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When Andrea Elleray had to take time off work for a bunion operation in January, she couldn’t possibly have predicted that she would be off work until now.

The operation on January 20th didn’t go exactly to plan and Andrea needed bed rest and relaxation to get better. Just as she was recovering, after being off work for eight weeks, the lockdown happened.

Andrea, who teaches textiles at Heathland Private School spent Mother’s Day (the day before lockdown) planning something that must have surprised even her when it became the subject of media interest and got her followers in many countries.

She explained: “I’d been to a garden centre and on the way back, I noticed that people had been painting rainbows in windows, and I do like a rainbow myself. It’s the colour wheel. I’d just done my dining suite and each chair to be a different colour anyway, so I got some of my daughter’s old fabric wallpaper and I painted it. I was just going to do one window and I ended up doing three sections of the bay window downstairs and two upstairs and that’s really where it started.”

Shortly after, Andrea noticed a page on Facebook called “The Rainbow Trail.” She decided to post something she had previously made, a rainbow pompom wreath and it got 1.3k likes.

Then Andrea decided to put all her craft skills to good use. She told me:

“With these skills and my love for rainbows, I suddenly thought here is something to keep me entertained. With my husband working from home in one room and my son doing his school work in another, I went into the garden and I did a big spectrum coming from the hanging basket and that ended up on Hello!.com.”

She then started upcycling every day objects including wheel hubs, old cds, cricket and tennis balls, bowling balls and even old benches and in the same week made the front page of the Lancashire Telegraph and Accrington Observer.

By then little children and people of all ages were taking walks past her house just to see the garden.

“All this spurred me on and gave me a purpose really. I also started to get people asking me how I make all the stuff that goes in the garden, so I’ve made a page called The Rainbow Garden Accrington.”

This page at the time of writing has 4,126 followers and goes to show how much interest there is in what Andrea is trying to and has achieved so far. She also gets messages from all over the world with pictures of what Andrea calls ‘Rainbow Garden Re-creations’. She told me:

“There are ladies in Australia and America. There’s a girl who has done her balcony to echo the Rainbow Garden in Germany. There’s a lady in Pakistan starting to make things; people in Baxenden as well.”

I put it to her that this was becoming an international operation as well as a local spectacle and she had to agree.

Recently Andrea has been asked to do an exhibit for Haworth Art Gallery for a new exhibition highlighting lockdown activities; she has also had an article in Northern Life magazine featuring her own pictures of her garden, not to mention BBC’s Northwest Tonight.

She is due to go back to school in early September but instead of working three days a week will now be down to two. She has actually been planning starting her own photography business, with her husband coming on board, and was just starting to get commissions when the lockdown happened, but she is now philosophical and says:

“We had lots of weddings booked but only managed to do one before I went into hospital. I am sure they will come back when all this is over but for the time being, I’ll settle for the Rainbow Garden and my own exhibition.”

This all goes to show what can be achieved when circumstances change our everyday lives and what Andrea has achieved is an inspiration to many others. I would like to thank her for telling me her story, and wish her every success in the future.

Peter Jones 2020

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Jill McDonald-Constable is a lady of many talents. Born in Liverpool to a mother with wanderlust and an ex Air Force Dad, Jill has travelled to most parts of the country. She married a soldier, Chris, who died in 2013, and has a daughter, two grandchildren and two dogs.

She also has a website, which has recently been updated, offering hand-crafted items along with a new and innovative, Art based, service. We will talk about that more in due course, but first we should look at how this remarkable woman embarked on her love for art, crafts and writing.

Jill told me:

“My favourite school lessons were English and Art. I was a window dresser for a couple of years after school, so was able to utilize my creativity there, and since my teens, I have made many of my own and my family’s clothes, and have always been writing or doodling!”

Jill is also a published author with not just one, but two publishers. She wrote three Western novels (one of only three British women to do so at the time) which were published by Robert Hale under the author name of Amos Carr, which are still available in Public Libraries. She describes them as ‘shoot ‘em up’ cowboy books.

Later, accepted by an American publisher, Prairie Rose, she produced three more Westerns, ("selling cowboys to America was a big thrill!"), but with more romance than the first three, along with a Contemporary Romance with a slight Supernatural twist, a more scary Supernatural tale, and a real-life account of one of her dogs (in an anthology with more of their authors.)

Jill said: “At present I am working on two more books, a Medieval Romance, and one set in the 1920s. My author names now are either Jill McDonald or Gill McDonald, depending on the imprint. The books are available on Amazon, or, even better, if you would like a signed copy, with your own dedication, just get in touch!”

Jill is also an accomplished artist and has painted murals on commission for businesses, along with smaller works such as pet portraits, and her ‘Fractured Landscape’ series of abstract paintings depicting the far Highlands of Scotland. She offers a large variety of items; paintings, jewellery boxes, wall plaques, favour boxes, jewellery, and more, all of which she sells on her website.

I asked Jill about her new venture and this is what she told me:

“‘The Crafty Witch’ is not new, I have had a website for around 5 – 6 years, although some of the subject matter I am now including is indeed original and completely unique to me. Please take a look at www.thecraftywitch.net The name is simply because, over the years, members of my family, for one reason or another have jokingly called me a witch! And as I live in the shadow of the famous Pendle Hill, and create crafts, what better name, really? Recently, however, I have been going in different, and remarkable, directions with my work, which means more people may be interested in interacting with me. Therefore, I can now be found on Google!”

I suggested that for something like this to succeed, you need a USP and Jill assured me she definitely has that.

“My USP; what makes my business stand out, is that, along with my Arts and Crafts, I am also able to create individual, Intuitive readings for people. My ‘Dragonfly Colour Readings ©’ are a discipline which I have personally invented, and which are highly unusual. Not ‘Spiritual’ or ‘Psychic’ as such, but relying on my own intuition and interpretation, combined with the energies of the client at the time.

“They are carried out on the phone, thereby allowing everyone, including the housebound, to have access to something which could make a big difference to their lives. To take part in a ‘Dragonfly Colour Reading ©’ just call me to arrange a time and date. On the set day, you pick some numbers which correspond to my collection of highly pigmented colours. I place those colours onto quality watercolour paper, then wet them, creating a variety of shapes and blends, which I study as we talk, and I connect with your energies. After we finish, I mount up the ‘picture’ we have created, and post it to you, along with a small gift as thanks for purchasing a reading from me.

“My hope is to be able to reach out to more people who may be stuck, at a crossroads, or an uncertain time in their lives, and help them progress through that, as well as possibly giving them some insights into their lives which may help them see a new way to go. It may be of most interest to those who have always wanted to have a reading, but until now have been hesitant about approaching anyone. I explain what is happening every step of the way.

“As far as the rest of my Arts and Crafts, I am presently busy creating many more beautiful pieces to be gifted at a variety of occasions, or even purchased as a special present for yourself! Who knows, they may go on to become family keepsakes.”

After my interview, Jill offered me an opportunity to experience one of her readings and extended her offer to Acorn News’ owner, Tracy Simmonds. I was really impressed with her intuitive interpretation of my colours and many of the things she said resonated quite deeply; in a good way, I hasten to add. Tracy later had hers and felt much the same about the experience, saying in most areas, Jill was “spot on.”
If you would like to book a ‘Dragonfly Colour Reading’ © call Jill on: 07983 765579 or for more information on them, or to purchase one of her delightful gifts, go to: www.thecraftywitch.net

Pictures: Selfie, courtesy of Jill. Middle picture Peter Jones

© Peter Jones 2020

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Journey to ‘bring the extraordinary’ to Accrington and Rossendale College with impressive campus transformation

Accrington and Rossendale College’s journey towards becoming extraordinary is continuing - as the £4million campus transformation enters its final stage

The college, which became part of the Nelson and Colne College Group in 2018, is predominantly continuing its teaching and learning operations online. During that time, improvement works on the college’s campus have continued to progress.

The transformational green space creation to enhance the campus environment is now almost complete and wildflower meadows with flora and fauna will be the backdrop to improved access, making getting around the site much easier. A new main entrance to the Accrington and Rossendale College site off Sandy Lane has also been created as a gateway to the college.

An employer hub is to be created in the reception area of the college’s Construction and Automotive Centre in the final phase of the transformation. Moving forward, the building is set for a complete overhaul improving the learning experience of students who are on the college’s renowned Auto Electrics and Vehicle Technician courses, as well as those working towards career trades including Brickwork, Carpentry and Joinery, Construction and Civil Engineering, Painting and Decorating, and Plastering.

Other facilities include brand new industry-standard Hair and Beauty salons, innovative study spaces, and a revamped specialist Learning Resource Centre. There are also dedicated Learner Services and Careers areas and a remodelled and modern student Refectory.

Underpinning the site improvements are developments in the college’s quality of performance, and its curriculum, teaching and resources – a shared benefit from being part of the one of the leading College Groups nationally.

Accrington and Rossendale College now sits with its partner Nelson and Colne College as number one in Lancashire for 16-18 Advanced Apprenticeships. For classroom achievement, at all ages and levels, Accrington and Rossendale College now places in the top five colleges nationally.

Since the merger, Accrington and Rossendale College has also achieved significant progress in the three main areas of inspection during an Ofsted monitoring visit – in the areas of Apprenticeships and GCSE Maths and English.

New courses from September this year include new T Level qualifications in Digital and Education and Childcare, and vocational courses such as Law, Justice and Protective Services, Business and the successful Burnley FC Shadow Youth Team programme.

Principal of Nelson and Colne College Group Amanda Melton said: “We’ve made outstanding progress at Accrington and Rossendale College in the 18 months since we became a merged institution. Our focus has always been to invest in our College facilities to ensure that they are fit to develop the skills of talented young people for years to come, and we are well down the road towards achieving this.

“Another priority has been ensuring that our curriculum improves, and we have made great strides in this area too. By providing people with qualifications, knowledge and skills aligned to industry through exceptional teaching and learning, we can prepare students for successful and sustainable vocational and technical careers and support them to become the workforce of the future.

“We need to continue working hard to bring the extraordinary to Accrington and Rossendale College, and reap the many benefits of being in a leading College Group led by Nelson and Colne College.”

Chloe Begley, 18, is studying Level 3 Health and Social Work Professions at Accrington and Rossendale College. She said: “I’m really enjoying my course and I would recommend Accrington and Rossendale College because my tutors have been very supportive and friendly. I’ve come so far at College, and it has been a challenging and memorable experience. I’m working towards becoming an effective practitioner in psychology, which is an area that I am passionate about.”

Taylor Fox, 23, is an Advanced Carpentry and Joinery Apprentice. He said: “Accrington and Rossendale College is the best in the area for Carpentry and Joinery, the facilities are great and my tutors are a huge help – they want you to be the best. I’ve also enjoyed the competitions that I have taken part in while completing my Apprenticeship with College.”

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Throughout the borough people took to their gardens and streets for special celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. Always observing social distancing of course. Below are some images of what went on on Friday May 8th sent to us by our readers.

Woodlands Clayton-le-Moors

More pictures: Please click here



Julie Hesmondhalgh returned to the Civic Arts Centre and Theatre after a thirty year absence on Sunday. She performed a one woman show that she had written specifically for the afternoon performance.

She returned because Gayle Knight, the Creative Director at the Civic asked if she could help with fund raising. ‘I genuinely just thought she’d send a signed photo that we could auction’, said Gayle, ‘but immediately she emailed back saying she would create this amazing trip down memory lane for us. The only difficulty then was in finding a date that she could manage in between plays’.

Julie was in Oswaldtwistle Players, Accrington Theatre Group and Blackburn Drama Club many years before making the big time. She performed in Bonny Brid at the Civic and many of the old cast came to see her this weekend.

The event raised just over 2,000 for the Civic. Earlier this year the Civic was going through a turbulent time, but was just managing to keep afloat whilst theatres up and down the country were all closing.

‘It’s a big old building to keep going’, said Gayle, ‘but we’re a determined bunch and very passionate about what we do and fund raisers like this will go some way to helping keep the centre alive. We can’t thank Julie enough for her help.’

While she was there, Julie also visited two groups in rehearsal; the cast of The Great Gatsby and St Mary’s Pantomime group before her performance.

Julie had her audience captivated as she spoke with fondness about growing up in Church and of the pranks she and her brother used to play on each other. She spoke lovingly of her special relationship with her father and how he wrote poems at the age of sixteen and went on to leave diaries which she later wrote a show around, and with sadness after he became ill and could no longer go on the walks that had meant so much to him.

She spoke fondly of her time at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) and how an American friend there was amazed that there was a Broadway in Accrington.

She also spoke with real relish about landing the part of Hayley in Coronation Street and what  a difficult time she had leaving the show, and Hayley behind. The part had brought about public awareness to transgender people to the point it had made a difference socially and she was proud to have been a small part in that, as her portrayal of a rape victim in Broadchurch had also brought that subject into the spotlight.

Now Julie has just finished filming a new series of The A Word, which should be back on our screens soon. It is tribute to Julie’s love for the town that she cut into her busy schedule to take time to visit her roots and we were all grateful for that. She also invited questions in the second part of her show and answered every one happily.


We are privileged to still have a theatre in our town when so many are closing, so please support it by buying tickets and going to as many shows as you can. Let’s treasure what we have!


Peter Jones 2019

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An Accrington student, who studied at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, looked back to his roots for the subject of his dissertation. So well received was it, that now he is looking for a publisher to bring it into the public domain.

Shohaib Iqbal grew up in Accrington and remembered his dad telling him all about Accrington Brick. He said: “At the time it sounded bizarre and boring, but when I reached twenty-one, something made me want to know more about it and on a placement from university in London, I wrote an editorial on the subject.”

It was well received and when he pitched the idea to his tutors on his return, they were very impressed with the resulting dissertation.

Shohaib did a lot of research for the project that took him to Accrington Heritage Museum, which at that time was in the old J and T Cosmetics shop next to Burtons in the Arndale Centre. He told me:






“They were all so helpful, June especially. I was amazed at what I saw there. It was one thing doing all the theory but to see everything up close was overwhelming. June also suggested that I saw John Simpson at Accrington Library. I actually begged him for information and told him my future success depended on it. He was very helpful and I spent all day, from 9 a.m. until 5.00 p.m. there doing research.”

Shohaib wanted to find a unique way of illustrating his piece and hit upon making authentic bricks from cardboard with all the dimensions authentic to the original bricks. He even made one brick with a ransom note tied to it as if it had been thrown through a window. He also created the story using the Accrington Brick logo and a series of fact sheets on cardboard bricks, even creating a folding brick that enclosed several factual booklets on the subject. He even numbered the bricks as they were originally identified.

Now he has graduated, Shohaib is working in Manchester as a graphic Designer but is very ambitious about getting a publisher for his projects and developing the idea further. Now twenty-three he is a very bright and personable young man, and we at Acorn wish him every success in the future.

© Peter Jones 2019




Recently it was my pleasure to interview prominent local artist, Peter Sherburne at his Accrington home. Peter mainly paints animal, landscapes and nature in general and was commissioned by Hyndburn Borough Council to create a painting for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to the town in 2012.

I asked him how that felt and if the queen liked his artwork. He told me:

“I was privileged to meet Her Majesty and she complimented me on my attention to detail. I watched her eyes as she examined every inch of the canvas. It was a truly memorable experience.”

Picture Copyright Hyndburn Borough Council

Peter has been painting since the age of fourteen and one of his first painting featured on BBC TV in the 1960s on an art show hosted by Adrian Hill. That was shortly followed when Peter and his brother David won an art competition in what was then Lancashire Evening Telegraph, the prize for which, was a meal and a film at the cinema.

Peter was telling me how much his subjects had changed since he became a Born Again Christian.

I used to paint things of the Occult. The most elaborate painting I ever did was one about mysticism with lots of symbols. Now I only paint things of God’s Creation: landscapes, plants, animals etc.”

He once did a painting inspired by the film, Whistle Down the Wind and sent it to Hayley Mills. In return the actress sent him a lovely letter saying how much she loved his painting and a signed photo, which Peter keeps in a frame as you can see in our picture.

Peter told me he loves experimenting with different paints and loves to see their interaction on the canvas.

“I always build my painting up in layers,” he told me. “When I was doing the one for the Queen’s visit I was not very well but I soldiered on. I think it took me two months to complete.”

He wants to experiment with metallic paints soon and is interested with the result. It wouldn’t be the first time Peter has painted with metallic paints either. He revealed:

“When I was doing my O Levels at night school I used car paint in one of my projects. Though very happy with the result, I hadn’t taken into account how pungent their smell was and I got into trouble for stinking out the class. I also got a very high mark though so it was worth it.”

Although Peter had been painting for many years, one thing he had always struggled with was perspective. He was offered a position at Shopfitters Lancashire  Ltd as a colour draughtsman and he held that job for 18 years until they finally closed. It was there that he mastered the missing element of perspective and has never looked back since.

After Shopfitters, Peter got a job for a firm of printers in Church Street working with a laser printer. He told me it was an interesting job and he enjoyed it immensely until someone asked him to print money for them.

Now Peter is a self-employed artist and would like to get his work more widely recognised. He told me he was primarily an artist and all he wanted to do was paint.

“I have never been good at promoting my work and perhaps that is the side I need to work on more in the future.”

Amongst other celebrities Peter has sent prints of his work to is Naturalist, and former member of The Goodies, Bill Oddie.

“He said I was a real old school painter in that my work was very vibrant and true to the subject.”

Although Peter does sometimes paint for a photograph, he much prefers to paint from his own head and has done that with several paintings like the one with the mushrooms on our front page.

Even when he paints form photographs though, his paintings are more intense. His use of colours and minute attention to detail ensures that. Peter also said that he never works with black as it kills a painting and nothing in nature is completely black.

“I use ultramarine or if I want it really dark, indigo,” he told me.

Peter also studied Arts and Social Sciences with the Open University for a while. The ensuing qualification was the equivalent of four A levels.  I asked him what he thought of HD television. He said:

“It is always in HD in my mind. Whenever I watch TV it’s always with a view to composition.”

I put it to Peter that his eyes were his most precious possession and asked how he kept them in good shape.

“I do eye exercises and eat food like spinach, kale and broccoli that is all good for the eyesight. In my thirties I used to teach yoga and there was an exercise I did in that to help the eyes also.”

Peter was born in Accrington in 1948 and lived at 20 Owen Street, right opposite what was then the Clock Garage. Then he, his brother David and the rest of the family moved to Plantation Square where they grew up. Many of his family were artistic in some way; his brother is also a painter so I suppose it was on the cards from an early age that Peter would become an artist.

I would like to thank Peter for giving up his time to let me conduct this interview and I wish him lots of luck in the future. I am not an art buff, but looking at Peter’s body of work, I can’t think of many paintings that compare to the detail and love he puts into every canvas.

Peter shows his framed memento of his presentation to the Queen

© Peter Jones 2017 All pictures unless otherwise stated © Peter Jones

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