Burnley girl cast in short film about the Pendle Witch Trials

A “shy” 10-year-old Burnley girl is to be the star of a short film about the Pendle Witch Trials.

Esme Whalley, who has been a member of Basics Junior Theatre School for around five years, will play Jennet Device in her first film role.

The film, co-written by Barrowford woman Emma Swinton, is partly based on true events, which took place in 1612, and has been written to help pardon the Pendle Witches. It tells the tale of Jennet, an impoverished nine-year-old who is groomed into testifying against her own family during the infamous trials.

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Esme’s mum, Gemma Whalley, said: “It’s such an amazing film. Esme is really made up. I know she’ll do a fantastic job and I’m just really proud of her.”

Gemma Whalley with her 10-year-old daughter Esme, who has landed a part in a short film about the Pendle Witches.

The youngster applied for the role after seeing a post about an audition on Basics’ Facebook page.

“She thought she might as well apply and see where it takes her. There were quite a few girls at the audition, a lot from Basics. She had to rehearse a scene from the film in front of both the casting director and film director,” said Gemma.

She sailed through two round of auditions but was “gutted” when she fell ill for the third, which included improvisation.

“She was absolutely gutted but said, ‘I need to go for it.’

"She didn’t want to let anyone down by not turning up. I think she had the flu but she did an amazing job. She just got on with it. I think she felt a little sad coming out of the audition because she felt she hadn’t put 100 percent into it but I think the [casting team] were really impressed with her.”

Commenting on her daughter’s determination to succeed, Gemma added: “She just strives to be perfect all the time with everything. She won a gymnastics competition in September. It was her second competition and she came first place and got a big trophy.

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“She just keeps herself to herself but I think with performing she’s completely different. She comes across quite shy but when she goes into an audition or is performing she’s completely different. She just owns it.”

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Barrowford film-maker casting for new film about the Pendle Witch Trials