Meeting the creative community in Ramsbottom

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 May 2018

Street view along Peel Brow with views across to Peel Tower

Street view along Peel Brow with views across to Peel Tower


Ramsbottom is well known for its food and drink scene, but Rebekka O’Grady meets some arty residents that will inspire your creative side.

Joy Ladds of Joy of WillowJoy Ladds of Joy of Willow

Weaving a tale

One person who knows all about the rural area around Ramsbottom is artist Joy Ladds.

We met her at Holly Mount Orchard, located just outside Ramsbottom in the village of Greenmount. This is a community restoration project, powered and inspired by Incredible Edible Ramsbottom, to transform a derelict former convent orchard to its former glory. Joy also runs her willow weaving business, Joy of Willow, from here.

‘I just love sharing things that are good for people and for their health – which is ironic as the business was founded through bad health,’ said Joy, who suffered a period of illness that put her life on hold.

‘It made me think carefully about what I wanted to do next. I saw there was a weekend willow weaving course and, as soon as I put my hands on it, I loved it. I started by building a space rocket. My dad was a brick layer, so I think building things runs in the family.’

For Joy, working with willow was the perfect material. It’s not only an easy thing to get creative with, but it is also sustainable and relatively simple to grow. At the orchard, there are wild trees that have been growing for some time, but Joy has also planted a multi-coloured willow bed, which produces yellow, black and red trees.

‘All the materials are here, I just turn up with string and tools for people. We’re not just consuming but creating resources,’ said Joy, who hosts willow weaving workshops.

The next one will be held on June 9, making small willow animals. She also works on bespoke commissions and alongside local schools, which are growing their own materials.

Holly Mount Orchard is not only home to Joy of Willow, but also hosts a range of activities throughout the year. It was saved in the 1980s and, on the first Sunday of every month, volunteers help to maintain it.

‘It’s a great place to be. People say that after being here for ten minutes they feel happier and relaxed. To work down here is amazing. I am so glad I started as I am doing what I love.’

For more information on Joy of Willow, email Joy on

Laura Morris of Pur CandlesLaura Morris of Pur Candles

Burning bright

In the midst of purchasing a house for renovation, getting married and then looking after two young boys, Laura Morris never imagined that she would have the time to set up her own business.

‘I had left my job in sales after eight years as I was missing out on too much with the boys. It became really strained so I decided to take a step back,’ said Laura, who in 2013 then started to make candles out of natural ingredients in her kitchen in her spare time.

She made her first candle for a friend’s birthday, and after it testing well she was encouraged to make more. Pur Candles developed into a business almost without Laura knowing.

‘I started to do farmers’ markets in Ramsbottom and Helmshore, and soon I had stockists within the local area.’

All of Laura’s candles are hand poured in small batches of six and are created from natural ingredients – that was an important promise to her customers from the start. There are no additives but they all contain essential oils.

‘So many people don’t know the amount of rubbish that are in some candles, so it gives me peace of mind to know that mine are beautiful candles that are also clean.’

Each standard size candle retails at £18 and scents include Peppermint and Palmarosa and Grapefruit. Laura has also just released a new two wick candle for £35, and produces boxes of tea lights for £8.

‘One of my dreams is to open my own interiors and lifestyle shop, where I can sell my candles alongside lots of other lovely things,’ she said.

‘Another goal is to be on sale inside a department store. My mum is already saying that the candles in John Lewis can’t compared to mine!’

Geoff Sword, chairman and Stuart Birtwell, archivist and actor for Summerseat Players at the Theatre RoyalGeoff Sword, chairman and Stuart Birtwell, archivist and actor for Summerseat Players at the Theatre Royal

Golden years

This year sees the Summerseat Players celebrate their 50th anniversary, with many founding members of the amateur dramatics group still along for the ride, including chairman Geoff Sword.

‘I think we have contributed to Ramsbottom. It’s a great little town and we are part of a really nice community,’ said Geoff, who helped launch the group in 1968.

‘We renewed what was the Summerseat Community Amateur Dramatic Society at the old St Wilfred’s Mission Church, renting the hall from the vicar.’

Eventually the players bought the building for £3,000 and transformed it into a 104 seat theatre. It was a cosy venue, where cups of tea and biscuits were served on trays during the interval. Fast forward to 1991, and the group moved into the Theatre Royal in Ramsbottom, which had been Buskers Bar and Smithies Snooker Club.

The players did everything themselves, from building the tiered seating and creating a stage to a green room and bar area. Over the years they have continued to improve the theatre. In 2007 they spent almost £400,000 adding a studio theatre upstairs and refurbishing the bar, lounge and toilets.

‘It’s a great asset to the town and I think it was just what Ramsbottom needed. We’ve built ourselves up from three night productions to nine nights,’ said Geoff. The players, who also have a choir, The Square Street Singers, and a youth theatre, stage seven productions a year, with five taking place on the main stage and two in the studio.

A special night takes place on the Friday when a local charity is responsible for selling tickets and can make up to £2,000. The scheme has become so popular that there’s now a waiting list.

‘For the second year running, according to the annual audit from the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, we have had the highest percentage of occupied seats in the country,’ said Stuart Birtwell, an actor and archivist with the players, who researched the group’s history for their 50th anniversary booklet.

He estimated that sales exceeded 90 per cent. ‘We have 900 patrons who book up for the whole season, and around 70 core members. ‘That core is invaluable, not just when it comes to acting or directing, but whether it’s at the bar, cleaning or helping with costumes – it’s a whole industry that comes together.’

The Grant yurt (credit: Karen Dexter)The Grant yurt (credit: Karen Dexter)

Luxe life

‘We’re quite lucky to have one of the few flat fields in Ramsbottom,’ said Charlotte Hanley. ‘It’s in a prime position with a great view so it was perfect for camping.’

It’s true, it is pretty unheard of within the Ramsbottom and Bury area to have a flat piece of land, so it’s no surprise that Ramsbottom Festival approached Charlotte and her mum and partner, Carol and Andrew Rothwell, to see if they would host the camping for their 2015 event at The Paddocks.

‘After that, people wanted to camp all of the time so we decided to set up a business,’ said Andrew.

The family had a successful first season of glamping and camping in 2017, and are now gearing up to launch their second season this year.

Alongside being able to pitch your own tent, they also offer two luxury glamping yurts, two beautifully furnished bell tents, quirky landpods and a basic bell tent – meaning you can enjoy everything the great outdoors has to offer but with some added luxuries, including log burners and breakfast and barbecue packs.

‘Ramsbottom is a desirable place to spend a weekend with lots of restaurants and bars so we’re just offering people an alternative place to stay,’ said Andrew, a semi-retired stone mason.

Alongside Carol, an artificial flower importer, and Charlotte, a part-time beauty therapist, the family see their two worlds collide once it gets to the weekend, where they then become hosts for people visiting from not only around the UK, but the world.

‘We’ve had cyclists from Belgium turn up at 7pm asking about camping pitches. It’s been lovely to meet different people, it’s very interesting.’

Not all are country lovers. ‘Some people have been worried that a fox might come in during the night!’ said Carol.

‘It certainly is a new adventure and we are learning as we go along,’ added Charlotte. ‘It’s just going to get better. We’re all really excited for this season.’ u

Linzi Hannam of Stitch with Sandra Leontieff and Rachel JudgeLinzi Hannam of Stitch with Sandra Leontieff and Rachel Judge

Sew much fun

If you fancy getting creative, you could book into a class at Stitch, a modern sewing studio. Linzi Hannam and her team host creative classes and craft workshops, ranging the basics of learning to sew to dress making and crochet.

‘I’ve been sewing all my life; I watched my nana making her own clothes and I was interested in craft from a very young age,’ said Linzi, whose passion for art and design throughout school and college led to her gaining a degree in fashion and textiles at UCLAN.

‘I started Stitch Studio in 2013 initially to share my sewing skills and to meet other creative people in the area. What has happened since is incredible. Stitch has become a little creative community with the studio being the hub. We see lifelong friendships being made and skill sharing at its best.’

If you’ve caught the sewing bug, they also sell a small selection of sewing fabrics, patterns and kits for you to continue your new hobby at home.

‘Sewing and craft has seen a massive resurgence in the last few years as people are looking for ways to de-stress and disconnect from the internet,’ said Linzi. ‘People seem to be looking for mindful activities and human interaction. Our regular customers come to Stitch for much more than the learning.’

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