Skip to main content
Winter Writing Trail

in conjunction with Julie Hesmondhalgh

Julie launched a themed creative writing competition, a specific winter story or poem linking to Accrington if possible, and then selected the winners herself from hundreds of superb entries.

15 winners were selected from all the entries, displayed alongside 11 provided by professional writers. The work is being displayed in shop windows all around Accrington centre. This has formed a Town Centre Trail, with a card available to find a highlighted letter on each display, which forms a sentence to enter a competition.

Through Julie, we are also fortunate enough to have some of the country’s top actors reading out the winning entries, which can be found by clicking the links.

“We’ve put together this wonderful trail with winter writing from professional writers and local students. We’ve got some fantastic local talent and I’m delighted at how it’s all come together.”

Primary Schools

Christmas in Accrington by Willow Rose Walsh, aged 10, Peel Park Primary School

As the bleak, frosty wind surrounded me,

And the children played together with such glee.

Accrington is covered in joy and colour,

We all unite together forever.

Walking with family in the snow,

Making Christmas cookies with round dough.

As our little community starts to grow,

We all unite together forever.

JULIE HESMONDHALGH grew up in Church, Accrington and went to Hyndburn Park, Moorhead High School and Accrington and Rossendale College.

She is an actor and writer.  Her latest book, An Actor’s Alphabet is published by Nick Hern Books. She is the proud patron of Maundy Relief.

Prize sponsored by:

The Christmas Wish by Miley Greaves, aged 10, St Andrews Primary School

One snowy night there was a cold little mouse named Snowball. She was a very curious mouse who loved exploring and an adventure.

Snowball was walking around in the big city trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night, when suddenly a huge snow-covered car zoomed past, blowing poor Snowball away into the dark.

“Hello, is anybody there?” she shouted – but there was no reply. Then there was a light. She followed this light not knowing what it was. Out of nowhere a dog came out of the shadows.

“Hello” said the dog.

“Hello” said Snowball, stuttering. Sensing her fear, the dog walked up to the mouse and told her his name.

“I’m Honey” the dog said. “I am a nice dog, I want to help you, not eat you.”

Knowing this, Snowball told Honey her name.

“Nice to meet you, Snowball.” answered Honey kindly.

“Are you lonely and looking for somewhere to stay too?” asked Snowball very hopefully.

“A bit I guess, what is a tiny mouse like you doing out here in the big city?” asked Honey.

“I am looking for my family, a huge rat ran off with them when I was younger and ever since then I have been looking and looking for them, I really do want to find them.” replied Snowball sadly.

“Don’t worry, I will help you find them, but in the morning – we must get some rest first!”

The next day, Snowball and Honey set off from the cardboard shelter they had found in the alleyway.

“Are you ready?” said Honey.

“For what?” Snowball replied.

“Today is the day we find your family!” Honey said.

As the day went by Snowball and Honey were getting tired of frantically searching. They spotted a church that was letting out twelve loud chimes.

It’s Christmas Day!” said Snowball.

Just then, Honey spotted a small mouse running into the crack in the church.

“Who’s that?” said Honey.

“That’s my mum!” shouted Snowball excitedly.

They reunited once again, and Snowball finally got her Christmas wish!

SALLY DYNEVOR is a British actress, best known for her role as Sally Metcalfe on Coronation Street, a role which she has played since 1986.

Prize sponsored by:

Watch Julie visit St Andrews Primary School:

Hannah’s Happiest Day by Harriet Pearson, aged 11, Altham St James’ CE Primary School

One cold winter’s morning, I was just contently playing on my phone when my sister suddenly came barging into my room.

“What do you want?” I shouted sleepily.

“It snowed!!”

I was annoyed. “Hannah, I’m fourteen now! I don’t really want to play in the snow. Get out please!”

I saw tears form in her eyes and she stormed out of my room and slammed the door behind her. I sighed.

My Mum then shouted me for a hot chocolate. As I got up and slouched to my window, I saw a glistening blanket of snow covering the Coppice. It looked like a huge forest of sugar.

Winter is here.

There was a family playing in the snow. It reminded me of Hannah.

“Alice come on! Your hot chocolate is going cold!”

I smiled with how happy the family looked. “Okay! Coming!”

Then, I hurried down the stairs and went to drink my hot chocolate.

As I finished the last sip of hot chocolate, I got a sudden thought.

I feel bad.

I’ve got to play with her.

So without hesitation, I went upstairs.

After I got into my snow gear, I went back downstairs and ran outside and then dived into the snow.

“You came out!” she smiled.

“I know! Let’s make a snowman!”

That day, we had the happiest day ever!

SALLY CARMAN-DUTTINE is an English actress, well known for portraying the roles of Kelly Maguire in Shameless and Abi Frankin in Coronation Street.

Prize sponsored by:

How I spent my Last Christmas by Christine Oriaku, aged 10, St Peters CE Primary School

I spent my last Christmas in Lagos Nigeria, we visited Eleko beach on a family visit.

The trip was planned two months before Christmas, we had heard so many interesting stories of the beach.

The beach is located at Lekki, on the outskirts of Lagos Nigeria. We heard from family and friends that it is an interesting and lovely place to visit on a festive day.

It is one of the largest beaches in Nigeria, there are many activities and events like; dancing, swimming, musical performances by famous artists, bowling, horse riding, watching the tides of the water and boat riding.

There are also hotels where families and visitors can lodge, booking arrangements are usually made before that day. Caravans are also available for interested people.

My parents started making arrangements for the trip by buying things we needed for the trip like; snacks, food and drinks, and the hotel reservation was also made for the night.

Me and my siblings were so excited and anxiously looking forward to the trip to the beach. Finally, the day had come, the day we had waited for, for so long.

That day was a Sunday. After the church service known as mass, we wished people Merry Christmas, and gave them gifts on our way to our apartment, because it is a season of love.

We changed into our beach outfits, then we headed to the filling station to fill up our gas tank and we started our journey to the beach.

The traffic was intense, as families were on their way to the beach, there was groups and associations on buses, who were also on their way to the beach – because it was a festive period, we saw things like people dancing on the road, decorations, fireworks and there was Christmas songs heard from event centres and also social gatherings.

The atmosphere was really charged with various activities, because the majority of the people were Christians and it was almost the end of the year.

It took us about 50 minutes to arrive at the beach. Immediately after we arrived, we went to store our bags in the hotel rooms, which we had booked earlier and drove straight to the venue.

The beach venue was filled to the brim with a lot of people, both young and old were there. Popular artists were performing and people were chanting excitedly at their music.

Myself and my siblings chanted to one of our favourite songs, from one of my favourite artists, as he sang on stage. The title of the song was ‘Calm down by Rema’, my parents ensured we stayed together because of the crowd.

Shortly after the performance, we went horse riding. I remember that my dad rode with my younger siblings, who were scared of the size of the horses, though excited as they rode on them. There were so many activities and lots of things to do, that I couldn’t decide which to do.

I finally went to watch the beautiful sea tides, with people skiing and people on boat rides. The next activity we did was to pick sea shells. We also helped a sea turtle and a crab to get by the sea for safety.

Later our parents took us back to the hotel rooms, we changed into our night wears and passed the night.

I will recommend this experience I had to anyone who would want to go to the beach.

With all of these experiences I narrated, would you love to go to Eleko beach, Lagos, Nigeria?

TUPELE DORGU is from Preston and is an actress and voice over artist. Best known for playing Kelly Crabtree in Coronation Street from 2004 to 2010, Tupele has also appeared on Hollyoaks and performed in many musicals including the West End production of Mamma Mia.

Prize sponsored by:

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Mahnoor Amin, aged 7, St Johns Primary School, Great Harwood

 In a small, busy town, a little girl called Ruby couldn’t wait for Christmas. The whole town was decorated with sparkling lights and colourful tinsel. Ruby loved this time of year as everyone was full of excitement and joy.

Early one morning, Ruby’s teacher asked her class for help, as Santa Claus had called her late last night! Mrs England told the class that Santa’s little elves had all got COVID! Christmas was going to be cancelled unless all the children helped him. He needed all the children to make and wrap the presents for all the special children in Lancashire.

Ruby was thrilled to help! She loved doing jobs for Mrs England and knew she would be able to try her best to make other children happy. Ruby and her class used tonnes of glitter and glue to make as many presents as they could. They all worked extremely hard and Mrs England was proud of them all.

On Christmas Eve, a tired Santa came to collect the presents and was delighted to see how hard the children had been working. He was pleased that everything was wrapped and ready to go!

Santa met all the children and gave a special thank you to Ruby for making beautiful bows that sparkled on each gift. Santa gave each child a ride on his sleigh as a treat for helping him.

On Christmas morning Ruby woke up and saw that the carrots and cookies had been eaten, she knew Santa had been! She would remember this Christmas for the rest of her life, as Ruby and her class had helped save Christmas for children who lived near her.

They had all worked together to make Christmas a special time for everyone. Christmas had been saved and joy spread in the town.

JENNIE MCALPINE is an actor and comedian, best known for playing Fiz in Coronation Street since 2001. From Bury, she has also appeared on Emmerdale and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Prize sponsored by:

Christmas Story by Oliver Flynn, aged 8, St John’s Stonefield CE Primary School

Christmas 2022 was just around the corner… I was getting very excited. I went to a Christmas party and met a boy called Calvin, he was 8 like me.

We were playing and then we decided to sit and get a drink. We both love football and both support Accrington Stanley.

I asked Calvin if he was excited about Christmas and he replied, “not really.” I asked why he was so sad when Christmas is so exciting. His response made me feel upset, when he said, “I don’t have any family to spend Christmas with.”

This made me think how I would feel if I didn’t have my family at Christmas.

I ran to my mum and asked her if we could invite Calvin to our home for Christmas and she said yes. I ran to Calvin to tell him, he hugged me and said, “Thank you Oliver… I’m excited now!”

I used some of my own pennies to buy Calvin a present, and I bought him a football. My mum was so kind and bought Calvin some other presents, so he had things to open on Christmas morning.

Christmas morning arrived and Calvin was dropped off at my house. We were so excited to open our presents. I wanted Calvin to open his presents first, and the first one he chose was mine.

“A football! I love it, thank you Oliver!”

He opened the other presents, chocolates, a Christmas book and an Accrington Stanley shirt.

When Calvin was leaving, he gave me and my family hugs and said this was the best Christmas he’d ever had.

When Calvin had gone, I thought about how this was my best Christmas ever, because we had shared it with someone who needed people around them.

DOMINIC BRUNT is an actor, director and writer, and plays Paddy in Emmerdale.  He lived in Accrington on Burnley Road from 1981 until 1991. He attended Accrington Moorhead High School. On leaving school he worked as a sheet metal worker in Great Harwood and later as a welder in Accrington.

Prize sponsored by:

The Dream by Violet Grace Whittaker, aged 8, St Anne’s St Josephs RC Primary School 

One cold frosty morning Julia was on the sofa having a nice hot chocolate. Then suddenly she heard a strange banging noise upstairs, so she got up and slowly started creeping upstairs.

“Hello who’s there?” she yelled. But she heard nothing. Then Julia’s mother called, “Julia come downstairs tea’s ready.”

So then, still not knowing what it was, she went downstairs for her tea and started to eat. About ten minuets later, it was almost her bedtime. She wanted to go and have another look. She tiptoed upstairs and peered into her bedroom, but then just as she turned around she heard a “POOF” outside in the garden.

When she got to the back door she looked outside and saw a colossal shadow. She thought about it and made a decision that she wasn’t going to go outside.

By the time she finally sat down, it was her bedtime. As her mum Maria was bringing her upstairs, she was staring into every room on the way to her bedroom to see if anything or anyone was there.

When she  was in bed, many wild thoughts were in her head. She jumped out of bed to peek out of her curtains and saw Santa Claus and Rudolf on a sleigh!

“Well it is Christmas day after all”, she thought. Then she saw the snow getting picked up by the wind and they disappeared in a twinkling of lights.

When she woke up, she had no clue if she had been dreaming when she saw Santa! At that moment her mum said, “Look who’s been!”

KATHERINE KELLY was born in Barnsley and comes from a theatrical family. After attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she appeared in Coronation Street as “Becky”, and won a National Television Award in 2022 for Best Serial Drama Performance.

Since graduating in 2001, Katherine has worked continuously in Theatre (Royal Shakespeare Company, The National, Donmar Warehouse), Television (Cheat, Happy Valley, Mr. Selfridge, Coronation Street), Film (Dirty God, Official Secrets) and Radio (BBC 3 and 4).

Prize sponsored by:

Secondary Schools

The Lights by Hannah Ley, aged 12, St Christopher’s C of E High School

The one thing I long for
Are the lights in the sky
The 12 Christmases before
They came and passed by

They twinkle and gleam
They lighten the dark
Their beauty is seen
And oh, so stark

From tree to tree
From loop to loop
How bright to see
The fresh Christmas scoop

Like flames in the night
They sparkle and shine
Their colours so bright
I wish they were mine

As loved ones meet
Eyes light up with joy
Time together such a treat

Old, young, girl, boy

They twinkle with love
They gleam with pleasure
Their hope like a dove
In these times to treasure.

JODIE WHITTAKER is an English actress, who came to prominence after her breakout performance in Venus. In 2017 she made history as the thirteenth actor and first woman to play the Doctor in Doctor Who.

Born in Skelmanthorpe, North Yorkshire, she has also played leading roles as Beth Latimer in Broadchurch and Orla O’Riordan in Time.

Prize sponsored by:

This is Winter by Ezra Emmett, aged 13, The Hollins

The auburn leaves have come and gone, their soggy limp corpses lie in the snow. Adorning the streets are the spindly skeletons of what were once lush trees.

The early birds are no longer early and the worms they would have once harvested can roam free through frozen razor blades of green. The winter air caresses your cheeks with needles for fingers, flushing your face with scarlet blood.

The hairs on the back of your neck stand up like soldiers and turn from velvet to pine needles on a tree. Twinkling stars in the clear, cold black of the night seem to tell stories of winters that have passed us by.

Snowflakes of dry skin crystallise around your parched lips and plumes of vapour form in the bitter air after escaping from your mouth, disappearing the second you look.

Sickness lingers in the air, settling on the shoulders of people on the busy high streets, making the prospect of spring feel as if it couldn’t come faster.

The warmth of its embrace beckons you with open arms but first the icy streets must melt, taking with them the magic that they bring.

All of a sudden you find yourself missing the strange wonder of winter. Your heart and mind begin to thaw, so do the memories of innocent childish joy that these cold, dark months hold between their folds of desolate white.

Eyes of grey watch from the trees as the winter floats away and bushes of purple heather escape from their chrysalis, the pallid complexion of a snowy landscape becomes a rosy pink one.

Tiny heartbeats of frozen rodents ring in the ears of stalking predators as they emerge from hibernation, bloodlust pumping through their veins.

This is Winter.

TOBY JONES is widely regarded as one of the greatest stage and screen actors both in Great Britain and internationally. These include Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Captain America, The Detectorists, Dad’s Army, Jurassic World and many more.

Prize sponsored by:

My Winter Poem by Ismail Hussain, The Hollins

Snowflakes falling from the sky
Blanketing the world, oh so high.
Frosty air, a chilly breeze,
Winter’s beauty a sight to please.

Fragile snowflakes drifting softly, sometimes slowly, sometimes swiftly.
This is the beginning of winter’s wonderland.

Schools closing, parents moaning, children cheering.
Skidding cars, icy windscreens, engines stuttering, sometimes overheating.
Shaking starting.
A winter’s morning about to start.

Curtains drawing, windows opening,
Children playing, elderly shivering.
Chimneys smoking, kettles boiling.
The winter’s fun about to start.

Wooly gloves, hats and scarves,
Doors laughing at the frosty start.
Crunchy snow, icy paths.
Leaves falling on the slippery paths.
Everybody’s joining in winter’s fun.

Building snowmen, snowball fights, sledging, skiing.
Oh what a sight.
People screaming, people screaming, people laughing.
This happiness is everlasting.
Messy children, tired moms.

Fires burning, children cuddling, grandad’s snoring.
One hand cocoa, other hand marshmallows.
Frosty windows, Christmas tree lights, smoky rooftops.
It’s a winter’s night.

Snowflakes falling, slowly swiftly on to the world one last time.

Muzz Khan is a critically-acclaimed actor and highly-accomplished DJ.

As an actor, he’s graced our screens in some of the best pieces of television and film in recent times. Award-winning shows like Black Mirror, 24, Catastrophe, Year of The Rabbit, Ten Percent (Call My Agent), Trying, Casualty, Trollied and much more. He’s worked on films like Four Lions, the Hollywood blockbuster – Me Before You, East Is East, and more recently Matilda (for Netflix) and Wonka (for Warner Bros). During the height of Covid-19, he was inescapable from our TV sets and radio stations, as the face and voice of ASDA, in a series of heart-warming and hilarious commercials, working with the team behind People Just Do Nothing. He is currently on our screens as a series regular in Sky’s hit comedy, Brassic.

Prize sponsored by:

Winter Skies by Abiyya Iqbal, aged 14, The Hollins

Tenebrosity engulfed the atmosphere in the late hours of the night. The sky was dark and the moon was like a yellow eye, ominously overlooking the city beneath.

Callous clouds swept viciously across the sky, swifter than the flight of the vulture; they wrestled in the vast expanse of jet-black, as if they had had a never-ending feud.

Merciless winds cut their way through the trees, making them shake eerily. The branches on the trees were witch’s fingers ferociously encroaching on the path, waiting for their next victim.

The trees were sentinels, dark and watchful, almost oppressive as they stood, manifesting their threatening nature. Suddenly, a thin slice of light split the sky, hurrying away from the chaos above it, almost burning a bush alight. A storm was brewing.

The tempestuous rumblings of the thunder and the unpredictable flashes of lightning was a doubtless portrayal of the nature’s fury. The darkness encapsulated the light, blanketing any sense of hope as the grey mass of clouds crept across the sky.

Safe to say, this was not the winter wonderland we’d all been hoping for.

MINA ANWAR was born in Church, Accrington and is a British actress and singer. She is best known for her roles as Constable Maggie Habib in The Thin Blue Line and Gita Chandra in The Sarah Janes Adventures.

Prize sponsored by:

The Globe Centre

The Heart of Winter’s Grip by Natalia Kozubinska

In the heart of winter’s grip, a tale unfolds so true,
Of a Christmas eve under a sky of midnight blue.
The world is hushed, in a blanket of white,
As stars twinkle with ethereal light.

Snowflakes, like whispers from the sky,
Descend upon the earth from up high.
Each one unique, a masterpiece in design,
In the moon’s silver glow, they shimmer and shine.

The frost-kissed trees stand tall and bare,
Their shadows dancing in the cold winter air.
Ice crystals sparkle like a thousand tiny eyes,
Reflecting the beauty of the starry skies.

In homes, warmth radiates from the hearth’s glow,
As families gather, faces all aglow.
The Christmas tree stands, regal and bright,
Adorned with baubles reflecting the night.

Underneath, gifts wrapped with love and care,
Excitement fills the festive air.
Stories are shared, of Christmas past,
Creating memories that will forever last.

The essence of Christmas, pure and bright,
Is not in the gifts, nor the festive light.
But in the love shared, the joy that’s spread,
The peace that fills each heart, each head.

As midnight strikes, a hush descends,
A magical moment, as the old year ends.

With hearts full of hope, eyes to the skies,
We welcome the dawn, as a new day
When the world is peaceful, and all feels right.

A time for reflection, for love, and for cheer,
The most enchanting time of the year.

Read by Suranne Jones

SURANNE JONES was born in Greater Manchester and is an actress and writer, best known for her appearances in Doctor Foster, Scott & Bailey and Coronation Street.

Prize sponsored by:

I am the Snow by Elias Ford, aged 13, The Hollins

I was blessed with the valiant role of being the snow of the Earth. Each Christmas time, I would make myself known to all jolly families opening their deserved gifts and buying their holly decorations from the market.

If I was lucky, the wind sometimes swept a piece of me through a window, letting me hear their conversations. Sometimes it was an excited family, and sometimes it was spoilt children.

Then I would get bored and let the wind guide me to see sights of the world. I would often do this not just because I was bored, but because I don’t like getting stepped on. Getting stepped on is annoying, but it hurts at its peak when the little infant slid down me, as if giving me a friction burn.

My latest and happiest memory occurred when I was minding my own business and having the magnificent scent of fresh air getting blown on to me. A little boy dashed out of his back door with a colossal smile on his face, wearing his little piggy coat along with his green gloves in maximum happiness. I giggled at the sight of his nose and his cheeks going bright red due to the cold blanketing his tiny body.

The boy then jumped onto me whilst having the best day of his life. It hurt, but I didn’t care, as seeing a little boy filled with complete excitement was precious and must be cherished.

This ‘jump’ would become a daily thing, and my usually grumpy self, got used to it. The fun days went on, and to my surprise, he started building me a physical form! A snowman, they call it. Mine had a long hard carrot for my nose, and the boy’s tattered cardigan buttons for my eyes.

Soon enough he saw me moving my crushed twig arms and even talking to him! My snowy heartstrings were now solid, and I was now joyful again.

JOE DUTTINE is an English film, theatre and television actor. He currently plays Tim Metcalfe in Coronation Street and is also known for his role in Shameless as Cameron Donnelly, the father of Maxine.

Prize sponsored by:

Jamesons Print

The Wind and I by Aaye Noor, The Hollins

The wind whispers in my ear,
Its voice soft and clear.

A language only I can understand,
As it sweeps across the land.

It tells tales of distant places,
Of far-off lands and hidden spaces.

It carries secrets on its breath,
Stories of life and death.

Sometimes it sings a gentle tune,
Caressing leaves under the moon.

Other times it howls and roars,
Shaking trees and slamming doors.

The wind speaks of freedom and flight,
Its words like feathers taking flight.

It dances through the fields and meadows,
A symphony of whispers and echoes.

It speaks of love and loss,
Of dreams carried on its toss.

It carries the scent of the ocean,
Bringing memories and emotions.

The wind speaks to me in a language unknown,
A voice that is all its own.

‘See’ says the wind as he brushed past my skin.

He converses for eternities but forever I will not be bored.
His chilly touch was very like a wintry blow.

My solace, why do you come so slow?
I crave for my warmth, but that I will not receive.

It’s quite witty how he tries to deceive.

Told me that the bitter was pleasure.

But once I realised it wasn’t a time for leisure,
He whistled and his wind made my heart stagger.

As he slowly got colder, the night got blacker.

It was numbing so I froze, as did my core and my cheeks got redder.
Reaching for my breath, I thought I was reaching for heaven.

Oh, raw wind. Can you cool it?
Not your temperature, you’re going to make me lose it.

Here’s the reality: you don’t only freeze me.
Your aura surrounds us all, and most of us say ‘free me’.

I know you are my unapparent companion.
A friend who speaks without abandon.

Yes, you are my guide.
And yes, in your melody, I find the divine.

JASON WATKINS is an English stage, film and television actor. He played the lead role in the two-part drama The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries, for which he won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor. Jason, originally from Albrighton in Shropshire, has also featured in Being Human, Trollied, W1A, the film series Nativity, The Crown, plus much more.

Prize sponsored by:

Stuart Nevison

Adult Writers

Herbert the Crow & Suzie Magpie and the Quest for Mince Pies by Tom Hope

“Can you see them?” asked Suzie Magpie, unmistakable excitement pouring out from within as her giddy words became lost, adrift somewhere between the distant realms of a nice, honest question and tremendous, ear-splitting shout.

“No, I obviously can’t see them,” replied a melodramatic Herbert as he hesistantly shuffled out just a little further along one of the less frost-covered branches of his favourite tree, eager to catch a glimpse of the pies beyond their oppressive gingham shroud without exposing himself to the thing he hated most – the cold.

“But you must be able to smell them!”

Herbert inhaled through his nose, once to provide an answer to his bosom friend’s question, and once more just for good measure. The answer was unambiguously, ‘yes’. That artful balance of warm winter fruits and the delicate tones of meticulously measured cinnamon, all swaddled up in steaming, golden pastry, lightly dusted with sugar, and creating the most perfect bundles of gift-wrapped festive joy.

“Grandma Jean must have made some kind of mistake,” said Herbert, almost drowning in his own disbelief as he took a couple more steps towards the skinny end of his frost-free branch.

“What could you possibly mean, Herbert?” puzzled Suzie, “They smell even better than last year!”

“Perhaps that’s true, Suzie, but Grandma Jean’s put them on the wrong side of the glass! How are we supposed to eat the pies if they’re trapped inside.”

Herbert inched even further along the branch, getting as close to the kitchen window as he could. There it is, he thought as his corvine senses were once more overwhelmed by the might of the pies, the taste of the fruit … the scent of the butter … the snapping of a branch.

Originally from Blackburn, STEVE PEMBERTON is an actor, comedian, director, and writer, often with his team The League of Gentlemen.

He has won multiple BAFTA awards, and his many top TV appearances include Benidorm, Doctor Who, Happy Valley, and Killing Eve.

Prize sponsored by:

Professional Writers

The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness by Graham Caveney

Me and Dave walk over Dill Hall to Clayton, past where my grandparents used to live, and I tell him about playing cards in the power cuts and how I feel bad for not seeing my grandma much after Grandad died. He tells me a story about his grandad that makes me want to put an arm around his shoulders, but I don’t. He knows a pub where we’ll get a lock-in.

The landlady has put out a table groaning beneath plates of pork pies sliced into quarters, the insides glistening with gelatine. There are sausage rolls that don’t seem to have any sausage in them, and bowls of nuts and crisps that are suspiciously damp. There are sandwiches, thick white bread just starting to curl, basins with pickled onions and mince pies heavily dusted in icing sugar.

People are wearing paper hats with glitter on their faces. The next table over a man is blowing a party horn and singing the wrong words to Paul Young’s ‘Love of the Common People’.

I say to Dave that it’s like that scene in Educating Rita, the one where Julie Walters is berating Michael Caine for raising her expectations of life, and how it cuts back to her sat with her family having a sing-along in her local, except that she can’t sing along because she knows there’s better songs than this.

Graham was born and raised in Accrington.  He is the author of five books including his critically acclaimed memoirs, The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness and On Agoraphobia.

JOE ALESSI is an Olivier award nominated actor who was born and brought up in Accrington by his Sicilian mum and dad, Angela and Giuseppe.

Building the World by Connor Evans

Chimney smoke mingles with a crisp Lancashire fog. NORI emblazoned on the stack, barely visible in the winter morning air. He packs his pipe, fumbles with his matches for a second.

The clay on his hands, like ruby gloves, providing protection from the nip, but no feeling in his fingers. He snaps a couple before its contents go up, the embers glowing red as the endless clod. The clod that built the world: The Blackpool Tower, The Empire State, His Home.

Built as tough as them that stamp the bricks with its famous name. The world was built with his hands, and it was built to last. Soon he’ll be wandering the streets back to the terrace, but for now he has a job to do. Building the world. He’s proud of what he does, he’s proud of the life he has built for himself. Always building. That’s what his little Lancashire town is known for. That’s what its people do.

He longs for the end of the day when he can be back by the hearth with his family. Warm and loved. This thought spurs him on. Christmas is fast approaching, not long now. One day. Christmas dinner and gifts for the kids. That’s what he works for. The cold mornings will have been worth it.

The joy on their faces fills his mind as he slams the mould down to release its claggy interior.

His heart swells with just the thought. Everyone together for a day or two. No work. No school. Him and his wife, peeling potatoes in their new socks by the fire. Board games and Baby Cham. Yes, that’s why they work like they do. That’s why they pull themselves out of bed whilst it’s still dark. Practice for Christmas morning, when the kids are up before them for once. For those little gifts that say ‘I love you’.

That makes it all worth it. But for now, he has work to do helping to build the world.

CONNOR EVANS is a graduate from the University of Salford’s Drama and Creative Writing course. With family ties to Accrington, he finds inspiration in the strong sense of working-class pride and identity that surrounds the town.

One of Our Defenders is Sinking by David Swann

Forty minutes into the game, he had touched the ball twice, once from a throw-in when it bobbled off his shin, the second time when a gust whipped it against his ankle to blow like litter down the wing.

The third time, wind screeched in his eyes and he scrabbled with an opponent’s shirt. Dirt pelted their faces, the rain thrummed on posts and bars. Flags clapped in the corners.

“Kick it away!” his team-mates begged.

But their words came from far away, and his legs were cold. When he tried to kick the ball, he missed by a yard – and began to fall.

He fell for a long time, very slowly. There was time to watch the mud coming up to meet him – and to sympathise with his team-mates, who had suffered the burden of his poor form for several months now.

One of them was screaming: “Tight to your man! Close! CLOSER! Marry him!”

It was the same player who had once urged a man with a broken leg to run it off.

There wasn’t any need to listen. He carried on falling, wondering when the fall would end.

Later, it appeared that he was no longer falling and had begun the process of sinking. It struck him as an interesting experience, granted to very few. The mud was warmer than the rain. The players’ screams were far away.

Eventually the roaring sky had shut and he was a long way down, in a strata of peat.

And only faint bubbles, bursting as specks on the surface of the pitch, remained as evidence that the Park Inn’s awkward left-back had been badly out of position just before he was engulfed.

DAVID SWANN was born and raised in Accrington, where he later became a reporter on the Observer, covering Stanley’s matches and interviewing people about flying saucers over the Coppice. His novella, Season of Bright Sorrow, was named Rubery Book of the Year, 2023. He learned everything he knows from the death-plank in Peel Park and a massive, terrifying horse called Dragon that dragged a rickety ice cream trolley up Water Street, past his childhood home.

Bonfire Night Eve by Dominic Brunt

November 1984.

A cold winter.

We spent our evenings and weekends in the run up to bonfire night rummaging for wood. There were loads of us. Knocking on doors and offering to clear backyards of any timber.

Back then you could still make out the planning of Accrington: a mill or factory and an adjacent, parallel block of terrace houses where the workers would live. Set out in rows, this pattern repeated itself all over town. There was also a lot of wasteland around Accrington then. Lots of room to build bonfires. Each area had its own bonfire and each bonfire had its own gaggle of kids adding to the proud pile.

The only problem was the threat of sabotage from a rival group. Be that in the form of stealing your wood or even worse, setting fire to your bonfire before the night of 5th November.

Every evening after school we would all take turns guarding or collecting. Every morning we would check our stack still stood and hadn’t been destroyed by our enemies.

One night we set out to steal wood from a bonfire near the top of Avenue Parade. We all went. As we approached we could see they were totally unguarded. We took what we could carry.

Laughing as we ran, we couldn’t believe our luck and how easy our raid had been. We didn’t waste any time getting straight back to our bonfire. We didn’t want it to be left unguarded for too long.

As we rounded Turkey Street we stopped dead. Looking up the slope, we could see a large, bright, warm, flickering light. Our bonfire was alight. We swore, dropped our stolen wood and sprinted.

It was all too late. We stood and watched as weeks of hard work went up in flames.

It burned for hours and kept us warm as we sat around planning a revenge which never came. It was November 4th.

DOMINIC BRUNT is an actor, director and writer, and plays Paddy in Emmerdale.  He lived in Accrington on Burnley Road from 1981 until 1991. He attended Accrington Moorhead High School. On leaving school he worked as a sheet metal worker in Great Harwood and later as a welder in Accrington.

An Accrington Christmas by Joe Alessi

As Christmases go, it unfolds as per the last fifty Christmases or so. If you’re old enough, you’ll know it: the feeling that you’re desperately trying to catch the essence of those Christmases past, and with each Christmas that passes, the more elusive that essence gets.

It has nothing to do with whether or not you believe in Santa Claus, or the receiving of gifts, or Morecambe & Wise on the TV, it’s more about trying to find that feeling of calm, of comfort, safety and of family. 

We have Bert this year, my dearest and only nephew, my sister’s son: one year with his dad, one year with his mum, that’s how it has to be. It is a quiet Christmas Day with just the four of us- even with all the presents, the turkey and Morecambe & Wise. We make the effort for him and in and amidst his exhalations, exclamations, questions and laughter- we’re able to feel, just for this day, that essence of what our Christmases once were. 

The darkness falls quickly but it’s a glittery one- a deep frost has fallen and later in the evening we all decide to go for a walk up to the top of Burnley Road and back- the road where the residents seem to compete with one another to show off the best tree and the brightest lights in their big bay windows. It is an illuminated walk all the way up, past the cemetery on the left and up to the Griffin pub, each lit window tempting us with a sense of what Christmas might be like within that house. 

Bert and his grandma walk ahead, holding hands and chatting, pointing at various displays, and my sister and I follow behind. And in that moment, in that crystal frosty walk along Burnley Road, it feels as though all our Christmases have come at once. 

JOE ALESSI is an Olivier award nominated actor who was born and brought up in Accrington by his Sicilian mum and dad, Angela and Giuseppe.

Countdown by Martin Cooper

They’re the stairs that the dignitaries use. The Mayors and Mayoresses, and the international guests. The brides and grooms and excited partiers. They’re grand and they sweep and they sit, poised stoically as if they’re expecting Cinderella to lose a slipper on them or Eliza Doolittle was to make her grand entrance down them.

But for me they’re my rest stop, as I mumble as audibly but as hushed as I can into a yellow fluffy microphone cover, trying to convey to the whole of East Lancashire all the things I can see.

What can I see? Bustle of the council workers, technicians busily grasping at cables and sockets, people – so many people of the town – all gathered shoulder to shoulder in hats and scarves and boots, huddled for warmth. Celebrities chatting like they’ve known each other for years, with “do you know…” and “have you ever met”. They don’t and they haven’t but they pretend they do and have!

And above me, on the roof, high above the town, eye to eye with the mill chimney stacks and the moors on the horizon, a solitary figure with a button. That button.

I take the stage and the buzz and anticipation envelopes me. I garble something generic about the weather and nobody seems surprised! It’s November, of course it’s cold! And they don’t care anyway, they’re just here for the spectacle.

After ten.


Everyone on stage is gathered around the button that isn’t plugged into anything, but we all tell ourselves it definitely is!



A thumb from the ground is raised and a thumb from the roof is returned.


The people at home or in their cars can feel it too, and they’re not even here.





Plunge the button on stage. They always do it too early.


It’s Christmas-time in Accrington and for that moment – that one moment when the skies light up – we’re together in joy. And I smile.

MARTIN COOPER is an actor, presenter and producer who was part of the team at East Lancashire’s number one radio station 107fm The Bee from 2006-2011.

Here he recollects his times of hosting the Accrington Christmas Lights switch on events each year.

I was raised in a land of mills and drizzle by David Hesmondhalgh

I was raised in a land of mills and drizzle
And I’m here to tell you of my life.
Mother died in childbirth,
Father grieved and faded.
Aunts and uncles stepped in.

Called by my country to a frozen frontier,
I met a woman on my return
With a warming smile
And a no-nonsense loving heart.

I was good with numbers.
I worked my way up.
Weekends of games and laughter.
The world was shrinking,

Horizons expanding.

A boy came.
I cried with love
And for the parents I lost.
Then a girl who mystified me
With her wonders.

Middle years hurt my body and soul.
When death came to the aunt who cared most
I saw light flooding the chapel,
Found new meaning in the world,
Climbed hills to read books of wisdom
Looking down on my town.

I saw the threads connecting life.
The boy turned to me at 18
Said “Dad, I’m barely coping”
I told him “I’ve been there,
You’ll make it through”.
The girl and I fought and laughed
And loved, fiercely.

The woman with the warming smile
Stayed at my side.
We strode out on moors,
Heard birdsong together,
Rejoiced in our babies’ babies

Who came to us,
Radiant with trust,
Bouncing with joy.
And when our bodies objected
We sighed for our youth.

I panted as the moors grew steeper.
The surgeon’s knife was wielded.
Hands trembled
Vision faded,
Memory hesitated.
It wasn’t quite clear where I was.
I withered in the hands of the nurses.
The end felt slow but really it came fast.

But I live on
When the boy and girl
And those they love
Notice my photo in their homes.

I am nowhere and everywhere now.
The mills have gone
But the rain persists.
So do I:
When the woman drives past spring flowers
In all their games and laughter,
Their walks on hills,
Their sense of what it means
To live the only life you can.

DAVID HESMONDHALGH was born and raised in Accrington, taught at Accrington and Rossendale College and is now a Professor at the University of Leeds.  He has written several books including Why Music Matters.

Billy & Jack by Ian Kershaw

Zzzzzz – it had been a long time sleeping for Billy, he liked hibernating as much as the next bauble – and that next bauble was called Jack.

Billy and Jack had been mates together going right back to that day a long, long time ago when Beth (then a young woman) had picked them out from amongst all the other baubles in the shop and said she was ‘suited to bits’ with them. Billy and Jack said goodbye to all their bauble friends, and carefully wrapped in tissue paper, had headed to their new home in Accrington.

Once unwrapped, Billy and Jack were also ‘suited to bits’ to find Beth lived in a nice little house with her mum.  Billy and Jack were especially happy with their pride-of-place position near to the top of the tree, although the fairy who topped the tree back then was a little bit snooty, even though she was only made out of the inside of a toilet-roll and some glittery pipe-cleaners! They’d enjoyed their first Christmas there with Beth and her parents. They’d loved the next Christmas in a little flat where Beth was happy on her own, eating mince-pies in front of the television. Then, a few weeks later, they’d been carefully wrapped and stored away in hibernation until the next Christmas.

Billy and Jack were always surprised by new additions – not only to the tree but also to Beth’s life. One year there was a nice man with her and the following year, they had rings on their fingers, the next year they were in a new house and had a kitten that tried to claw Billy and Jack down from the tree. The year after that a baby boy appeared. Billy and Jack watched the baby boy grow over each and every Christmas. And noticed that the kitten that had turned into a cat was no longer there and then, one Christmas the nice man who had grown old and tired wasn’t there either and Beth had a little cry and the baby-boy who was now a young-man came and hugged Beth and told her it was okay.

Then one Christmas, Beth was on her own again – ‘the boy who had grown into a man’ had moved away, he called on the phone and even though he was on ‘the other side of the world’ it sounded to Beth that he was ‘in the room next door’ but he wasn’t and Beth was sad, although she had Billy and Jack to watch over her.

And then it was this Christmas and although Billy and Jack didn’t have a watch, a calendar or a diary between them, they had some idea of time and as they sat in the dark, wrapped in their tissue-paper beds they’d started to fear the worst – they’d been lost or forgotten… Yes, they’d felt a bit of movement some time ago but since then…nothing. And then…the carboard box they called home was carefully opened and Billy and Jack were blinded by a bright-light, held up in the hot-air by two young women who spoke with accents from ‘the other side of the world’. Billy and Jack noticed how the young women looked just like Beth when she first picked them up a long, long time ago.  The two young women said that Billy and Jack were beautiful and they hung them on the tree and said ‘are you suited, Grandma?’ And Beth, now an old lady sitting in the sunny garden, looked from her son handing her a mince -pie and beaming to see Billy and Jack in their usual pride-of-place at the top of the tree said she was ‘suited to bits’.  

IAN KERSHAW was born and brought up in Oldham and is a writer for theatre, radio and television.  He is part of the Coronation Street writing team, and is married to an Accy Girl, whose mum introduced him to the Lancashire expression “suited to bits.”

From Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson

Sometimes the thing we long for, the thing we need, the miracle we want, is right there in front of us, and we can’t see it, or we run the other way, or, saddest of all, we don’t know what to do with it. Think how many people get the success they want, the partner they want, the money they want, et cetera, and turn it into dust and ashes- like the fairy gold no one can spend.

So at Christmas I think about the Christmas story, and all the Christmas stories since.  As a writer I know we get along badly without space in our lives for imagination and reflection.  Religious festivals were designed to be time outside of time. Time where ordinary time was subject to significant time. What we remember.  What we invent.

So light a candle to the dead.

And light a candle to miracles, however unlikely, and pray that you recognise yours.

And light a candle to the living; the world of friendship and family that means so much.

And light a candle to the future; that it may happen and not be swallowed up by darkness.

And light a candle to love.

Lucky Love.

JEANETTE WINTERSON CBE is a multi-award winning author who was brought up in Accrington.  Her first book, a semi-autobiographical novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, won the Whitbread Prize for Literature, and the subsequent TV adaptation, some of which was filmed in Accrington, a BAFTA. She has kindly allowed for us to include her words in the Winter Writing Trail.

JULIE HESMONDHALGH grew up in Church, Accrington and went to Hyndburn Park, Moorhead High School and Accrington and Rossendale College.

She is an actor and writer.  Her latest book, An Actor’s Alphabet is published by Nick Hern Books. She is the proud patron of Maundy Relief.

Accrington Pals by Rosie Adamson-Clark

Pals in Accy

proud of their town, created with love, graft and grit,

determined always
to be the best,
yet understated
lest folks call it bragging,

bricks the hardest in the world, Americans look up to these Lancashire men,
as they gaze at their beloved

Empire State building,
when push comes to shove, only Accrington could produce red blocks hard as iron,

a memorial for those lost, lain, slain as brothers
in the Somme,
long gone but forever loved,

hard men and women,
hard bricks, red as a sunset, mills and chimneys,
workers toiling for a shilling,

a proud joyous history of tough lives lost,
the cost of living now the battle to be won,

red bills, not bricks,
fill the houses and hallways, the centre of industry, cotton, textile, ‘iron’ bricks,

Nori; Blackpool tower
stands on the shoulders
of Accrington bricks and workers

No shirkers here,
move on, nothing to see,
wait, yes there is up yon Alley Tiffany glass in Haworth Art Gallery,

Town Hall a magnificent vision Argyle Street Gas Works gone, new buildings, new vision,
of hope and community,

a place to be celebrated,
not laughed at or berated,
Accrington Stanley FC used for laughter and effect on TV adverts,

Accy people hold your heads
up high,
You’ve much to be proud of,
Keep smiling, let your ambitions fly.

Rosie was born in East Yorkshire to an Irish Mum and half Scots Dad. She moved to Lancashire in 1981 with a 3 month old baby.  She is a Quaker, and very proud to be an adopted Lancashire lass now. She taught at Accrington and Rossendale College from 1991 to 1997.

Christmas Lives Here by Julie Hesmondhalgh for Maundy Grange

All are welcome here
Christmas spirit is not a fairy tale ideal but where
Care, support and love are real
Round here we bring our
Injured hearts, hungry bellies, our loneliness, our
Need; we share food and stories, comfort, ease. This
Gift of hope is for everyone, no matter how you’ve failed, or where you’re from.
Tough times demand only our tenderness (these walls can be your shelter from the poverty and stress)
If you’re looking for the meaning of Christmas
On this cold, dark winter night, look
No further than this window. Here at Maundy, HOPE burns bright.

JULIE HESMONDHALGH grew up in Church, Accrington and went to Hyndburn Park, Moorhead High School and Accrington and Rossendale College.

She is an actor and writer.  Her latest book, An Actor’s Alphabet is published by Nick Hern Books. She is the proud patron of Maundy Relief.

Special mention from Julie Hesmondhalgh to our runners up:

Sophie Frankland, Martha Whitaker, Harriet Bradley, Henry Wright, Maya Pugh, Maksymilian Paldczyk and Lucian Briggs, Lucas Garratty, Melanie Benedikz,
Katie Gill, Tina Jones, Olivia McNulty, Franklin Plowes, Millie Smith, Amelia Clegg, Jalal Soharwardy, Noah Harrison, Sebastian from St Christophers, Isobel Wright
Amelia Ormerod, Freddie Campbell, Eesa Yakub, Solomon Eli Beck, Jessica Scholes, Niall Newby, Stanley Bancroft, Isobel Brown, Isla Margaret Wakeman, Scarlett Clarke, Atselefun Angel, Maizie Kitching, Saoirse King, Logan Taylor, Lexi Hall and Nora Cryer