• The Bleach Packers

The Bleach Packers – final poem for soundtrack

IMG_8889 2 copy
Below is a poem which was created with GLOW at The Studio, with collaborating Louise Fazarckerley. Thanks to Alex, Alistair, Liam, Molly, Oscar, Wolfie, Zephyr, Louise, Paul.

Lou Chapelle has been appointed by Halton Borough Council to create an ambitious artwork inspired by Halton chemical industry, and working with young people from the borough. Following a series of workshops in October/November 2021, the work will consist of large scale public projections, reinventing the stories of the Halton Bleach Packers and other trades of the chemical industry. It will be created with collaborating artists: costume designer Rachael Prime, sound artist Wendy Smith, poet Louise Fazackerley and film-maker Tim Brunsden. Young people from Halton are invited to contribute to the piece, and we are currently working with Fashion students, Graphic Design students, Dance students and Music students at Cronton Sixth Form College, the Young Choir group and GLOW group at The Studio.

More information and behind the scenes available here. More information about Halton’s heritage can be found at Catalyst and on the Halton Heritage Partnership website

the bleach packers

the sun is an egg, as new day dawns
the people yawning,
a tapping on the inside of their heads
is it a tapping or is it a cracking?
step behind the yolk, yellow, a flame, the colour of hope
is it a new idea or a new invention?
2NaCl + H2SO4 → Na2SO4 + 2HCl
is it fear of the 84 hour average working week?
what will grow from this majestic morning?
in the factory making bleach

look at the black and white picture
if you had a job as a bleach packer
in Widnes and Runcorn
you were elite, a fleet of top trumps
one lump of salt or two?
fortune favours the brave and the bold
and there’s money in soda ash, lime and fool’s gold
and the workers- the Irish, the English,
Lithuanian and Polish too
wearing capes, battled the dangerous gases,
hydrochloric acid
risked coughing and choking
to make magic, to make magic, to make
a magic potion called bleach
to clean the germs and dirt for you
to whiten cotton, linen, silk
in with chlorine gas
out with alkaline lyes and buttermilk

look at the black and white picture
the sun is a licked coin, with a thumbprint of smoke
from factory chimneys rise laughter and jokes
coz everyone knew everyone in the tight weave of streets
rallying round in times of trouble or need
crowds playing housey-housey outside on the street
Bingo! I’ve won! The drinks are on me
wearing brown paper leggings and brown paper hats
the bleacher packers pub is the packers hut packed
the people are a tight-knit community
they make masks of immunity
with costumes of paper and linen
greased up, protecting skin
wrapped round arms and legs,
wrapped round faces and heads
keeping the danger out
and the clean air in

look at the black and white picture
but as time passes, as the tide turns,
as the river runs,
as coal is burnt
as a new century dawns,
as copper is smelted
as Weston Point grows with red sandstone
from drum road to Weaver waters
da dum da dum da dum da dum
from the march of workers feet
from the folk dance of time
from the path of progress
as tall towers spring up like in an evil fairytale
even the moon is wearing goggles
and the morning, the majestic morning has become malodorous
in modern terms, smelly and stinky and minging
no longer are a prayer of black-tailed godwits, chirping and singing
no longer are a pleasing variety of plants, both maritime and inland found
no longer are dragonflies buzzing around
no longer are bathing parties coming to the River Mersey
no longer the rosebay, willowherb and hazel tree
because a dragon came
a dragon came and bespelled the waters
from estuary to Irish sea

look at the black and white picture
and the bleach packer dreams
dreams dreams dreams dreams
and the bleach packer dreams
a dragon came and she ate the moon
a dragon came and she ate the sun
she ate the stars and all the planets,
including Venus, including Mars
a dragon of dust
and the people were scared of her
and brought their white washing in off the line
and the lungs of the land filled with gas
her heart filled with sulph-fury
will mother earth live to tell her story?

look at the black and white picture
the bleach packer dreamed
mother earth took the black from the night-time sky
and made the mute swan’s eye
she took the fight, the white from
heavens above, heavens above!
she made mute swan’s feathers from
the white of bleached paper
and the white of the worker’s flour
and the softness of sun-bleached clouds
took back the monochrome moon
in the shape of her head
took back the yellow of the sun for her feet
and the bleach packer dreams
dreams dreams dreams
of a family of swans spinning like seeds
and spelling the dragon to sleep in history

as the workers in Widnes and Runcorn
wake to a new day
play in pastures of green
with kingfisher and crow
as new winds blow

the sun is a lightbulb, casting shadows and light
nature is healing, after day comes the night
after night, comes the day
ghosts buried but not forgotten
in their long, abandoned graves
nature could heal
if we lay a new path of progress

just after sunset, a common pipistrelle darts
seeking insects, before the world turns dark
revolves, begins again