George Monbiot to receive Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award for 2021

Controversial Guardian columnist and environmental activist George Monbiot is to receive this year’s Diggers’ Festival “Gerrard Winstanley Spade” award for his ‘outstanding contribution’ to the cause of making the Earth a common treasury for all, in the spirit of the 17th Century Wiganer in whose memory the award is named. 

The award has previously been presented to the late veteran Labour MP Tony Benn, Film Director Ken Loach, Writer Jimmy McGovern and local actor-activist Maxine Peake. 

Our first Gerrard Winstanley Spade in 2013 was awarded to Tony Benn. In addition to everything else he did, he helped to populise Winstanley’s writings in his later life and described the 17th Century Diggers as England’s “first true socialists”. As Tony was too ill to travel to our festival to receive the award in person, and sadly died before we were able to formally present it to him, the Spade was later received by Tony’s son Hilary Benn (shown below) on behalf of Tony’s family.
Hilary Benn, Ken Loach, Maxine Peake & Jimmy McGovern

Homeless campaigner Pauline Town and ‘We Shall Overcome’ musician, activist and campaigner Joe Solo are two more recent recipients.

This year’s award is also presented in recognition of George Monbiot’s ongoing fight, as his own website states: against “environmental destruction, undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless….” and more recently his powerful advocacy of the need to overthrow Capitalism to stop the impending climate catastrophe. (See clips below)

On 1 April 1999, on the 350th anniversary of Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers’ occupation, George Monbiot was famously involved in the organisation of  a rally and occupation of land at St. Georges Hill, near Weybridge, Surrey. (See Clip below)

George is absolutely delighted to be receiving the award, and had intended to be with us on Saturday to accept it in person. However, as he is now sadly unable to come to this year’s Festival, the Festival Committee will be organising a special event in Wigan later in the year to which George has agreed he will come to receive the award and additionally give us a talk on a subject yet to be decided. He has also agreed he will provide us with a short video for our social media platforms. Watch this space

Wigan Diggers’ Festival 11th September 2021

Due to last year’s festival being postponed because of the situation with Covid, we hope you will help us make the 10th Wigan Diggers’ Festival this year, one to remember. Full details of line-up etc to follow shortly. Stay safe people and we hope to see you all at this year’s festival, it’s going to be a cracker.

Here’s a memory from 2019’s headliners ‘The Men They Couldn’t Hang‘, with the wonderful Joe Solo joining them on stage, sadly we lost guitarist and vocalist Stefan Cush earlier this year, he will be greatly missed and he will always live on in our hearts and in his music…

9th Diggers’ Festival Line Up Announced

THE MEN THEY COULD’NT HANG top the bill at this year’s 9th Annual FREE festival.

Also on the main stage during the day are festival favourites Attila The Stockbroker and Wigan’s very own John The Baptist & The Second Coming.











Kicking off the music on the main stage at 12.00 noon, immediately after our symbolic Digging Re-enactment in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (accompanied by the Bolton Clarion Choir) are the excellent Harp and a Monkey. Check out the full running order below:


If you or your organisation would like to book a stall at this year’s festival, then please download our STALL APPLICATION FORM, fill it in and return it to us A.S.A.P.

As we work on a first come first served basis, and space is limited, in order to avoid any possible disappointment we suggest the earlier you can do it the better.


Help us promote our festival by speaking to your friends, family and workmates and encouraging them to come along. The feedback is always great. GREAT MUSIC – GREAT CROWD – GREAT FOOD – GREAT BEER – GREAT CAUSE,

You might also consider sharing our new facebook page at: on your own timeline and inviting your FB friends to attend.

2019 Wigan Diggers’ Festival – Announcements

wdf9announcementsHAPPY NEW YEAR!

A DATE FOR YOUR DIARIES – This year’s 9th Annual FREE Festival will take place at our usual venue in The Wiend on SATURDAY 7th SEPTEMBER 2019


If you or someone you know would like to perform at this year’s festival then please download and fill in our APPLICATION FORM and return it to us before 28th February 2019 to



Never mind the weather forecast – The Sun shines on the righteous! But bring your Brollies just in case!


HERE’S THE FULL RUNNING ORDER for this year’s Diggers’ Festival

Here’s the final running order for Saturday’s 8th Wigan Diggers’ Festival which includes our best ever line-up of entertainment alternating between our main and acoustic stages; two fringe meetings; and an educational talk on Gerrard Winstanley in Wigan Parish Church. Also, for only our second year, the opportunity to hear some excellent speakers from a range of unions and campaign groups, etc, explain what they’re about and why they’re in Wigan on Saturday, via our ‘third’ town centre ‘Speakers’ Corner’ stage.

All this of course, is in addition to a Diggers’ award presentation to Joe Solo; Diggers’ Flag unfurling; symbolic St. George’s Hill 1649 ‘digging re-enactment’ and more than 50 food, book and other stalls; all day children’s entertainment, and our ever popular ‘Occu Pie Wigan’ beer tent,

10.00 am – 11.30 am  – LOCATION – Top of Millgate/Standishgate (second session between 12.15 pm – 1.00 pm at same location)

Wigan Diggers’ Festival Speakers’ Corner

Wigan Diggers' Festival Speakers Corner

Speakers are already confirmed from a range of organisations. including the Diggers’ Festival Committee, the RMT Keep the Guard on the Train campaign, BFAWU Fast Food Rights campaign, WASPI, Frack Free & Fossil Fuel Free Greater Manchester, Unite the Union Community Membership, Morning Star Newspaper, Manchester People’s Assembly, Momentum, Peterloo Memorial Campaign, Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, Labour Party, Socialist Party of Great Britain and others.

11.30 am – 11.45 am – LOCATION – Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend

St. George’s Hill 1649 Digging Re-enactment

Diggers' Festival 1649 Digging Re-enactmentIMG_1406

In The Wiend area, the festival will kick off as usual with a symbolic digging re-enactment in which this year, guest actor Sean McGlynn will play the role of the Wigan born radical, and repeat some of his famous words from April 1649.

As on previous occasions he and our other diggers 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 17th century Diggers, and which was made famous by Billy Bragg.

11.45 am – 12.00 noon – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend

Official Opening of Festival & Diggers’ Flag Unfurling

A representative of the North West Regional Committee of Unite the Union, who are the main sponsors of this year’s festival, will officially open the festival before the unfurling at noon of this year’s Diggers’ Flag designed by the pupils of the Deanery High School, Wigan with the assistance of their arts teacher David Brown.






MAIN STAGE + SONG & STORY (ACOUSTIC) STAGE at a glance (from 12.00 noon)


Full Running Order including fringe meetings and Winstanley talk in more detail from 12.00 noon.

12.00 noon – 12.40 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend

BAND – The Amber List


If The Amber List were furniture, you might describe them as pre-loved. This Lancashire band, formed in March 2017 in a Works Unit Only layby on the M6, has members who have clocked up many music miles between them. Peppered with harmonic interludes and touched with atmospherics, their songs range from
60’s folk-tinged ballads to indie pop.

More info at

12.00 noon – 1.00 pm – LOCATION – Wigan Parish Church, Town Centre



Martyn Lowe and others from the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, (which exists to help co-ordinate, publicise and support the quest for justice for people affected by politically motivated undercover police spying and to ensure such abuses do not continue) will give a talk and answer questions about how the victims of ‘spycops’ were pried upon, and the effect it has had upon a very large range of campaigners. This will include one of the women affected by long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who have infiltrated environmental and social justice campaign groups.

More information @

12.00 noon – 1.00 pm – LOCATION – Museum of Life, Library Street, Wigan

FRINGE MEETING organised by Wigan & Makerfield WASPI (Women Against State Penion Inequality)

WASPI Fringe Meeting

12.40 noon – 1.00 pm – LOCATION – Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend

SOLO ARTIST – Patrick McKenzie


Patrick is a Yorkshire born singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Manchester. His music is made up of intricate, winding chords and powerful stories hidden in his quirky lyrics, all underpinned by his deep rich voice and a variety of instruments.

More info @

1.00 pm – 1.40 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend

BAND – The Jupiter Blues


The Jupiter Blues are a four piece, blues rock band straight out of Liverpool. Known for their high energy shows, impeccable musicianship and infectious stage presence, they wow their audience with a host of original songs and unique covers.

More info @

1.00 pm – 2.30 pm – LOCATION – Wigan Parish Church, Town Centre

FESTIVAL TALK – “Gerrard Winstanley from St. George’s Hill to The Law of Freedom in a Platform”

WiganParishStephen Michael Hall

Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee member Stephen Hall will give a talk and answer questions on the development of Gerrard Winstanley’s ideas from his early ‘Digger Writings’ in 1649 to his later ‘Law of Freedom in a Platform’ work, which might be regarded as Winstanley’s personal manifesto for a genuine ‘Commonwealth of England’.

1.40 pm – 2.00 pm – LOCATION – Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend

SOLO ARTIST – Gerry Ffrench


Gerry’s Liverpool/Irish roots make her a wonderful performer, songwriter and recording artist of rich contemporary folk music. With their strong local flavour, Gerry’s own songs make many references to Liverpool’s maritime history while their style is firmly rooted in traditional folk and shanty. She gives a voice to the hard lives of the women left behind when the sailors went off to sea in songs such as The Other Maggie May, When The Wind Blows Up From The Mersey and Cunard Yanks, being written from the point of view of the wives and their families.

More info @

2.00 pm – 2.40 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend



Joe Solo is an award-winning musician, writer, poet, activist, broadcaster and washing machine engineer from Scarborough. Live, Solo has a growing reputation as both a performer and raconteur, being both thought-provoking, comical and punch-the-air political often in the same breath. He is not an artist you forget in a hurry.

We are additionally pleased to present Joe this year’s Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award for his contribution to the socialist cause.

More info @

2.40 pm – 2.50 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend


2.50 pm – 3.15 pm – LOCATION – Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend

POET – Sharon Lowe

Sharon Lowe

It seems there’s nothing Diggers’ Festival Committee member Sharon can’t turn her hand to, and today it’s an appearance as one of our three poets on our Song & Story Stage.

POET – Robin Welsh


Robin Welsh is Hull born, residing in Oxfordshire. Robin is a published poet, political activist and active campaigner for human rights and feels strongly about the abuses and intolerances within society. Everybody needs a voice and he raises issues that bring those who are silent and downtrodden to the fore delivering honest, poignant and often brutal spoken word with passion.

POET – John Wilmington


John is a regular performing poet on the North West open mic scene mixing romantic verse, political commentary and classical style poetry.

3.15 pm – 3.55 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend

BAND – Barnstormer 1649 (featuring Attila The Stockbroker)


Although there’s always been an element of music in his set, 2018 is the year when spoken word performer, songwriter and multi- instrumentalist Attila the Stockbroker prioritises his musical side for the first time after 37 years and over 3000 gigs primarily working as a poet. He’ll be touring all over the UK with his unique band Barnstormer. A description not used lightly. They literally don’t sound like anyone else. Barnstormer aim to do with early music & punk what the Pogues did with Irish music & punk. Attila describes their sound as ‘Roundhead Renaissancecore and Baroque ‘n’ Roll’.

More info @

3.55 pm – 4.20 pm – LOCATION – Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend



Unassuming, unusual and enigmatic, T. E. Yates is a multi-disciplinary Wigan-raised artist of rare and disarming qualities that must be seen and heard to be believed. Quoted as being a “modern day Woody Guthrie mixed with a little Bob Dylan and a little Tom Petty, creating socially charged commentary with a rockier folk sound” he writes about a plethora of real world problems.

More info @

4.20 pm – 4.30 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend


4.30 pm – 4.55 pm – LOCATION – Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend



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. Let Rocky, Punky, Cheezy and Bolshie tickle your political funny bones.

More info @

4.55 pm – 5.35 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend

The Commoners’ Choir

Commoners' Choir

The Commoners’ Choir is a rag bag assortment of ne’er-do-wells, misfits, and troublemaking cake-eaters who have come together from all corners of the globe to sing harmonious insurrection, to rouse the rabble and to raise a smile or two. They are a singing newspaper: singing about stuff that happens, stuff that should be happening, stuff that matters. Their songs and arrangements are written by Boff Whalley, songsmith for the likes of Chumbawamba and Red Ladder Theatre, with inspiration, input and interjections from choir members.

More info @

5.35 pm – 6.00 pm – LOCATION – Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend

BAND – Rare Oul’ Times


Headed by Lawrence Hoy, the band combine traditional Irish folk music with Lawrence’s own original material. Lawrence won the Diggers’ Orwell-inspired songwriting competition in 2017.

6.00 pm – 6.40 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend

Brandon Lee Webb Band


This collective of talented musicians play mainly original material whose influences include Van Morrison, John Martyn and The Doors. They are regulars on the local music festival scene and have recently played at Strummercamp.

More info @

6.40 pm – 7.05 pm – LOCATION – Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend

BAND – Eliza P & The Disco Misfits


Eliza P started off in Manchester’s underground music scene many moons ago, through punk, reggae, rock and psychedelia. Later she becaame known on the folk circuit for her irreverent observational songs. She joined forces with Tony Oz, Damian Browne & Derek (Delvis) Thompson who have a wealth of musical history between them. Together they play gigs and festivals and have a right good musical time! Expect a bunch of themes: badgers & foxes, Jeremy Kyle, trams, Wetherspoons, School history lessons, fracking, bonkers stuff that goes on in the world, from funny to not funny in a punky-folky style!

More info @

7.05 pm – 7.45 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend

BAND – Wigan’s very own


As proud purveyors of energized folk-rock and original songs, award-winning NW band, festival favourites Merry Hell bring their uplifting, joyful music to the Diggers’ main stage once more.

More info @

7.45 pm – 8.15 pm – LOCATION – Song & Story Stage, Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend

BAND – Joe Astley & The Back Pages


Joe Astley is a fast rising musician and singer-songwriter, bringing a poetic folk-rock style and sound to the stage and was very well received on the acoustic stage in 2017.

More info @

8.15 pm – 8.30 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend


8.30 pm – 9.30 pm – LOCATION – Main Stage, Believe Square, The Wiend


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. See full feature on page 8 of this year’s festival brochure.

More info @

9.30pm FESTIVAL ENDS – See you next year. Don’t forget to like our facebook page and website and/or join or facebook group to keep in touch.

We still need volunteers to help with clearing up after the festival on Saturday evening as well as from 10.00am on Sunday. Email: if you can help.


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.

Calling all Musicians & Other Artists + 2018 Diggers’ Festival Announcements



will take place on


If you’re a musician or other artist and  would like to perform at it then here’s a link to the application form to do so.

All applications will be viewed by the members of the stage entertainment committee who all have an equal vote as to who will be invited to perform at the festival.
All acts selected will be offered reasonable expenses and additionally provided with vouchers to obtain food and drink on the day.

The form should be downloaded, filled in and then emailed to (address provided on form) no later than 15th February 2018, which is the deadline for all applications.

Members of the stage entertainment committee will not enter into individual correspondence with applicants, however, the committee will aim to notify all successful applicants by the 1st of April 2018.

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.