Most of Anita Hughes’s cultural activities in her early life were centred around the towns where she lived. She seems to take great pride in discussing aspects of her life in the different towns she has lived in. She mentions different events that happened within these towns and how she and her family always attended them even from an early age. One of the events she discusses in greater detail was the Leyland May festival, which they were “famous” (2) for.
To Anita Hughes the festival is something that everyone can enjoy: “we loved to take part in it all dressed up” (2). Though her tone is formal in much of the memoir, even when discussing personal relationships, her excitement for the annual festival is clear to a reader. She refers to many other cultural events she visits throughout her lifetime but the same excitement does not ring through as it does when she describes attending the Leyland festival as a young girl.
As a child it is clear that Anita enjoyed the simpler things in life, such as events that would not cost much money. She discusses visiting the circus while it was in town and visiting the circus during Queen Victoria’s diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Religion was clearly very important to Anita: ” On Sundays we always went to Sunday School and from there in procession to the Church” (6). It is this religious belief that led Anita to joining the Mother’s Union later in her life, an organization she was still part of when she wrote her autobiography: “joined the Mother’s union and I am still an active member”(10). The Mother’s union is a Christian Charity which seeks to help out families. Members like Anita would also read together and hold discussions, often while doing needlework or knitting.
It is clear that Anita’s recreational time was different due to class. Leisure became a marker of class and Hughes attended events that would have been attended by other working class families. Religion also became a marker of class. Religion became a way for working class families to “save” themselves. Many critics have researched into religion and its effects on the working class in the 19th Century and many have come with the conclusion that religion both “survived and declined among the Victorian working class” (Pelling, 133, 1964).
- Hughes, Anita Elizabeth. “My autobiography” 1.357 on your author in The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography, ed. by John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1897, 1989) 3 vols.
- Pelling, Henry. Religion and the nineteenth Century British working class.Oxford University Press. 1964.
- Image one – Taken from a website dedicated to Leyland’s history- https://www.leylandhistoricalsociety.co.uk/festival-history.html
- Image Two – Taken from the official page for the mothers union- http://www.mothersunion.org/media-centre/our-history