4th Diggers’ Fest Biggest & Best Yet!

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.



#WiganDiggersFest – Final Running Order Announced for Saturday’s 4th Festival

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.

Check out our Twitter feed @WiganDigger or our Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/wigandiggersfestival for the very latest news.

4th Wigan Diggers' Festival Final Programme

4th Wigan Diggers’ Festival Final Programme

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 presented with 2014 ‘Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award’ #WiganDiggersFest

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

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.

Coverage in last week’s Wigan Evening Post:

Maxine Peake "Jewel of the Left"

Maxine Peake “Jewel of the British Left”

2014 Diggers’ Festival – Site Map

4th Wigan Diggers' Festival Site Map

Click graphic for larger image

This year’s festival site map, providing a guide to stall holders, the location of activities and various site amenities.

Note for stallholders: please report to the Diggers’ Festival HQ Tent on arrival, which should ideally be before 10.00am on Saturday, and BEFORE setting up your stall.

Thank you.