmorden was forced to close due to economic pressures, signalling the slow decline of Todmorden as a purely industrial, cotton town.

This had a very human cost as the programme, Redundant At Carnival Time, made in 1968 as part of a series, shows but there was also a resilience of spirit too.

Three of the workers are interviewed in detail at the factory or out and about in the town, in Cornholme village itself, along the Rochdale Canal at Shade and Walsden and at that year's Todmorden Carnival.

They were probably selected as they represented different age groups among the mill workers as well as all performing different tasks at Frostholme.

Senior foreman Jacob Fielden was a man in his middle 50s when the mill closed and when the news broke saw no hope of similar employment being obtainable in the weaving trade and limited prospects as to retraining. However later in the film Jacob is seen talking to a friend and colleague of similar age. Both were planning to move away from the town to find new and different types of work.

Neither saw much future for Todmorden as a commuter town and wondered what its future would be. The prospect of moving away and uprooting at their age could not have been easy but Jacob said finding work was a must, not just economically but because he was not ready to retire and wanted to work.

Moving away from Cornholme was a wrench for overlooker Michael Redmond, married with a young family, but he too had made the decision that although looking to keep his trade, he needed to practice it in a different place.

The youngest employee featured, weaver Sandra Walker, whose mother and father were also made redundant by the mill's closure, was at the start of her working life. Sandra did not want to leave the town and felt that for her at least, with the adaptability of youth, work would be there if she looked for it.

Sandra was right, and by the programme's end, having followed the event over some weeks, she was training as a nurse at the Stansfield View Hospital above the town.

The views of all three interviewees are informative and well thought out, although with different conclusions and endings in each case. These are good, thoughtful people, and anyone watching will surely hope that life turned out well for them and their families.

It did for Frostholme, as first Alan Cooper's and now J. H. Sutcliffe's manufacture furniture on the former weaving premises.

As a piece of Todmorden's history it is invaluable, and although the half hour programme carries a time-code (it is taken from the remaining master) it is compelling stuff if at times very saddening, particularly when Jacob, looking out onto a deserted looking Burnley Road from the mill window, recalls the road being packed with mill workers from Frostholme and Bobbin Mill, clogs echoing down it.

The DVD is now available from Todmorden Tourist Information Centre, Burnley Road, priced at 11.99.