Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker's love affair with Kinder Scout

Jarvis Cocker in Edale ahead of the launch of the Be Kinder art trail. The National Trust art project is centred on Kinder Scout and is aimed at getting more people to think about the conservation of the countryside.
Jarvis Cocker in Edale ahead of the launch of the Be Kinder art trail. The National Trust art project is centred on Kinder Scout and is aimed at getting more people to think about the conservation of the countryside.

Sheltering from the drizzling rain under an awning while perched on a fold-away chair, Jarvis Cocker is in reflective mood.

A little over three miles away is the reason why the former frontman of one of the biggest bands of the 1990s finds himself in the remote village of Edale on a damp and overcast Sunday afternoon in June.

His love affair with Kinder Scout, the peak which rises 2,090ft in the hills of Derbyshire, began more than 40 years ago while he was a pupil in his native Sheffield.

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“We came out on a school trip which no-one particularly wanted to go on,” he says.

“Everyone wanted to stay at home and watch TV instead of heading out on a minibus into the middle of nowhere.

“But I fell in love with the place. We went orienteering, and I found it fascinating to be up there with just a map and a compass to make sure that you didn’t end up getting lost completely.

“Forty years on, I still find Kinder Scout is somewhere I can come and never get bored of.”

And Cocker, whose career as the singer with the Sheffield indie band Pulp spanned 26 years, is now playing a leading role in helping introduce a whole new generation to the natural beauty of the Peak District.

Working alongside the Turner Prize-winning artist, Jeremy Deller, the 55-year-old has helped create an art trail which winds its way along a route stretching almost two miles from the tiny railway station in Edale to the foot of the plateau of Kinder Scout.

He has embraced country life, and is now a regular visitor to the picturesque Derbyshire village, which is noted for marking the start of the Pennine Way.

His visit coincides with Edale’s Country Day, the summer show that this year has taken a slightly different path.

Alongside the traditional entertainment of falconry displays, Morris dancing and the ever popular dog show, there is a playfully subversive element that has married rural and urban life.

At the sheep shearing pen there is a barber to provide spectators with a trim, while yoga sessions are being held during DJ performances in a tent that also has a horsebox doubling up as a bar.

The afternoon fashion show features work by Heresy, a London-based streetwear designer whose folklore-inspired creations are modelled by Edale’s villagers on the impromptu catwalk in the middle of a field on the outskirts of the village.

The premise for this summer’s Country Day has been to show that rural life can appeal to those who have never ventured out of their urban neighbourhoods ahead of the launch of the Be Kinder art trail.

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“I love the concept of country shows, and the fact they bring communities together,” Cocker says.

“But we wanted to do something a little different, and I am very grateful that the organisers of Country Day let us do just that.

“While this is such an important event for Edale, we wanted to show it doesn’t have to be for just those who live in the countryside.”

The concept for the Be Kinder trail can be traced back to April 24, 1932, when Kinder Scout became the focus for a campaign that was to change access to the countryside forever.

A mass protest saw three groups set out to trespass on the peak, approaching from different directions.

It was part of a campaign that is credited with forging the way to open access to the countryside and the creation of the UK’s national parks - of which the Peak District was the first in April 1951.

The art trail is aimed at getting people to think about how to protect the landscape and was created by Cocker and Deller in collaboration with the National Trust, which acquired Kinder Scout’s moorland in 1982, and other artists.

The project is part of the National Trust’s People’s Landscapes programme to challenge the public’s perceptions of the countryside, and highlight the often hidden histories of rural Britain.

The theme was chosen to mark 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, when cavalry charged protestors who had gathered to demand reform of parliamentary representation.

The ensuing melee left 700 people injured and as many as 18 fatalities, including men, women and one child.

Alongside Kinder Scout and two properties owned by the trust close to the scene of the Peterloo Massacre, other art projects are being undertaken on the Durham coal mining coastline, to commemorate the Miners’ Strikes of the 1980s, and in Dorset to mark the agricultural labour dispute of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834.

For Deller, who has been overseeing the national programme of events, the Be Kinder art trail has proved to be the most challenging - and he admits a departure from other projects he has undertaken in a career dating back to the early 1990s.

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He won the Turner Prize in 2004 for his work, Texas Memory Bucket, a video study of former US President George Bush’s home state, and found critical acclaim for his 2001 re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave, the infamous showdown in South Yorkshire between miners and police during the industrial action of the 1980s.

“I think it is fair to say that I have never done anything quite like this, ” Deller says.

“I have known Jarvis for a while and sent him an email to ask if he wanted to be involved, without knowing his back story with Kinder Scout.

“He has been brilliant, and has really thrown himself into the project. It has been challenging and a lot of hard work, but it’s also been fun and I am really happy with the outcome.”

Starting at the Penny Pot café next to Edale’s railway station, walkers will be able to hear protest songs on a jukebox by Scottish-born artist Ruth Ewan, including The Manchester Rambler by singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl which was inspired by his participation in the mass trespass.

The trail includes works by writer Jon McGregor, whose novel, Reservoir 13, was written in and inspired by the area, while art duo INSTAR have been working with local schools and community groups to design limited edition sew-on patches inspired by a love of the countryside.

The patches have been reproduced on flags that are being turned into light boxes which will be on display in the Methodist chapel in the hamlet of Barber Booth.

A so-called Cinebarn will also be on the trail, showing a reel of film clips which have been selected by Cocker himself.

The Be Kinder art trail will run from Saturday, July 6, until September 15.