Wigan Today Say Yes! And so do we!

Saturday saw another hugely successful Diggers’ Festival in the face of some inclement weather, with thousands attending and and all the feedback indicating a great time was had by all.

Wigan Today reports (see full article at http://www.wigantoday.net/news/diggers-festival-of-art-and-politics-success-1-8747316)

“Festival-goers enjoyed a packed programme of music and politics to hail the Diggers movement, based on Winstanley’s belief that “the Earth was made a common treasury for all”. Dozens of stalls brought together political parties, radical and left-wing movements, environmental and green organisations, unions and campaigns. Popular Wigan folk-rockers Merry Hell headlined the bill of entertainment on the main stage, with other groups performing including John the Baptist and the Second Coming, the Brandon Lee Webb Band and folk act Harp and a Monkey.”

Here are some photos courtesy of Al Balmer of the day’s memorable, and exceedingly enjoyable proceedings.

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7th Wigan Diggers’ Festival – Programme

img_8839The weather forecast isn’t the best we might have hoped for, but come rain or shine, one thing we can say for sure is we’ve another bumper day’s programme of ‘stuff’ planned for this year’s seventh annual free festival.


Entertainment for children will be provided throughout the day by STEAM COMMUNITY GROUP in The Wiend/Gerrard Winstanley Gardens area. See our various facebook pages for further info, including details of the themed workshops in our activities tent.


NEW THIS YEAR: Check out our Diggers’ Festival Top O’Millgate/Grand Arcade Stage from 10.30am onwards which will combine a traditional Speaker’s Corner style platform for trades union, environmental, social justice and other campaign speakers from across the North West to put their case to the Wigan public; with performance art, and live music, poetry and other entertainment provided by Charlotte Peters Rock, Tony Harper and guests.

Speakers from WASPI; Re-Open Chorley A+E; Fast Food Rights Campaign, People’s Assembly; Bolton & Wigan Diggers; Greater Manchester CND, Frack Free Wigan, Leigh & Makerfield;  Cuba Solidarity, Frack Free Lancs; International Brigade Commemoration and more.

11.30am  – 11.45am – Historic Digging Re-enactment in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens  

Actor Brendan Delaney will once again play the role of Gerrard Winstanley in our symbolic re-enactment of the digging at St. George’s Hill near Weybridge in Surrey in 1649, from which THE DIGGERS gained their name. Accompanied by the Bolton Clarion Choir.


11.45am  – 12.00noon

Official Opening of the Festival – Main Stage, Believe Square

This year’s festival will be opened by Martin McMulkin, Chair of Unite the Union, North West Regional Committee, this year’s main festival sponsor.   

12.00noon12.40pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


12.40pm – 1.00pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens


1.00pm – 1.10pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


1.10pm – 1.50pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


1.30pm – 2.30pm – Wigan Parish Church (around 400 yards from Main Festival site)

A talk by Dr. David Taylor (Historian and Writer from Cobham, Surrey – Gerrard Winstanley’s other home) on GERRARD WINSTANLEY: THE BIBLE & GOD

1.50pm – 2.10pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens


2.10pm – 2.50pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


2.30pm – 3.30pm – The Wiend Bar, The Wiend

Short play “THE PUTNEY PRINCIPLE” by The Soothside Radicles, followed by a discussion with the cast on the issues raised in the play about The Levellers and the 1647 Putney Debates.

2.50pm – 3.15pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens


3.15pm – 3.45pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


3.30pm – 4.30pm – The Wiend Bar, The Wiend

Short play “UNFINISHED BUSINESS” by The Soothside Radicles, followed by a discussion with the cast on the issues raised in the play about The Chartists’ movement, which existed from 1838 to 1857 and campaigned for the six basic reforms of ‘The People’s Charter’.

3.45pm – 4.10pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens


4.10pm – 4.25pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


4.25pm – 5.00pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens


5.00pm – 5.40pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


5.40pm – 6.05pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens


6.05pm – 6.45pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


6.45pm – 7.10pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens


7.10pm – 7.50pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


7.50pm – 8.20pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens


8.20pm – 8.30pm – Main Stage, Believe Square


8.30pm – 9.30pm – Main Stage, Believe Square




See you there.


Come to Wigan Diggers’ Festival – It’s Brilliant!

Third of the three videos commissioned by the Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee, to help publicise this year’s 7th free festival on Saturday 9th September. Produced for us by First Take in Liverpool, we think it sums up the spirit of the event and what you can look forward to on the day. We hope you like it.

A big thanks to Jane Farley and her team for their sterling work.

Merry Hell Top the Bill at 7th Wigan Diggers’ Festival

MerryHellLiveMulti-award winning folk-rockers Merry Hell will top the bill at this year’s 7th Annual Wigan Diggers’ Festival on Saturday 9th September at our usual Wiend venue in Wigan town centre.

The popular local band already have four critically acclaimed albums to their credit and have a growing following on the festival circuit. They combine their music with an energy, passion and lyrical message we can all get behind. Also, one which befits our annual celebration of Wigan’s famous radical thinker and political activist Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676) and the 17th Century Diggers’ movement, which Winstanley became the inspirational leader of, and our event takes its name from.

Other performers, at what the organisers’ hope will be another bumper festival of live music, poetry, educational talks, theatrical plays, a historic ‘digging re-enactment, real ale bar, and over 50 campaign, food, book and other stalls, plus lots of fun stuff for all ages, will include:

John The Baptist & The Second Coming


Local legends, melding together krautrock, prog, electronica and grooves to create a unique sound, topped off with a growling poet. Songs about atoms, bosons, myths, dark matter, dementia, the digitisation of modern life, monoliths and how shoulders without freckles are like skies without stars.

More info at : facebook.com/johnthebaptistsecondcoming

Brandon Lee Webb Band


Based in Wigan, this 4-piece band play their own combination of soulful blues and classic acoustic rock, with their own nod towards The Doors. They have played around the country, including Kent’s Hop Farm Festival and Kendal Calling.

More info at : facebook.com/brandonleewebb

Harp & A Monkey


Winners of the Folking.com Best Band Award in 2017, this story-telling electro-folk trio have established an excellent reputation on the folk festival circuit and beyond for their lovingly crafted and wonderfully delivered vignettes of Northern life, love and remembrance.

More info at : www.harpandamonkey.com

Wonderland Trip


Self-described as a pop punk band from Manchester, their enthusiastic, infectious performances combine the melodic sounds and rhythms of American pop punk with guitars reminiscent of 80s Manchester. They will get into your head – and stay there!

More info at : facebook.com/wonderlandtripofficial

Vision Thing


A five-piece band hailing from Liverpool, who produce the most incredibly harmonious and beautiful music, simultaneously lowering heartbeats, yet stimulating lyrically. With lots of US Radio play for their hit song Barcode, Vision Thing have made friends in unlikely places.

More info at : www.visionthingband.com

The Mather Robinson Band


With two acclaimed albums under their belt and a third on the way, The Mather Robinson Band rock folk as it should be rocked. Mixing history, humour and wry social commentary with vim, vigour and a degree of musical virtuosity, show your appreciation for Salford’s finest.

More info at : www.mather-robinson.bandcamp.com

More Than Words


A welcome return visit for the Wigan based community group, using drama, music, dance, poetry, singing and creative activities to help people with a range of social needs, health conditions and mental ill health, express themselves, develop confidence and social skills.

More info at : facebook.com/MoreThanWordsAdvocacy

Pauline Blackburn


Pauline is a singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist from Wigan who has strong roots in the North West folk scene. She has a soulful voice and sings from the heart.

More info at : soundcloud.com/littlemisspauline

George Borowski


Universally known as ‘Guitar George’ thanks to his inclusion in the Dire Straits classics, and association with an ever growing list of artists as diverse as The Pixies, Meatloaf, Sad Cafe, The Waterboys, Teenage FanClub and Radiohead, George will be demonstrating that he does in fact ‘know all the chords’, and bringing his own magic to this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival.

More info at : www.georgeborowski.com

Eva Curless


A Performance Poet who uses the medium of spoken word to question pressing issues within society. Eva is a frequent performer at local and regional slams and has notched up a considerable number of wins to her credit.

More info at : www.writeoutloud.net/profiles/evacurless

Bard Company


The Sex Pistols, Houghton Weavers mash up the world needs. The North’s answer to the Young Ones! In yer face poetry, music and comedy with a socialist edge from the
oldest boy band on the circuit! Go see ‘Old Ones’ at your peril! Proof that laughter is an energy.

More info at : whiteleyian.wixsite.com/bard-company/blank

Patchwork Rattlebag


Playing what can best be described as ‘brain-pop’ they are a band unlike others, creating song-driven, psychedelic, electronic music that touches on themes ranging all the way from dogma to Dada. File under – something a little different – but in a good way.

More info at : facebook.com/ wearepatchworkrattlebag

Monologue John Bartley


Ever present at the Diggers’ festival from our first event, John used to work with Dorothy Fryman, after whom our ‘Song & Story’ stage is named, as one half of ‘Song & Story’. His story telling prowess has led to him rejoicing in the name ‘Monologue John Bartley’.

More info at : facebook.com/monologuejohnbartley

Stephen Smith


An eclectic singer-songwriter from Merseyside, creating songs of love, freedom, loss, peace and revolution. Stephen’s lyrics offer his observations on life and how he sees the world. A Ragged-Trousered Troubadour with acoustic guitar in hand, performing with great passion.

More info at : www.stephensmithmusic.co.uk

George Melling


A Wigan born and bred story teller/poet/sketch actor relating his trials and tribulations. Not afraid to err on the side of Socialism. Just the everyday stories of an ‘Owd Chap, who doesn’t go very far, but always has a tale to tell.

More info at : facebook.com/thOwdchap2016

Joe Astley


Joe is a fast-rising musician and singer-songwriter, bringing a poetic folk-rock style and sound to venues all around the north-west and increasingly further afield.

More info at : facebook.com/josephstephenastley

Lawrence Hoy


A veritable veteran of the Wigan folk scene, performing in his own right or as part of the Irish influenced Rare Ould Times. Equally at home singing his own compositions, including from his album ‘Beyond The Seas’ or familiar songs loved whenever they are played.

More info at : facebook.com/Rare-Ould- Times-Irish-Band-1553846934853721

Darren Poyzer


Celebrating 30 years as a performer, Darren is a smiling, hat wearing songwriter, special needs teacher, music leader, writer and performer of small theatre projects around ‘the human condition’. His engaging on-stage persona adds warmth, love and humour to the songs he brings with him.

More info at : www.poyzer.com

Diggers’ Festival Fringe Events include:

A talk by Dr. David Taylor – Historian & Writer from Cobham, Surrey (Winstanley’s other home and site of the 2nd Diggers’ Community) on

Gerrard Winstanley: The Bible & God

at Wigan Parish Church



Two Short Plays by the “Soothside Radicles” (Penny Cole, Graeme Arnott, Pauline Bradley & Judy Fergison)

Unfinished Business & The Putney Principle

Venue and timings of both performances to be announced a.s.a.p.



The timings and the stages all our artists will be performing on will be announced in the next seven days.

Also watch out for our 3rd video promoting the Festival to be published next week.

Don’t forget to invite all your friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues to come along for what, weather permitting, is sure to be a really great day out.

Facebook event page: facebook.com/events/334601523621308/

Please also Like our Facebook Page @ facebook/wigandiggersfestival/

and follow us on Twitter @wigandigger

Latest Diggers’ Festival Festival Flyer

Front of the latest flyer for the 7th Annual Wigan Diggers’ Festival on Saturday 9th September in The Wiend, Wigan. This year’s main sponsor is Unite the Union North West Region. Please share and invite your family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. It’s always a reet good do.



Sad Loss of Diggers’ Festival Stalwart – Joan Blackburn


It is with great sadness that we report the death, last Thursday, of the Wigan Diggers’ Festival and North West folk scene stalwart Joan Blackburn. She was loved by so many people and will be sorely missed by them all.

Our deepest condolences go out to her family and close friends. We share in their sorrow with love, friendship, and support.

As a tribute to Joan, here’s the words to a song penned by Terry Kinney which helps to express our thoughts of her at this sad time.

A Song for Joan


Details of her funeral will be posted when they become known.

RIP – Joan Blackburn

An Invitation to the 7th Wigan Diggers’ Festival – Saturday 9th September 2017

Here’s the second of the three videos commissioned by the Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee, produced for us by First Take in Liverpool. This one features many familiar faces from our annual event, as well as the excellent new song “Come on England” composed by Festival Committee member Bob Kettle, performed by local band and former festival headliners Merry Hell. Hope to see lots of you there again this year.

Invitation to Wigan Diggers’ Bolton Bash 2017

Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee would like to invite you to this year’s Bolton ‘Warm Up’ Bash at the Socialist Club, Wood Street, Bolton on Saturday 22nd July.

The event will take place between 3.00pm and 10.30pm.

We have a great bill of guest performers including: The Earthquakers, Road to Poppyville, James Holt, Gary O’Gorman, Charlotte Mary, Gareth Evans, Tony Harper, Ian Whiteley, Gordon Zola, Daniel Dwyran, Stephen Gall, Andy N, Potting Shed Pete, John Wilmington and our regular Master of Ceremonies Jeffarama.

Hopefully see of you there.

Booking a Stall at this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival

If you would like to book a stall for your organisation, community group, co-operative or small business at this year’s festival then please download Wigan Diggers’ Festival 2017 – Stall Application Form, complete as appropriate and return, along with your payment to the address provided.

Prospective stallholders are advised to book their pitch, tables, gazebos, chairs, etc, as soon as possible to avoid missing out, as the demand for space is growing year on year.


Scene from the 2014 Diggers' Festival

We have space for around 50 stalls at our festival. These include for hot food, books, arts and craft products, credit union, campaign and other community groups, trades unions and political organisations.

This Year’s Festival Flyer

Eyup folks, here’s this year’s festival flyer, which we will be distributing at this weekend’s Manchester and Salford May Day events, including Saturday’s ‘Defend Our NHS March’ which assembles at 11.00am at All Saints, Oxford Road, Manchester, for those of you who can make it.