In the small hours of Sunday 4th August 2013 a small group of well-disguised Tottington residents could be seen walking along the Kirklees Trail pushing wheelbarrows and carrying a full size bathtub. They made their way to the grassed area behind the bus terminus at the end of Kirklees Street and set to work.
Within a couple of hours this previously plain part of Tottington was transformed into a colourful floral display for everyone to enjoy. The bath was fixed to the group and a clay head and feet attached to it. The whole tub was then filled with small purple, blue and white flowers to depict the bubbles in the bath. To finish off an area around the tub was planted with larger plants and flowers. By the time Tottington was waking up on that Sunday morning, the village had a new talking point to cheer people up. A plaque at the side of the display read “A gift from the few to the many to brighten up your day”.
One of the group explained the bath was being thrown out by a neighbour and they ‘rescued’ it thinking it would come in handy in the future. That got them thinking, and before long they were trying their hand at clay modelling! It took a lot of organising, with regular ‘dress rehearsals’ being held to make sure everything had been thought of. They bought plants whenever they saw special offers in shops and then decided on a day to put their plan into action. They decided on disguising themselves to give a bit of mystery to the display.
People’s responses were, on the whole, really positive. Parents took their children to see it and have their photograph taken next to it, and it raised a smile when people got on or off their bus. Twitter was awash with comments about how it appeared overnight. Of course you can’t please everyone, and two people were very vocal with their opinion. One branded the display “disgusting” and another said it was “common”. However one person wrote to the Bury Times about ‘Tootsie T’ (as the lady had been nicknamed). They suggested it become a real tourist feature like Dublin’s Tart with the Cart or Floozy in the Jacuzzi, and be called “The Belter by the Shelter”.
With such a positive response the group decided to change the theme in October, ready for Halloween. A witch appeared as mysteriously as the first model and the sign changed to “Hocus Pocus jiggerty doo, Tootsie T be gone with you. Strange things happen in the middle of the night, especially the appearance of the Kirklees Coalmite”. The Kirklees Coalmite (small clay models) subsequently got their own Twitter account, @Coalmite, and have been seen travelling Europe.
Finally, a Christmas display was installed with the theme “Snow White and the Seven Coalmites – She’s Behind You”.
The group say they intend to keep the display updated throughout the year. They are working on the next theme. As it has all been funded from their own pockets they looked at ways of sustaining it. They decided to make and sell Coalmites, all individually boxed and named, to people who wanted their own bit of Tottington and wanted to contribute to keeping this previously unloved area something to smile about.
Article and photos: Judith Kelly (February 2014)