Tony Benn hopeful of attending Festival

LATEST NEWS: Veteran Left-winger Tony Benn hopes to attend our 3rd Diggers’ Festival on the 7th September to receive the first ‘Gerrard Winstanley Spade’ award – our festival’s equivalent of an ‘Oscar’ in the shape of small brass spade mounted along with an engraved plaque in a framed display case.

Though ill-health may still yet prevent him from attending, he has spoken of his pride of being honoured with the award, by the festival’s organising committee, for “an outstanding contribution to making the Earth a common treasury for all in the spirit of Gerrard Winstanley, leader of the Diggers.”

We look forward to presenting it to him at the festival, and if that doesn’t prove possible, doing so soon afterwards, at a time and place convenient to him.


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Gerrard Winstanley Speaks

Actor John Graham Davies plays the role of Gerrard Winstanley at a symbolic re-enactment of the digging at St. George’s Hill in Surrey in 1649, by the famous Wiganer and a group of people, who attracted the nickname, and became known historically as ‘The Diggers’, at this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival.

2nd Wigan Diggers’ Fest – A Resounding Success

Wigan Diggers digging! Photo of the symbolic digging re-enactment which took place at this year’s Diggers’ Festival, close to The Face of Wigan statue.

Organisers are pleased to report that Saturday’s 2nd Diggers’ Fest in Wigan, celebrating locally born Gerrard Winstanley and Britain’s first Socialists, known as ‘The Diggers’, was a resounding success, with some of the best weather of the year helping to swell the crowd to around 2000 over the course of the day.

Attila The Stockbroker was top of a bill of 24 separate acts including two Socialist choirs, three top radical poets, three local bands, two duos and two professional actors. The Festival also included a film showing, exhibition, audio visual presentation, and a beer tent for which we commissioned our own Wigan brewed ‘Gerrard Winstanley’ and ‘Diggers 1649’ ales.

Actors James Quinn, John Graham Davies and Maxine Peake serving two locally brewed Gerrard Winstanley & Diggers’ 1649 traditional ales from behind the Bar of the Festival’s ‘OccuPie Wigan’ Beer tent.

John Graham Davies played the part of Gerrard Winstanley at a symbolic re-enactment of the digging at St. George’s Hill in Surrey in 1649 by Winstanley and his ‘True Leveller’ supporters, which gained them their nickname ‘The Diggers’, and where the name of the Festival comes from.

John Graham Davies playing the part of Winstanley. Explaining the work ‘The Diggers’ are going about, his monologue concludes with the famous quotation “Words and writing are all nothing and must die, for action is the life of all and if thous dost not act thou dost nothing”.

They famously proclaimed: “The Earth was made to be a common treasury for all, irrespective of person”.

They also called for universal suffrage, annual election and replacement of all officials, the abolition of private ownership and the “thieving art of buying and selling”, plus the establishment of a what in modern terms might be described as a vision of a truly democratic, ‘communistic’ ‘Commonwealth’ (as opposed to the sham Commonwealth of Cromwell).
In the one Winstanley advocated, everyone would be regarded as being equal and as members of the same family, and the principle of ‘each according to their ability, each according to their need’ would apply.

The Festival had a friendly concert in the park atmosphere assisted by the glorious afternoon sunshine.

The feedback the organisers have received both during and after the festival is tremendous, and ranges from “brilliant”, “great”, and “fantastic” to “the best day ever”.
Here are a just a few examples from our Facebook event page, there are many, many more:

 Abby Harrison

Yeah gr8 day. Gr8 weather. Great atmosphere. Can’t wait for the next one

 Bessie Smith

Well – what an absolutely BELTIN’ day! Fanbloodytastic from start to finish. Thanks so much to the committee and everyone who contributed to make it a proper day to remember. It really couldn’t have gone any better. Rarrr!!

It was wonderful – educational, informative, funny, loud and blessed with some of the nicest weather we’ve had this summer. Seriously well done to all the people who must’ve worked damn hard to make it happen 😀

What an absolutly brilliant day :)) beautiful weather topped off with great artists and friendly faces… fantastic :)) i look forward to next year

This was the best day ever,enjoyed every second and met up with some lovely people. Thank you to all involved x

What a fantastic day – loved every minute of this – stayed for the whole event

Had a fantastic day at the Wigan Diggers heres to many more like it 🙂

 Vinny Spencer

Fabulous day. Big well done and thank you to all the organisers that made it possible. Such an important event to commemorate, and what a great way to do it.

Here are some photographs from the day:


STOP PRESS: Attila The Stockbroker will top bill at Saturday’s Diggers’ Fest


Confirmed yesterday evening as a last minute addition to the day’s programme, organisers are pleased to announce that ATTILA THE STOCKBROKER will top the bill at Saturday’s 2nd Wigan Diggers’ Festival, which will also include 23 other on and off stage performances by two professional actors, three excellent poets, ten solo artists, two choirs, two duos and four top local bands.  THE WIEND, WIGAN TOWN CENTRE, 11.00am – 8.00pm SATURDAY 8th SEPTEMBER.  NOT TO BE MISSED.

ATTILA THE STOCKBROKER has performed over 2,700 concerts, including EVERY Glastonbury Festival in since 1983, published six books of poems, and released 30+ recordings (CDs, LPs and singles). He was supported by the Manic Street Preachers at a performance at Swansea University.

For more information see:
Attila the Stockbroker is a punk poet, and a folk punk musician and songwriter. He performs solo and as the leader of the band Barnstormer. He describes himself as a “sharp tongued, high energy social surrealist poet and songwriter.” Wikipedia


2nd Diggers’ Fest – Final Programme Unveiled

The final details of the programme of the 2nd Wigan Diggers’ Festival have been unveiled today. They outline a jammed packed day of live entertainment over two stages featuring 23 separate acts, a film showing, two audio visual presentations, a symbolic, part theatrical ‘digging re-enactment’ and tree planting ceremony, with a professional actor playing the part of Wigan born pioneer Socialist Gerrard Winstanley who along with the 17th Century Diggers’ movement he was the principal spokesperson of, is the main focus of the entire day’s festivies.

In addition to that, there will also be over 30 food, community, political and other stalls not least of which an ‘OccuPie Wigan’ beer tent offering two locally brewed special commemorative ales to Festival goers, namely Prospect’s Diggers 1649 Ale and Allgates’ Gerrard Winstanley Ale.

There will also be a town centre Diggers’ Parade, and a mass singing during the digging re-enactment, led by the Liverpool Socialist Singers, of the some say, Gerrard Winstanley penned “Diggers’ Song” and Leon Rosselson’s “A World Turned Upside Down”, made famous by Billy Bragg in the 1980s, all of which will take place in The Wiend area, in Wigan town centre between 11.30am and noon.


9.00am – 4.00pm – Wigan Life Centre North: DAY LONG EXHIBITION on Gerrard Winstanley & The Diggers

11.00am – 11.15am    Assemble for Diggers’ Parade outside John Bull Chophouse, The Wiend

11.15am – 11.30am    Diggers’ Town Centre Parade

11.35am – 11.45am   Digging and Sowing re-enactment in Millgate/The Wiend area. Actor John Graham Davies will play the part of Wigan born Diggers’ spokesperson Gerrard Winstanley during the re-enactment. Also, singing of “The Diggers’ Song” led by The Liverpool Socialist Singers.

11.45am – 11.46am     A minute’s silence for Gerrard Winstanley who died 336 years ago on Monday (10th September 1676)

11.47am – 12.oo noon    Tree planting ceremony. Short Gerrard Winstanley monologue by actor John Graham Davies. Singing of Leon Rosselson’s “A World Turned Upside Down” led by Liverpool Socialist Singers

12.00 noon – 12.15pm    Festival Intro by Stephen Hall on behalf of Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee

12.15pm – 12.45pm      STAGE ONE: GLASS HEADS – a guitar based four piece who hail from Wigan. They draw upon diverse influences ranging from Sex Pistols to dub reggae and hip hop to flamenco guitar!

12.30pm – 2.10pm   Wigan Life Centre North: “WINSTANLEY” Film Showing starring Mile Halliwell as Gerrard Winstanley & Jerome Willis as Lord Fairfax 

12.45pm – 12.50pm    Free-Lance Actor, Writer, Voice-Over Artist and Match Day Commentator at FC United of Manchester, JAMES QUINN plays Wiganer Jaz and recites a monologue especially written by local writer Julie McKiernan

12.50pm – 1.05pm    STAGE TWO: STEVEN DURRANT – an activist, singer and musician who performs with a piano accordion

1.00pm – 1.30pm   Wigan Life Centre North: GERRARD WINSTANLEY audio visual presentation by Derek Winstanley

1.05pm – 1.35pm    STAGE ONE: PAULINE BLACKBURN – is a singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist from Wigan who has strong roots in the folk scene. She has a strong soulful voice and sings from the heart.

1.30pm – 2.00pm   Wigan Life Centre North: OPEN DISCUSSION on audio visual presentation, Gerrard Winstanley & The 17th Century Diggers’ (True Leveller) movement.

1.35pm – 1.40pm    Actor James Quinn plays Wiganer Jaz and recites a monologue especially written by local writer Julie McKiernan

1.40pm – 1.55pm    STAGE TWO: Dorothy Fryman & Monologue John Bartley aka Song & Story – Veteran Socialist Dorothy & ‘Keep the Change Bob” gave us an impromptu performance at last year’s festival with poems and songs written by Dorothy and her late husband. They went down a storm and are back this year.

1.55pm – 2.25pm   STAGE ONE: ALUN PARRY – is one of Liverpool’s leading acoustic performers and songwriters. He says on his Blog he’s proud to be playing at the festival, and so are we, as he’s also one of the North West’s foremost radical singers and entertainers.

2.25pm – 2.30pm    Actor James Quinn plays Wiganer Jaz and recites a monologue especially written by local writer Julie McKiernan

2.30pm – 2.45pm   STAGE TWO: SCOTTY HERTZ from Canada via Glasgow can regularly be found at picket lines and grassroots benefits or anywhere coffee fuelled acoustic punk is welcomed. Wants to organise a Diggers’ Festival in Canada.

2.30pm – 3.00pm   Wigan Life Centre North: GERRARD WINSTANLEY (REPEAT) audio visual presentation by Derek Winstanley

2.45pm – 3.00pm   STAGE ONE: MICHAEL BUCHANAN – is a radical Northants based poet and was a hit performer at this year’s Wellingborough Diggers’ Festival. We thought he was so good in fact we invited him to ours. We think you’ll like him!

3.00pm – 3.55pm   Wigan Life Centre North: OPEN DISCUSSION on audio visual presentation, Gerrard Winstanley & The 17th Century Diggers’ (True Leveller) movement.

3.00pm – 3.30pm   STAGE ONE: JOHN THE BAPTIST & THE 2ND COMING – Sure to be controversial “Prog Krautrock” blues band with smatterings of asteral jazz.

3.30pm – 3.45pm   STAGE TWO: MICHAEL BUCHANAN – 2nd slot for the top Northants poet.

3.45pm – 4.00pm   STAGE ONE: WELLINGBOROUGH DIGGERS – Guest speaker from the Northants Diggers’ Festival.

4.00pm – 4.30pm   STAGE ONE: CLAIRE MOONEY – Manchester based Claire Mooney was the most popular performer at last year’s Festival. She is a well known ‘mover and shaker amongst the North West’s LGBT scene’, and co-hosts BBC Radio Manchester’s LGBT show

4.30pm – 4.45pm   STAGE TWO: LAURA TAYLOR – has been writing and performing poetry for 2 years, and has finally found a space in which to air her grievances with authority. She describes herself as a proud Northerner, social misfit, and all-round shirker.

4.45pm – 5.00pm   STAGE ONE: SOLOMON SCRIBBLE – is a talented ‘performance poet’ who comes from Blackpool. He writes and performs garish pieces about popular culture, politics and his friends. Also covers topics as strange as wasps and boxers.

5.00pm – 5.30pm   STAGE ONE: THE DEAD SHORES – are a 4-piece rock band from Wigan. They are four likely Lancashire lads with a tremendous humour and an infectious sound. Their lyrics are laced with a working-class wit and edginess.

5.30pm – 5.45pm    STAGE TWO: PLANET AL – alias Alan Sinclair is a locally based acoustic singer/songwriter formerly with bands THC and The Volunteers. Mostly performs is own material which is likened to Neil Young & Roy Harper’s.

5.45pm – 6.15pm   STAGE ONE: BOB KETTLE – plays Guitar/Mandolin/Harmonica as a solo artist, and is an accomplished singer/songwriter. He is also a member of the folk-rock band ‘Merry Hell’, who are currently enjoying considerable success in the music world.

6.15pm – 6.30pm   STAGE TWO: CLASS ACTIONS – performed at our first festival and are a Salford based duo, renown for their aggressive dance/rap fusion and hard hitting social commentary. Their M 4 Maggie is always a favourite.

6.30pm – 6.45pm   STAGE ONE: KEN SCALLY – is a folk singer, songwriter, poet, playwright, author archaeologist, wigan rugby supporter, indian curry taster and cask conditioned bitter tester. He played at last year’s Festival and is back by popular demand this year.

6.45pm – 7.15pm   STAGE ONE: KIERAN DEVLIN – is Wigan based front man for Wallgate Circus. He performed at last year’s festival and is back at this year’s by popular demand.

7.15pm – 8.00pm   STAGE ONE: ATTILA THE STOCKBROKER – punk poet, and a folk punk musician and songwriter. He has performed over 2,700 concerts, including every Glastonbury Festival since 1983.


Gerrard Winstanley PowerPoint Animation by Derek Winstanley

Download the GW PowerPoint ANIMATION 7-12 by Derek Winstanley, which argues that Gerrard Winstanley:

* Is the most historically famous Wiganer of all time.

* Was the most radical thinker of the English Civil War & Commonwealth period, and of his entire generation.

* Was amongst the founders of modern day Socialist and Communist ideas and principles, which many say, have been subsequently distorted and corrupted.

* Was amongst the first to recognise the ecological interdependence of human beings and nature.

* His actions at St. George’s Hill in Surrey in 1649 were inspired by the earlier actions and success of Wigan clay and coal diggers in establishing their right to dig up common land so as to maintain their livelihoods, making Wigan, in Derek’s view, the inspirational home of ‘Socialism’ in general, via the development of Winstanley’s own views.

This latter contention is sure to be controversial. However, there a certainly very few if any of those who call themselves Socialists in the Wigan area, who are likely to come forward to challenge the idea.

18 Artists Confirmed for 2nd Diggers’ Fest



1. Go to 2nd Wigan Diggers Festival Event Page at and click the Join button if you are going to attend. You may also wish to leave a positive comment on the event page wall whether you will be attending or not.

MOST OF ALL YOU CAN HELP BY CLICKING the ‘Invite friends’ button on the top right hand side of the event page and inviting ALL the Facebook friends you think appropriate to attend. Collectively we must have many thousands. If everyone did this, then we could reach potentially a few thousand people in no time.

Even a 5% percent positive response, would add to a few hundred more to the number attending, and the entire exercise is bound to generate greater general interest in the event on any account. You could also ‘share’ this same page on your own Facebook Wall or Timeline, several times between now and the Festival.

2. A few days later you could go to the following Wigan Diggers’ Festival Facebook page at and tick you ‘like’ it. You could also ‘share’ the page on your own Facebook Wall or Timeline. Might also be handy to click that you ‘like’ some of the posts, comments, and photos, etc, and perhaps even post something yourself.

3. You could also pay a visit to our new Wigan Diggers’ Festival website at: Whilst there you could: click the ‘follow blog by e-mail button’. You could also ‘share’ the Home page or one of the other pages on your Facebook Wall or Timeline. (You can do this by clicking the Facebook item near to the bottom of every page, or by pasting the URL into your status update box on your Facebook Wall or Timeline. You might also paste the url on the Wall/Timeline of some of your friends with the words, ‘fancy coming to this?”)


You could post any of the above URLs (especially the website/blog) on other websites especially those with event listings or maybe of a related nature. If everyone of our supporters did only half a dozen of such posts (they shouldn’t worry about duplicating the posts of others) then this would extend our online reach tremendously. The same goes for posting links on other Facebook pages and potentially sympathetic Facebook group walls.

As more details are finalised everyone could also post appropriate updates.
When our main promotional leaflet/poster is finalised everyone could help the cause by circulating an electronic copy by e-mail to their appropriate e-mail contacts.

They can also help the common effort by taking say 20 or more posters each to put up in prominent places in their own localities as well as to distribute on their tours. The more posters we put out, the more likely we are to draw a crowd. If you need some posting to you then get in touch with us by e-mail via

We will obviously be making a big push with the local TV, radio and press.

You can also spread the word by mouth and if there are enough of you arrange your own local collective transport to the event. Groups have already indicated that are coming from as far a field as London, Glasgow & Wellingborough to the Festival, and came from all over the North of England to last year’s. Others are coming even farther from such places as Canada & the USA.


The 2nd Wigan Diggers’ Festival will take place on Saturday 8th September 2012

Contrasting photos of the two halves of the site for this year’s Diggers’ Festival. Let’s hope we get similar weather as on the day the photo on the right was taken.

The gardens adjacent to The Wiend, containing the ‘Face of Wigan’ statue, and the forecourt of the new Wigan Life Centre (shown on left), as well as a number of rooms in the centre, will be the site of the 2nd WIGAN DIGGERS’ FESTIVAL which will take place on Saturday 8th September 2012. The Festival will start at 12.00 noon and finish at 8.00pm. PLEASE PUT THIS DATE IN YOUR DIARY NOW! See map below for exact location in Wigan town centre.

The FREE Open Air Festival will celebrate, via the medium of poetry, songs, film and a range of other activities, the life and ideas of Wigan born and bred Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676) and the 17th Century ‘Diggers’ movement he was the inspirational leader of.

Also known as the ‘True Levellers’, the Diggers were one of the first truly egalitarian political movements of the poor and propertyless anywhere in the World, and the first to argue for full equality of men and women. Winstanley and they famously asserted: “The World was made a common treasury for all!”

Faced with the alternatives of starving to death, or the indignity of having to rely on charity, and an uncertain life of a pauper, or beggar, the Diggers argued that those without either land, or paid work, in the new post Charles I ‘Commonwealth’ be allowed to work ‘in righteousness’ and to dig up and manure unused, waste and common land and sow corn, and grow vegetables, so that “everyone born in the land might be fed by the sweat of their own brows”, “according to the reason that rules in The Creation.”

Since, Winstanley believed words and writing amounted to nothing without action, he and the Diggers not only advocated this idea, but decided to put it into immediate practice, first at St. Georges Hill in Weybridge, in Surrey in April 1649, then later at Little Heath near Cobham. Other ‘Digger’ communities, were set up in Wellingborough (Northants), Iver (Bucks), Barnet (Herts), Enfield (Middx), Dunstable (Beds) and Bosworth (Glos) as well as another in Nottinghamshire.

Last year’s Festival included a symbolic re-enactment of the digging and sowing undertaken by Gerrard Winstanley and the 17th Century Diggers at Weybridge and later near Cobham in Surrey. Over 400 people attended the Festival from as far afield as Yorkshire, Cumbria, Merseyside, and Cheshire as well as from elsewhere in Greater Manchester. A great time was had by all!

Winstanley argued that instead of enclosing any part of the land into any particular hand, all the land should be worked by all “as one man”, that everyone should work and feed together as if they were members of the same family, and of the same father “…not one lording over another, but all looking upon each other as equals in The Creation.” As a result of this, the Diggers did not set about working their own particular plots of land, as individuals or family groups, but instead established the very first collective or co-operative farms, (some call them ‘agrarian communes’) and along with them, the very first truly democratic, egalitarian communities in the World, almost two centuries before the words ‘Socialist’ or ‘Communist’ were even invented.

The new political and economic powers that be like Oliver Cromwell, were fearful that the Diggers’ ideas might spread, and lead to widespread squatting by the landless poor. They were also disdainful of Winstanley’s views concerning all existing land ownership being based on theft and murder going back to the Norman Conquest, which was then subsequently enshrined in ‘laws’ made by the new landowners, and enforced by the power of ‘the club’ and ‘the sword’.

As a result local Landowners backed by the ‘Council-of-State’, soon moved to break up and disperse every one of the Digger communities, all of which ceased to exist by 1651. But as Leon Rosselson’s “The World Turned Upside Down” song goes: “…still the vision lingers on!”


Festival organisers intend to pack the day with an array of activities, including audio visual presentations, an exhibition, stalls and live entertainment featuring a range of bands, acoustic artists, and radical poets. There will also be a Digger’s Songwriters’ writearound workshop, a repeat showing of the film “Winstanley”, a symbolic 17th Century Diggers’ re-enactment, not to mention a bouncy castle for the kids, and a whole lot more, as a great deal has yet to be finalised. A special commemorative ‘Diggers 1649 Ale’ is also to be commissioned for the Festival.

A great boon to the event organisers has been the support of the Council’s Town Centre Manager for Wigan, Mike Matthews, who has been instrumental, along with Councillor Steve Dawber in enabling the Festival to be staged at The Wiend site. Mike has also agreed to insure the entire event for public liability, arrange for us to have access to rooms and the toilets in the new Wigan Life centre, as well as to help ‘stage’ the entire event.

The Festival Organising committee, which consists of people involved in a  array of local organisations including Wigan Folk Club, Wigan Trades Council, Leigh UNITE the Union, Wigan Unison, and the Society of Friends (Quakers) would like to thank them both for their support.

If you and/or an organisation you are a member of, would like to sponsor or otherwise financially support our 2nd Festival, which will be entirely FREE of COST to the public, and which the actual cost of staging is growing all the time, then please send cheques made payable to Wigan Diggers’ Festival, and messages of support to 39 Spa Road, Atherton, Manchester M46 9NR. See our Sponsors & Supporters page for further details: