Barrowford woman using the power of film to help pardon the Pendle Witches

A Barrowford woman is using the power of film to help pardon the Pendle Witches.

Emma Swinton, who has previously worked with BAFTA-winning actor John Rhys-Davies of Lord of the Rings, has co-written a short film with the working title, The Pendle Witch Child.

Based partly on true events, it will tell the story of how a Lancashire woman helps to groom an impoverished nine-year-old, Jennet Device, to testify against her own family as they stand trial for witchcraft. The film-maker, who grew up in Colne and Barrowford, hopes it will shine new light on the 1612 Pendle Trials – a time of corruption, when the law was manipulated to convict innocent people.

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Emma and her fellow team members, who have received support from the British Film Institute, now have just 16 days to raise £15,000 in order for the film to be made.

Emma Swinton is fundraising to make a short film about the Pendle Witches. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

The 36-year-old said: “I have always been drawn to the story of the Pendle Witches. This nine-year-old girl was taken away from her family and had no legal support. How was she coerced into saying things to convict her family for witchcraft? It really gets me, the injustice of it all. It feels very unjust and it wouldn’t fly today.”

She added: "I’d love to get them pardoned. I really hope the film could be a catalyst for that conversation. It’s a lot of pressure but I feel it in my heart to tell this story. I feel very privileged and honoured to tell it because it’s such a delicate subject matter as people lost their lives. I hope I can honour them.”

The story is a fictional retelling of what might have happened to Jennet, Emma says.

"I feel what’s really important is showing Jennet as a real person. I really want to make a film that humanises her,” she added.

Emma Swinton is fundraising to make short film about the Pendle Witches. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

"I’ve been researching it since I first wanted to be a film director at the age of 15. It’s always been number one on my list. Then it came to me how to tell the story in a really loving way, in a way I think Jennet as a child needed.”

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Emily Carlton is a co-writer on the project and Diva Rodriguez is the producer.

Pendle Hill covered in mist. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard