Poetry for Cotton Famine Road

If you’ve been watching the BBC’s excellent Black and British series recently then you’ll have caught a glimpse of Rooley Moor road set in some of Rochdale’s most beautiful landscape and the role this route played in fighting against slavery.

On the 16th August, members of the Touchstones Creative Writing Group wrote original poetry to help celebrate the unveiling of the plaque dedicated to the community who sided with the cotton picking slaves. Below you can see a video from the event.

For more on Rooley Moor and the work going on in the local community, see their website: Rooley Moor Neighbourhood Forum.

Other Side of Town

How do you feel to be apart from me?

We should be together, it is our destiny.

How do creed and race compare

to our love, precious and rare?


I left you on the other side of town.

My hopes and dreams shattered, torn down.

My life in pieces, my heart in two.

How am I going to live without you?


It was decided, we had no say

in the events of that awful day.

You were taken, ripped from my side,

to become another man’s bride.


Now it’s finished, your life over.

My beautiful girl, my one true lover.

I leave you on the other side of town.

My life in tatters; you in the ground.


The other side of town

Nestling amidst stark, Pennine hills,

fringeing a river, our town has grown,

spreading slowly through passing years,

like gentle waves that never recede.

Ever growing, ever changing.

Growing and changing.


Old slabbed pavements, cobbled roads.

Stone terraced houses, grime encrusted.

Mills and chimneys in every vista.

Reminders past of Rochdale’s pulse.

But change is coming;

change is coming.


When life was dreary, hard and raw,

town offered a sense of belonging.

Change occurred slowly, steadily, sure,

watched over benignly by the Town Hall clock.

It was the other side of Town.

Other side of Town.


Here and now, town is transforming.

Black spots flattened, erased, re-jigged.

Trams are revived, Roch river exposed,

revealing forgotten medieval world.

New projects in progress;

projects in progress.


What’s at its heart? What stimulates change?

Heritage, history all play their part.

Communities contribute hope for the future,

share strengths and skills co-joined as one.

This is the other side of town,

other side of town.

The Other Side of Town

Bright lights winking like Diamond Mines

beckon towards the liminal line,

chasing another life, another dream,

reality not always what it seems

when cultures mingle like fish in a stream,

exploited by big fish in-between.


Learning and romance, stepping stones

onto a social mobility track,

three steps forward, two from going back.

Desperate, take a gamble, life itself upon the line,

Barriers to Entry protect the liminal line.


Raising a stake in life’s precarious game

few options from which to choose

when you have nothing to lose.

Like a gambler dealt a hand,

life becomes a game of chance,

playing for a foothold in an unknown land.


Fear of failure holding them back;

a long journey out, a short way back.

Many bridges to cross to breech the divide,

constantly swimming against strong tides,

gap between rich and poor so wide.


A similar game, different starting lines.

A Gulf of wealth before winners cross the line

in the race for the victor’s prize.

Many fall down, others simply drown.

Same tears are shed on both sides of town.


Busy doing nothing 2

Meeting deadlines, causing furore,

huffing and puffing, paper shuffling,

Education, Industry, Politics, Law.


Debating pros and cons,

discussing rights and wrongs,

trying to reach agreement,

good points and bad,

driving the populace mad.


Shaking of heads, shaking of hands,

can’t seal agreement on future plans.

Cynical smiles and cynical thoughts,

battles for budgets and funding are fought.


Busy doing nothing,

meeting after meeting,

tripping up on paper trails,

another objective doomed to fail.


Overpaid executives duly elected,

hair-brained strategies totally ineffective,

Mission Statements no value at all,

need another meeting, book another hall.


Answering texts, avoid answering calls,

busy doing nothing,

unbearable Twittering, endless prattle,

about nothing that matters.


Humming with activity,

corridors of Power and Industry,

Lackeys in a hurry scurry,

busy doing nothing

with common regularity.