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.