BOLTON has long historical links with opressed people especially American slaves - gaining its wealth on the back of slavery but then providing a home for many emancipated slaves in the 19th century.

The town benefitted from the international cotton trade and its forced labour workforce at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

But it later showed its disapproval of slavery by actively campaigning against it and gathering a petition supporting abolition in 1820.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the town's practical approach to helping disadvantaged communities in Third World countries is daily evident in the Justicia Fairtrade shop in Knowsley Street, currently celebrating its 30th anniversary in Fairtrade Fortnight. In fact, the Bolton venue is not only Greater Manchester's sole Fairtrade shop but also one of the longest running in the country.

In a town with a definite conscience, the Fairtrade movement here grew out of the work of the local branch of the World Development Movement and Oxfam.

This initially led to a Christian TRAID shop in the former St George's Craft Centre, just yards from the Knowsley Street shop which was named "Justicia" from the Spanish word for justice.

Justice accurately describes the purpose of the Fairtrade movement: to ensure a better deal for marginalised and disadvantaged Third World producers to help them trade their way out of poverty and create better equipped communities. Bolton became the country's12th Fairtrade town in 2003.

The Fairtrade range, which has grown hugely over the years, covers all kinds of food, clothes, goods and handicrafts. What has also grown substantially is the number of places stocking these items. Today, there are 280 organisations involved from Bolton Muslim Girls' School to The Oaks County Primary School and from Sainsbury's and Horwich Leisure Centre to Boots and Bolton HIndu Forum.

"Yes, at first there were just 44 places where you could buy Fairtrade goods and now you can get them in so many local establishments," explains Jim Hollyman. He is Bolton's Fairtrade co-ordinator who, at almost 79, is stepping down after 13 years in the voluntary role. "It's been a very enjoyable and rewarding job," he insists, "but I think it's time for someone else to take over." His role includes building positive relationships across the town, arranging stalls and publicity and organising events in Fairtrade Fortnight like the film on Tuesday, March 3 at 7.30pm at the United Reformed Church of St Andrew and St George explaining the work of Fairtrade.

Martin Roe has been manager of the Justicia shop for the past eight years and also gives talks in schools along with deputy manager Jackie Tomlinson. "Children understand quickly what the Fairtrade movement is all about," he states. "They can make the connection, for example, between buying a Fairtrade item and helping a village get a clean water supply. And they tend to encourage their parents to buy Fairtrade items, too."

The busy shop stocks everything from incense (a best-seller) to chocolate, many different kinds of tea, scarves, bags, crafts and intricately-made jewellery. And customers know that buying fairly traded products - even if it's only a bunch of bananas from Asda - is a way for local residents to offer a practical helping hand to people from the other side of the world they will never meet.

* For more information about Fairtrade in Bolton go to

PANEL: The Dark Secrets Walk

AN organised walk around Bolton town centre on Saturday, March 7 will reveal the strong links between Bolton's past and the slave trade.

It shows some of the town's darkest secrets - as well as open secrets linked to Fairtrade in Bolton. It starts at the Town Hall in Victoria Square at 2pm and moves to Samuel Crompton's statue in Nelson Square and then Silverwell Street. Here, the Abbatt family lived at No.11. In the 1850s, they took a prominent part in anti-slavery meetings, raising funds for abolitionists in the US.

The walk moves on to Wood Street, where Bolton's wealthy middle-class lived in the 18th century and where William Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, was born. In 1911, his name was linked to slavery allegations in the Belgian Congo where palm oil for his soap manufacture originated

Bolton Parish Church, Bank Street Unitarian Chapel, the NatWest bank all figure in the walk, along with unusual stone carvings on Bridge Street at the back of the Market Hall which depict slaves picking cotton on a plantation. The site of the Temperance Hall, scene of many anti-slavery meetings, is next and the walk finishes on St Georges Road followed by tea and cakes with the Mayor of Bolton at Justicia at 3pm.

* Anyone can take part in the free walk. Just turn up on the day or contact Jackie or Martin at Justicia on 01204 363308.