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The Pendle Witch Child (2011)

Simon Armitage presents the extraordinary story of the most disturbing witch trial in British history and the key role played in it by one nine-year-old girl. Jennet Device, a beggar-girl ... See full summary »

Director:

Ros Ereira

Writer:

Ros Ereira
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Cast

Credited cast:
Simon Armitage Simon Armitage ... Himself - Presenter
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Storyline

Simon Armitage presents the extraordinary story of the most disturbing witch trial in British history and the key role played in it by one nine-year-old girl. Jennet Device, a beggar-girl from Pendle in Lancashire, was the star witness in the trial in 1612 of her own mother, her brother, her sister and many of her neighbours and, thanks to her chilling testimony, they were all hanged. In 'The Pendle Witch Child' poet Simon Armitage explores the lethal power and influence of one child's words - a story of fear, magic and demonic pacts retold partly with vivid and innovative hand-drawn animation. He discovers how Jennet's appearance in the witness box cast its shadow way beyond Lancashire, impressing lawyers, politicians, clerics and even the King himself and setting a dark precedent for child testimony in witch trials as far away as America. Finally, in a dramatic twist to the tale, he reveals how, 22 years after the original trial, Jennet's own words were very nearly the death of her ... Written by Ros Ereira

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Plot Keywords:

witch | f rated | See All (2) »


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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 August 2011 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Wingspan Productions See more »
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Technical Specs

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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User Reviews

 
Familiar Tale of Superstition, Sexism and Mistrust
26 November 2015 | by l_rawjalaurenceSee all my reviews

Anyone acquainted with even the sketchiest knowledge of witchcraft and history - as, for example, in Shakespeare's MACBETH - will recognize the thrust of this documentary.

Poet Simon Armitage tramps across the Lancashire hills to tell a story of a rural community racked by fear and suspicion in the wake of the Protestant Revolution. Predominantly comprised of women rather than men, it was considered somehow 'deviant' - prone to displays of overt emotion and poor judgment. None of the women could be trusted, especially those apparently invested with supernatural powers. Whether they possessed such powers was immaterial: suspicion was sufficient to convict them. Hence it was inevitable that someone would be tried and punished on suspicion of witchcraft.

The visual style of this documentary was customary BBC fare - the sight of rolling hills and the presenter crossing the frame on wind- swept days with little or no sunshine to break up the gloom. Armitage's commentary was interspersed with observations from miscellaneous boffins from the Universities of Oxford and East Anglia (among others); and the trial itself was leavened with the use of simple animated figures superimposed on the historical site.

What was perhaps most interesting about this rather familiar story was to speculate on why Armitage had become preoccupied with it. Perhaps it was due to the power of words to persuade and manipulate, especially in rural preliterate communities.


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