Lancashire to me means the warmth and good humour of the people, their laughter and song, and how they always bounce back with a joke when times are hard. It’s the blast of the mill hooter, my Gran singing Thou Shalt Not Want in chapel three times of a Sunday, then wondering what she could find for tea. It’s the smell of hot pie and peas, leather in my father’s shoe shop, soot and smoke from the old mill chimneys. It’s the crumbly delight of Lancashire cheese, the banter on Accrington market. It’s the wild beauty of open, wind-swept moorland where I could play all day damming brooks and climbing trees, picnicking on a jam butty and a bottle of pop and nobody worried. It’s skipping games and scraped knees, ice lollies, cobbled streets and chip butties. It’s my childhood. It’s what made me who I am.
There were food shops, pork butchers with red polonies hanging up, biscuit stalls where you could buy a bag of broken biscuits for sixpence; a milliner who sold bits and pieces with which to trim your hat.
On the outside market there would be stalls selling rolls of lino which the man would slap to make a noise and attract people. One auctioned pots and would juggle and drop one if no one was paying attention. Once he had a crowd around him he’d say: ‘Look at this beautiful plate. It’s exquisite. Just like the pattern on our Lizzie’s garters.’ He was a showman, keen to make his audience laugh. He’d offer his pots at a ridiculous price, then beat down the price to sell.
One man sold old uniforms and badges. He was a bit deaf and didn’t like kids hanging around his stall, suspecting they were after nicking some of his treasures. Another old soldier would sell matches and boot laces from a tray. Kids used to help the stall holders pack away and stack up their stalls, hoping to earn a penny which would buy them a piping hot cup of Vimto.
Markets have remained a strong tradition in Lancashire, and I still love browsing on them.
Using these memories I devised a cast of characters from Belle Garside, a fancy piece who runs the market café, to Aunty Dot who took in foster children, Winnie Watkins who pokes her nose into everybody’s business, and Barry Holmes who gets more than he bargains for when he starts a boys’ boxing club. The series begins with Putting On The Style.
Dena loves her Saturday job at Belle Garside’s market café, and her ready smile makes her a universal favourite. She is soon in thrall to Belle’s two sons; good looking, exciting and dangerous but fate has other plans in store. When her younger brother is killed by a gang of young thugs Dena is taken into care. Later, when she returns to her beloved market, she valiantly tries to rebuild her life. Only when it is far too late does Dena begin to ask herself the terrifying question: has she fallen in love with her brother’s killer?
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When Patsy talks her way into a job on their Champion Street market millinery stall, the Higginson sisters get more than they bargained for. Coping with a rebellious teenager is far from easy. Riddled with insecurities, Patsy’s impudence and chirpy personality win her enemies as well as new friends. And her determination to solve the riddle of her own past soon starts to unravel secrets Annie and Clara would much rather keep hidden.
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Working on her busy flower stall in Champion Street Market, Betty has lots of opportunities to observe her customers, and to speculate on their lives. Sam regularly buys bouquets for his wife, Judy, so why does she always look so worn out and miserable? Leo comes every week for flowers for his mother, but has never bought so much as a rosebud for his elegant wife. Betty’s own husband went off long ago, so is it any wonder if she and her daughter, Lynda, have such a dim view of men? But all that is about to change…
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Covers by Samantha Groom
And these are but a few of the characters you’ll come to know and hopefully love.
The other three titles will follow in the new year.
What they say:
‘The new series will be greeted with joy by the thousands of women who enjoy her books.’ Evening Mail
‘You can’t put a price on Freda Lightfoot’s stories from Manchester’s 1950s Champion Street Market. They bubble with enough life and colour to brighten up the dreariest day and they have characters you can easily take to your heart.’The Northern Echo
‘Romance doesn’t come sweeter than this tale of love and chocolate set in the grimy streets of 1950s Manchester.’Lancashire Evening Post