Reasons to be cheerful – This year’s Diggers’ Festival headliners – THE BLOCKHEADS


STARTING out as the band behind Ian Dury, The Blockheads are a legendary outfit that has grown in stature from the early days of the Stiff tour in 1977, right up to the present day. Backing up Ian Dury’s poetic lyrics, this is the band that brought you ‘Hit Me with your Rhythm Stick’, ‘What A Waste’, ‘Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3)’, and ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’, among many others.

Rarely off the road since the demise of Ian Dury in 2000, but now with Derek Hussey fronting the band, The Blockheads are still one of the most underrated British bands of all time, with a legion of fans of all ages.

Their last studio album, ‘Same Horse Different Jockey’, was released on 23rd November 2013, which was also the 35th anniversary of the release of ‘Hit Me with your Rhythm Stick’ and continues to show both their diversity and supreme quality, as well as showcasing their uniqueness. Derek Hussey’s lyrics in the bands’ new songs keep the combination of poetry, word play, earthy humour and deadly-accurate observations of everyday, British working-class life, that Ian Dury had perfected, but with an added bite for the 21st century.

Hussey is known to the bands followers as Dury’s best friend and minder, memorably singing with Ian and the band at a televised concert in the late 90’s.
Their album release campaign was supported by a hugely successful Kickstarter project, with the fans getting involved and enabling the band to make music videos in association with Free Seed Films (www. You can see the videos from ‘Same Horse Different Jockey’, ‘Express Yourself’, ‘Boys
Will Be Boys’ and ‘Confused’ on The Blockheads YouTube channel:

In addition, there has also been a remake of the classic ‘Blockhead Watch’, but for the modern generation, with a ‘Blockhead Clock’ available for iPhones from the Apple app store. As a companion piece to this album, the band released a remix album ‘Same Song Different Mix’, containing a remix of each track. To create this album, the stems (the individual instruments) were made available, giving anyone a chance to submit a remix for the album. The best one for each song was selected to create this interesting new take on the material.

The band are now currently finishing off a new album to complement the upcoming documentary ‘Beyond the Call of Dury’, due for release later in November. As well as through their own new material, interest in “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”, the
recent biopic of their erstwhile front man Ian Dury, the performance of ‘Spasticus Autisticus’ at the 2012 Para-Olympic Opening Ceremony, and the musical ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’, has seen a resurgence in the bands popularity over the past couple of years and they continue to go from strength to strength.

Along with some new material from the upcoming album, you can expect to hear “Hit Me with your Rhythm Stick”, “Wake Up And Make Love With Me”, “Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)”, “What A Waste”, “Clevor Trever”, “Sweet Gene Vincent” and many more from the illustrious back catalogue.

The Blockheads are fronted by Derek ‘The Draw’ Hussey, and Chaz Jankel, Norman Watt-Roy, John Turnbull and Mick Gallagher still remain from the original band. The current line-up is augmented by John Roberts on drums and a rolling line up of saxophonists that includes Gilad Atzmon, Terry Edwards and Dave Lewis.
Visit for further information.

The Blockheads will be performing at 8.00pm until the end of the festival.

Joe Solo to receive 2018 Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award

JoeSoloEACH year the Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee presents a Gerrard Winstanley Spade award to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the socialist cause. Previous winners include Tony Benn, Ken Loach, Maxine Peake and Jimmy McGovern. This year the Diggers’ Festival Committee have decided that the socialist singer/ songwriter Joe Solo receive the award. Through his music and dedication to helping others, Joe works tirelessly across the nation and in the Committee’s opinion undoubtedly deserves it.

Joe Solo is an award-winning musician, writer, poet, activist, broadcaster and washing machine engineer from Scarborough. His musical career began in 1987 and has seen him play seven countries either as lynchpin of pop-punk upstarts Lithium Joe or hammering out his unique brand of Folk, Punk and Blues supporting great causes along the way such as the miners, the International Brigade, Hope not Hate and many homeless charities.

On top of releasing fifteen albums since 2004 most inspired by socialist causes, Solo has written books and had them written about him; runs a research project on the Hull Pals Battalions in the First World War; has worked with underprivileged children to help them write their lives in song; hosts a weekly radio show; and still found time to open for the likes of David Rovics, Attila the Stockbroker, Otis Gibbs, Robb Johnson, Edgar Broughton, TV Smith, Paul Simmonds, Emily Portman, Pete Wylie, The Blockheads and Billy Bragg; whilst his songs have been played by John Peel on BBC Radio One, Mike Harding on BBC Radio Two and Tom Robinson on
BBC 6 Music.

In May 2015 Joe helped create WE SHALL OVERCOME, a campaign pushing for a positive response from the music community to the poverty and hardship inflicted on ordinary people by the Government’s austerity program. Since October 2015 the movement has organised more than 700 gigs in 142 towns and cities across 9 countries on 3 continents raising an estimated £350,000 in cash, food, clothing and bedding for those hardest hit. WSO scooped the ‘People’s Choice’ gong at the annual Yorkshire Grassroots Music Awards, and on the back of his efforts The Morning Star named Solo ‘Human Being of the Year’.

In October 2016 Joe was awarded the ‘Outstanding Songwriting’ prize at Yorkshire Gig Guide Grassroots Music Awards for his work on the album ‘Never Be Defeated’ telling the stories of the men and women of Hatfield during the 1984-85 Miner’s Strike; and their song together – ‘Merry Christmas From Hatfield Main’ – raised much-needed cash for a Hardship Fund set up to help those struggling in the former pit communities of South Yorkshire. Just before Christmas 2016 they performed it on stage together with a very special guest, none other than Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

After 30 years of writing and gigging, Joe made his Glastonbury debut in June 2017, taking to the Leftfield stage a skip in his step and a tear in his eye. As he said later: “It only took 30 years! Imagine what I could do in another 30!”

It is with great pride that Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee awards this years’ Gerrard Winstanley Spade to Joe Solo.

Wigan Diggers’ Speakers’ Corner


An opportunity to let Wiganers know what you’re about in word or song!

This year’s festival will once again feature a third ‘Speakers’ Corner’ stage at the top of Millgate in Wigan town centre, where festival stall holders, individuals and other supportive organisations will have the opportunity to let the packed crowd of Wiganers at this year’s Food Festival and many hundreds of other passers by know what they are about in either word or song.

The first session of our Speakers’ Corner will kick off at 10.00am and finish at 11.30am to coincide with the Festival’s symbolic ‘digging re-enactment’ in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens and the official festival opening.

The second session will start at 12.15pm and last until 3.00pm

As time is limited and we may have as many as 30 organisations alone wanting to speak (5 minute slots) along with poets and other solo performers in between, we are asking everyone who wants to take up the opportunity of speaking/performing to contact us as soon as possible so we can allocate them a time slot in one or other of the two sessions. Unless a specific time is asked for, all timings will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

E-mail: with your preferred start time.

Ye noble Diggers all stand up now, stand up now! We need your help!

Join our team of volunteers at this year’s festival

Wigan Diggers' Festival Volunteers

Just a few of the volunteers who help to make sure that the Festival takes place each year.

As every year our festival has got bigger, so the demands on the festival committee and our fantastic team of volunteers who help out on the day has grown with it. This year promises to be no different, with a host of jobs that need doing not only on the day of the festival itself, but also in preparing the site on Friday and clearing everything away on Sunday.

If you can help in any way, and we really do need it, especially from 8.00am on Saturday morning as stall holders arrive and right through to 10.00pm in the evening then please download this Excel spreadsheet and return it to us a.s.a.p.

If you can’t open the file then just e-mail us as your details and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.


Please fill in the times you are prepared to volunteer and in what capacity (e.g. Saturday 8th Bar Staff 12.00pm – 4.00pm and/or Sunday 9th Site Clear Up 10.00am – 2.00pm )
If you agree to volunteer for a minimum of 4 HOURS then you will receive £10 Food/Beer Tokens PLUS a FREE festival T-SHIRT.
Send your completed spreadsheet to (cc

The spreadsheet is easy to fill in and looks like this: (Your data will remain confidential)




Thanking you in anticipation of your support.

Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee


22 Live Acts at this year’s Diggers’ Bolton Bash


Wigan Diggers’ Festival organisers extend a warm welcome to all socialists and other working class radicals to come and join us at this year’s FREE Promo Gig at Bolton Socialist Club, Wood Street on Saturday 28th July from 3.00pm onwards

The 22 Live performers include:

Woski, Nat Clare, Claire Mooney, Dave Puller, Flynn Murnan,
Paul Blackburn, Dean Lane, Pauline Blackburn, Gordon Zola,
Crows of Albion, Dave Morgan, Carol Robson, Simon Widdop,
Pete Stevenson, Eve of Destruction, The Nearly Dead Poets,
Dwane Reads, Lee Harrison, Andy N, John Wilmington, Amanda Steele & host Jeffarama.

Come join us at the Socialist Club for a fun packed day of live music and poetry to help celebrate the radical 17th Century “Diggers” movement, who were described by Tony Benn as “the first true Socialists”.

Facebook Event Page:

Much more than digging….much more than a music fest!

IMG_0958Much more than digging …… much more than a music fest!

The Blockheads, Merry Hell and Barnstormer 1649 (featuring Attila The Stockbroker) will top the bill at this year’s festival commemorating the locally born pioneer socialist thinker and 17th century Diggers’ movement leader Gerrard Winstanley.

Our 8th annual FREE festival also features a fantastic line up of other acts over two stages including:

The Commoners’ Choir, Joe Solo, Bard Company, Patrick McKenzie, The Amber List, Gerry Ffrench, T E Yates, Jupiter Hollow Blues Band, Rare Oul’ Times, Joe Astley, Brandon Lee Webb Band and Eliza P & The Disco Misfits.

The event will start as traditionally with a symbolic digging re-enactment in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, with guest actor Brendan Delaney playing the role of the Wigan born radical, who repeats some of his famous words from April 1649.

As on previous occasions 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.

There will also be a range of other activities including entertainment for children, the details of which have yet to be finalised. Watch out for updates in the coming weeks including details of the various educational talks and guest appearances at this year’s festival.

Please help us publicise this year’s event by sharing this post on social media. Copies of this year’s festival flyer are also available for distribution at your workplace, union branch or in your locality. Please e-mail: for copies if you’d like some.


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

“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 :

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 :

Harp & A Monkey


Winners of the 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 :

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 :

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 :

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 :

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 :

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 :

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 :

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 :

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 :

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 : 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 :

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 :

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 :

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 :

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 : 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 :

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:

Please also Like our Facebook Page @ facebook/wigandiggersfestival/

and follow us on Twitter @wigandigger