Another Big Crowd Enjoy 5th Bumper Festival –

Here’s the first batch of photos by Al Balmer, from Saturday’s big do. Despite the showers earlier on, the weather improved throughout the day and the Festival was another resounding success. More photos to follow.

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”