A shared curiosity in the age-old tale of the Pendle Witches steered Bolton actress Maxine Peake and instrumentalist Adrian Flanagan on a rural road trip through the villages and hamlets nestled under the shadow of Pendle Hill.

“As a child, I used to get dragged up Pendle Hill to go walking with my folks, and I’d hear tales of these scary, fiendish women, the so-called Pendle Witches,” said Flanagan, one of the headliners at this month’s SeekOut arts and music festival in the Gisburn Forest.

Adrian Flanagan

“When you really researched their story, though, then you see how horrifically they were treated and how they suffered awful and terrible injustices.”

He added: “We wanted to give the Pendle Witches a right of reply.

“I don’t think you can be a human being without feeling the resonance of their story.”

That modern day right of reply came via Flanagan’s Eccentronic Research Council’s concept album, 1612 Underture.

A dozen moving sonnets exploring the mistreatment of the Pendle Witches, many convicted of witchcraft and sent to the gallows at Lancaster Castle 400 years ago.

Glued together with an eerie soundscape of sparse Kraftwerk style electronica, pulsing electronics and a gritty spoken word travelogue, Peake delivers the stark historical narrative and polemic of 1612 Underture.

And there’s even haunting field recordings of fierce gusts and heaving rain blowing across the bleak moorland on the summit of Pendle Hill, accompanying the poignant track Pendle Wind.

“If I died tomorrow then it would be that record, that I’d want to be remembered for,” said Flanagan. “I also wanted 1612 to be relevant to now.

“I think it’s spooky and fascinating – the trials were a real smokescreen to what was happening at the time.

“In a way I don’t think much has changed.”

Dean Honer, Maxine Peake and Adrian Flanagan - the Eccentronic Research Council

He adds: “When we were promoting it, we did a photoshoot at St Mary’s Church, Newchurch In Pendle.

“We met a lady at the church who I think was a bit suspicious of us.

“She said: ‘I believe you’ve done something on the Pendle Witches - I hope that you are not going to be unkind about them’.

“We assured her that we weren’t, and it turned out that she was a descendant of Alice Nutter’s family (Alice Nutter was executed after the trial in 1612)

“It was important for me to re-address the balance of this story, right some wrongs.”

A statue of Alice Nutter, unveiled in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witches trial, stands nearby in her home village of Roughlee.

Flanagan is a man of many guises and collaborations, from the International Teacher of Pop to Moonlandingz, featuring Lias Saoudi from Fat White Family.

His latest project, Acid Klaus, is a wonderful slice of acid electro, careering between Cabaret Voltaire and Godspeed You Black Emperor

Acid Klaus, says Flanagan, emerged during the enforced isolation of lockdown.

Flanagan found solace in the old drum machines and synths in his home and the music just started tumbling out.

“It was a great period of self-reflection for a lot of people, certainly for me,” said Flanagan.

“But it also had massive effect on people’s mental health and there’s still a hangover post-pandemic, lots of people still fearing going out to gigs, being more selective what they spend their money on.

“I don’t know how kids in bands survive just doing the one thing.

“But when Covid closed everything down it probably saved my life.”

Flanagan was still grieving the loss of his grandmother a few months earlier when the pandemic struck.

“Her death affected me quite badly,” he recalled.

“I’d not really known that intense grief before and I was touring too, certainly not handling it very well.

“Not having to leave the house meant that I didn’t have to be an obnoxious grieving drunk, and I could stop hurting myself.

“So, I ended up writing up absolutely loads of new material, nearly a new track every day, reaching out to artists old and new that I liked and that became what is now the debut Acid Klaus album.”

It has never been a smooth passage for Flanagan, though, who needed bucket loads of courage to recover from a car accident that left him with serious injuries.

“It was absolutely horrible because somebody died in that crash so psychologically it was harder to recover from than the physical injuries: a broken jaw and sternum, damage to my heart and lungs, a face full of glass and serious concussion for six months.”

Flanagan spent 24 hours on a life support machine.

“I was in a critical care, but I did a gig five days later– strictly against doctor’s orders.

“I rang the band from my hospital bed and half of them didn’t want me to do it because I was so ill.

“I got driven to the back door of the venue in Sheffield. I staggered up to the microphone like a dead man turning up to his own wake.

“After that I never tolerated any musician not showing up for a gig because they’ve got a runny nose.

“Musicians are lightweights and I’m an artist - there’s a difference.”

Acid Klaus releases his new EP ‘PTSD by Proxy’ on Golden Lion sounds on July 15.

SeekOut arts and music festival runs from July 26-28 and artists confirmed to play alongside Acid Klaus include Japanese fusion master Ichi, Imperial Wax, survivors of the last and longest running edition of The Fall, Memorials, Group Listening, Dog Daisies, Holiday Ghosts, Viper Time and Frank So.

Following last year’s success, festival organisers stress that they are keen to promote a family friendly weekend, with arts, crafts, well-being workshops and outdoor activities for children throughout the weekend.

There will be a campsite available on the festival site and SeekOut tickets are available via the Grand Theatre, Clitheroe, wwwgrandvenue.co.uk or the festival website: www.SeekOutfeastival.co.uk