This year’s Diggers’ Festival was undoubtedly our biggest and best yet, if the feedback from the organisers, and those who attended is anything to go by. While it is difficult to estimate the exact numbers who came along during the course of the day, the crowd was at least 50% larger than last year’s, and surely in the region of 3,000 or more. Some even suggest a much higher figure.
Whatever the figure, the main thing was, a great time was had by all, and our aim of raising greater public awareness of Gerrard Winstanley and his ideas, and those of his Digger followers, by means of an annual celebration in his hometown, was once again successfully fulfilled.
Here are some fantastic photos by Al Balmer which capture some the day’s activities. Well done to everyone involved. Onwards to 2015.
It’s been twelve months in the making, and here it is at last, this year’s final Wigan Diggers’ Festival programme.
The organisers believe it has all the makings of our biggest and best yet, as well as an enjoyable, fun day out for everyone.
In brief: A feast of 24 excellent bands, duos, solo artists, poets and other performers (amongst them two radical choirs), a historical digging re-enactment, a puppet show, arts project tent, two educational talks, town centre procession, plus over 50 book, food and other stalls, not least of which, our ever popular “Occupie Wigan” Beer Tent serving our own specially commissioned and locally brewed (Allgates) Gerrard Winstanley Ale, (Prospect) Diggers 1649 Ale, (Holts) Resistance is Fertile Lager, and a range of other excellent beers, ciders and perry.
The event will be officially opened by John McDonnell MP at 12.00noon.
Still not sure what this Diggers thing is all about? Then listen to this excellent version of Leon Rosselson’s “The World Turned Upside Down” by the Barracudas from 1985. It tells (almost) the entire Diggers’ story in 3 mins 46 seconds. Definitely worth a listen if you want to get in the mood for the Festival on Saturday in Gerrard Winstanley’s home town.
Maxine Peake on receiving the Wigan Diggers’ Festival Award on 07/09/14.
Maxine: “this is better than any Oscar or any BAFTA …..”
On Sunday local award winning actress Maxine Peake, who is currently playing the lead role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, was presented with this year‘s “Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award” presented annually by the Wigan Diggers’ Festival committee.
The accolade is for her “outstanding contribution to the cause of making the Earth a common treasury for all” in the spirit of Winstanley and the Diggers’ movement, and follows on from another recent award to the locally born actor, by Bolton Socialist Club, for her “outstanding contribution to Socialism” in the shape of a Honorary Life Membership of the club.
Appearing on the BBC’s Culture Show last year, Maxine — known for her roles in Silk, Shameless, Dinnerladies and The Village, and who is the holder of a Broadcasting Press Guild Award — spoke of the influence of her grandfather’s left wing politics, and how these helped shape her view of the World.
Last year, she also wrote and performed in a play on Radio 4 about the occupation of Parkside Colliery at Newton-le-Willows by women led by Anne Scargill back in 1994.
Speaking on behalf of the Diggers’ committee, their media spokesperson Stephen Hall said: “Maxine Peake is someone who has remained true to her socialist principles. Despite her growing fame as an actor, she has never lost touch with her working class roots. Instead, she has used her notoriety and work as an actor to speak out against the government’s ‘crippling austerity measures’, and to support protests against them.
“She has also helped in recent years, to revive interest in the annual Peterloo Massacre commemoration event in Manchester, is a Trustee of the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, and supports numerous other progressive causes. She even worked as a volunteer and served behind the bar at our second Diggers’ festival” (shown below) Mr Hall said.
Actors James Quinn, John Graham Davies & Maxine Peake serve the first pints of Gerrard Winstanley and Diggers 1649 Ales at the 2nd Wigan Diggers’ Festival in 2012
“In our view she’s an unsung hero, and a jewel of the British Left, and someone we should all want to treasure as a big asset to the movement for social equality and social justice in this country.
“It’s on this basis, and her absolutely fantastic and much acclaimed reciting of Percy Shelley’s poem “The Masque of Anarchy” (written shortly after the Peterloo Massacre) at last year’s Manchester International Festival, that we decided to present her with our own version of an ‘Oscar’ in the shape of our annual Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award, the first ever one of which we presented to veteran Labour MP Tony Benn last year.
“Sadly, Tony is no longer with us, and is a huge loss. We’re hoping Maxine will be around for very many years to come.” Mr. Hall said.
An invitation to, and details of this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival on Saturday 13th September. #WiganDiggersFest
The event will take place between 11.00am and 9.30pm in The Wiend area of Wigan town centre. (see location map below)
The organisers are promising another free all day fun packed open air event to commemorate Wigan born Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676) and the 17th Century “Diggers” (True Leveller) movement.
Winstanley and they famously asserted: “The Earth was made a common treasury for all, irrespective of person!” and are described by Tony Benn as “the first true Socialists”.
Last year’s festival was another resounding success with over 2,000 people attending during the course of the day. We hope this year’s will be too.
2014 DIGGERS’ FESTIVAL PERFORMERS
The day’s running order has yet to be fully finalised, however, confirmed as performing are:
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners: The Lucy Ward Band
Run Out The Guns
Second Hand Wings
Liverpool Socialist Singers
Bolton Clarion Choir
Pray for the Weekend
Anvil Steel Drums
Means to an End
John McDonnell MP, Chair of the Labour Representation Committee and Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs will officially open this year’s Diggers’ Festival on 13th September. He will also talk about the lasting influence of Gerrard Winstanley & ‘The Diggers’ on today’s working class movement.
Author and TV Documentary film maker David Malone will be giving a talk on the influence of Gerrard Winstanley’s ideas on the later radical thinkers of the French & American Revolutions.
Actor John Graham Davies will once again play the role of Diggers leader, and historic Wiganer, Gerrard Winstanley, in a symbolic digging re-enactment at around 11.30am in The Wiend area, close to The Face of Wigan statue.
There will also be a puppet show telling of the story of the 17th Century Diggers and an all day children’s arts and craft area.
All the above of course is in addition to 40 or more food, book and other stalls and our ever popular “Occu-pie Wigan” beer tent.
If you would like to book a stall for your organisation, community group, co-operative or small business then please download the file via the link provided, complete as appropriate, and then return to the address provided.