“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.
The 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
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.
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.
12.00noon – 12.40pm – Main Stage, Believe Square
BRANDON LEE WEBB BAND
12.40pm – 1.00pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens
MONOLOGUE JOHN BARTLEY – EVA CURLESS – GEORGE MELLING
1.00pm – 1.10pm – Main Stage, Believe Square
1.10pm – 1.50pm – Main Stage, Believe Square
HARP & A MONKEY
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
MORE THAN WORDS
4.25pm – 5.00pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens
5.00pm – 5.40pm – Main Stage, Believe Square
JOHN THE BAPTIST & THE SECOND COMING
5.40pm – 6.05pm – Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens
6.05pm – 6.45pm – Main Stage, Believe Square
MATHER ROBINSON BAND
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Come & enjoy our best ever line up of live entertainment.
More educational talks – lots of new stalls – more stuff for the kids – and a presentation to Ken Loach
Here are the final details of the programme for this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival, which coincides with the 340th Anniversary of the death of Gerrard Winstanley, the Wigan born leader of 17th century radical movement known as “The Diggers“, who were referred to by the late Tony Benn, as the “first true socialists“.
This year’s main festival sponsors are A big thanks to them, plus to all our many other trades union branch and regional sponsors, stall holders, artists, speakers and festival volunteers for making our annual FREE to the public event to celebrate Gerrard Winstanley & The Diggers possible.
is film director, campaigner and lifelong socialist KEN LOACH
Ken will receive his “outstanding contribution to the Diggers’ cause” award at around 1.00pm from previous winners Maxine Peake (2014) & Jimmy McGovern (2015) on behalf of the Festival Committee.
Tony Benn was the first recipient of the award in 2013.
6th Wigan Diggers’ Festival – More about this year’s performers.
Diggers’ Festival – Site Map & Stall Location, etc
FESTIVAL SITE LOCATION IN WIGAN TOWN CENTRE
The Diggers’ Festival site (A) is less than 5 minutes walk from Wigan Bus Station (between Market Street & Hallgate) and both of the town’s railway stations. Turn left out of Wallgate station, right out of Wigan North Western.
The best place to park your car (if you’re coming by car) is in the multi-storey car park on Wallgate immediately adjacent (left hand side looking from front) to Wigan North Western railway station. It’s only £3 all day and again less than 5 minutes walk away from our main festival site.
THIS YEAR SEES A NEW FESTIVAL BROCHURE with A MESSAGE OF SUPPORT from LABOUR PARTY LEADER JEREMY CORBYN, plus local MP Lisa Nandy.
It’s packed with background info about The Diggers, Levellers and OUR LOCAL HEROGerrard Winstanley, also about how to get involved.
Scene from the stage during Merry Hell’s performance at last year’s Diggers’ Festival. They’re our headline act this year, and on our main stage at 8.30pm.
5th Wigan Diggers’ Festival – Saturday 12th September – The Wiend – Wigan – WN1 1PF
It’s been a year in the making and here it is, this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival programme. It’s our fullest day of activies ever, and has something for everyone.
10.30 am – 11.00 am Wigan Parish Church bells will ring, as a prelude to the festival to celebrate the radical Wiganer Gerrard Winstanley who was baptised at the church in 1609, and went on to become the founder, inspirational theorist and spokesperson of the radical ‘True Leveller’ movement, better known as ”The Diggers”, during the 17th century ‘Commonwealth’ period.
11.00 am– 11.15 am – The Wiend – Official unveilling of a new Gerrard Winstanley sandstone mounted plaque to mark Wigan Council’s re-naming of the garden area of our festival site “Gerrard Winstanley Gardens”. The renaming of the area, is in recognition of the Wigan born radical thinker and activist, whose role in the history of the common people of this country, and for equality and social justice throughout the World, we commemorate each year at our festival. His and the Diggers’ vision of the Earth as “a common treasury for all”, of full equality, and of fellowship, community and love for one another, quite definitely linger on…..and provides us with inspiration and hope, for a better future for all humankind, everywhere.
The impressive sandstone mounted plaque, in recognition of Gerrard Winstanley, has been kindly donated by Wigan Councillor Lawrence Hunt, and will be officially unveiled by ex-Wigan TUC Secretary Mike Farley.
11.15 am – 11.35 am – Diggers’ Festival Town Centre Parade led by Gerrard Winstanley actor Brendan Delaney and members of Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee (form up on The Wiend for a short walk around town).
Scene from last year’s town centre Diggers’ Parade.
11.35 am – 11.55 am – St. Geoge’s Hill 1649 Digging Re-enactment in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (close to The Face of Wigan statue) during which our guest actor Brendan Delaney will play the role of Gerrard Winstanley, and repeat some of his famous words from April 1649. He will be accompanied by members of the Bolton Clarion Socialist Choir who will lead the singing of Winstanley’s “Diggers’ Song” and “The World Turned Upside Down” by Leon Rosselson, a song which tells the story of The Diggers, made famous by Billy Bragg.
12.00 noon – 9.30 pm OCCUPIE WIGAN BEER TENT (sponsored by Walkers Union Solicitors) OPENS + MAIN STAGE ANNOUNCEMENTS
12.15 pm to 1.15 pm – In our Arts & Culture Marquee in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (for age range 8 years plus) – England’s most prolific writer of murder mystery plays Chris Martin, reads from his debut novel. There will be dressing up and much fun to have in solving this case!
12.30 pm to 1.00 pm – At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (approx 150 yards from main festival site opposite the Post Office – over 18s only) – John Winstanley(author of Unsigned & Unscene) will give a talk about who Gerrard Winstanley was, and what inspired him to do what he did with an “An introduction to Winstanley & Radicalism” – Words by John Gurney (RIP) & Derek Winstanley.
12.40 pm to 13.05 pm – On the Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage – Solo Artist: JENNIFER REID
1.00 pm to 2.00 pm – At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (opposite the Post Office) – “The Diggers and the English Revolution”a talk by Ian Brooke (who will be dressed for the part). Ian explains the creation of The Diggers in the context of the huge popular revolution that shook England in the 1640s. He outlines the movement of civil disobedience which amounted to a national uprising, that began a train of events, resulting in the overthrow of the monarchy in 1649.
1.05 pm to 1.15 pm – On our MAIN STAGE – 2015 Gerrard Winstanley ‘Spade’ Award presentation to Liverpool screen writer, producer and film maker Jimmy McGovern.
Included amongst Jimmy McGovern’s works, are the dramatisation of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, 1995-98 Liverpool Dockers’ Strike, the events of Bloody Sunday, and a recent BBC film on the controversial Joint Enterprise Law.
1.15 pm to 2.15 pm – In our Arts & Culture Marquee in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (for age range 10 years plus) – Children’s author Su Ainsworth reads from her debut book “Drabacus” about holiday pals Susan, Dean, Pauline and Michael who are propelled into an adventure when they discover a secret lift in their hotel. Can they solve a 64 year mystery while avoiding a bizarre character and his power which reaches across time?
2.00 pm to 2.20 pm – Diggers’ Parade accompanied Greenall’s Brass Band (form up on outside the John Bull Chophouse for a second short walk around town).
2.00 pm to 2.30 pm – In our Arts & Culture Marquee area in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (for age range 7 plus) – ZAZOU PUPPET THEATRE present: “The story of the Diggers”
2.00 pm to 2.30 pm – At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (opposite the Post Office) –Katharine Ann Angel (author of “Being Forgotten” & “The Froggitt Chain”) will give the first public readings from her new novel “The Burglar’s Baby” “Social responsibilities & the decline in human welfare” and provide personal anecdotes about tutoring excluded youths, fostering teens and housing the disadvantaged.
Incidental acoustic folk music will be provided by Dean Lane at the Little Fifteen
2.30 pm to 3.45 pm – At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (opposite the Post Office) – Chris Coats & Catriona Stamp present “A Season ticket to the Promised Land” – Based on material from Utopia Britannica & Communes Britannica. Come on a journey from St. Georges Hill in 1649 to Hyde Park in 1969. Meet the Diggers through the ages from Gerrard Winstanley to “King of the Hippes” Sid Rawle. “Win” a Chartist Land Settlement cottage and hear the outcome of Operation Tolstory! WARNING! May include songs, poetry, readings, film clips & FUN!
Wigan Diggers’ Festival is a great day out for little Diggers. We’ve got a Puppet Show, face painting, balloons, circus performers and lots of other entertaining and educational stuff for kids to get involved with.
3.30 pm to 4.30 pm – In our Arts & Culture Marquee in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (for age range 6 years plus) – “The Great Snail Race of Toadflax Hall” will come to life as children are invited to colour in pictures from the book while its author Lynne Taylor tells you all about them.
3.45 pm to 4.45pm– At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (opposite the Post Office) – Poet, writer, chef, former gravedigger and exhumer with personal experience of autism, epilepsy & osteoporosis, Peter Street asks: “Work for the working class does it really pay?”
There will be over 50 stalls at this year’s festival – providing hot food, books, arts and craft products, also for our performers merchandise, local credit union, various campaign and community groups, trades unions and political organisations. See this year’s Festival Site Map for full details.
8.30 pm to 9.30 pm – On our MAIN STAGE – Live Band: MERRY HELL
9.30 pm – FESTIVAL ENDS & THE BIG CLEAR UP STARTS.
This year’s festival will also play its part in the National Day of Action in solidarity with refugees everywhere, and a banner saying: REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE will adorn our MAIN STAGE throughout the festival. A solidarity message from our festival will also be read out at the day of action’s national demonstration in London which concludes at Downing Street.
This REFUGEES WELCOME banner will be one of our two stage banners on Saturday
LATE NEWS: Throughout the afternoon Anteros Theatre Company will be performing the opening scenes from the play ‘The Digger’s Daughter’– a historically inspired time travelling adventure – by Jonathan Kemp in Market Place (located at the bottom of The Wiend) as a taster for the full adaptation of the play to be staged next year. Our replacement Gerrard Winstanley actor, Brendan Delaney will be digging hard!”
Astral Circus Performers will also be on site to entertain us throughout the day.
FESTIVAL SITE MAP & STALL HOLDERS INFORMATION – NOTE: All stallholders are asked to be on site and have your stalls set up by no later than 10.30am on Saturday morning. You are also required to report to our Diggers HQ on arrival, and before setting up your stall . If you haven’t already paid us, you will also be expected to pay us any monies owed BEFORE you set up.
CALL OUT for VOLUNTEERS: Although we’ve already got a pretty big team of festival volunteers, WE STILL NEED MORE VOLUNTEERS TO HELP WITH A RANGE OF JOBS – from preparing the site and erecting Gazebos, and regulating vehicle access to the festival site (from 8.00am to 10.30am on Saturday morning), to site stewarding (all day), to waste control, to town centre parade stewarding (between 11.00am and 11.45am, and 1.45pm and 2.30pm) as well as after 6.00pm until 10.00pm behind the bar, serving drinks and clearing up at the end.