WIGAN – great people, great places and a town which has made its mark around the world. So much so, we thought it would be fun to create our own, definitive A to Z of what Wigan has to be proud of...
Actors. Sir Ian McKellen, who grew up facing Mesnes Park, has carved a successful career in Hollywood, and Wigan has had a clutch of TV actors including Ben Batt, Greg Ellis, Kathryn Drysdale, Carley Stenson, Lucy Gaskell, Georgia Taylor and Kym Marsh, as well as the late Roy Kinnear and Colin Bean.
Beans. Aside from USA, Britain consumes more baked beans than anywhere in the world and a large proportion of them are produced by Heinz’s factory at Kitt Green, Europe’s biggest food canning plant.
Canal. Scenic and peaceful, ribboning into the borough from Appley Bridge towards the historic, soon-to-be-regenerated Wigan Pier, and onto the 23 locks towards Ince as it heads out. The tow paths make great walking, cycling and running trails, while providing a pictureque nod to Wigan’s industrial heritage.
DW Stadium. Home of Latics and Warriors since 1999, the 25,000-capacity venue has staged rugby league Test epics, Good Friday thrillers, Latics promotion parties, remarkable comebacks and triumphs over the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Education. Winstanley College regular appears at the top of the North West sixth forms league table - and among the best in the country - and other colleges and schools do sterling jobs, too. The borough’s primary schools are regularly near the top of national league tables for achievement.
Fancy dress. On Boxing Day. No-one is quite sure when and where it started, but it has spawned into a unique annual event. From mankinis to men dressed as women, to women dressed as superheroes, you see it all the day after Christmas.
Greenheart. Others may have a stereotypical view of Wigan as a grimy industrial town but more than half of the borough is actually open space - fields, parks, woods, golf courses, flashes, lawns, paddocks. And among them is...
Haigh Country Park. The Hall itself is a popular historical site, built nearly 200 years ago, and set in the beautiful, sprawling surroundings featuring parks and woodlands.
Inns. Okay, we really mean pubs, but ‘P’ was taken. So here’s a tip of the hat to all of our favourite watering holes - from the old (Boars Head) to the new (Wigan Central).
Jazz Festival, which has been bringing the best in syncopation and swing to the borough for three decades. The event has played host to the likes of Jools Holland, Sun Ra, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth. as well as Kyle Eastwood... who’s dad Clint has starred in a movie or two.
10k. Set up by the team behind Joining Jack three years ago, it became an instant hit, and the two events since - all unfolding under gorgeous September sun - have quickly established it as a key date on the Wigan calendar.
Latics. There can’t be many teams in world football with a rags-to-riches tale to match that of our own Wigan Athletic. Elected to the Football League in 1978, they’d reached the Premier League by 2005, where they enjoyed an eight-year stay against the odds. Oh, and they only went and won the FA Cup in 2013 against the billionaires of Manchester City. While the last couple of years have been disappointing, hopes are high that a return to the big time is around the corner.
Mesnes Park. Been recently? It really is a pretty, well-maintained park. The play equipment is varied and nicely presented, then there is the cafe, the duck pond, the gardens and - of course - the statue with the ‘lucky’ golden foot!
Northern Soul. The musical movement emerged in the 1960s, and Wigan was at its heart. Many non-sporting fans of a particular generation will know of Wigan for its role in Northern Soul - and of course, the venue which attracted thousands to its all-nighters: Wigan Casino.
Wigan Observer. We’ve been serving the town for 162 years (Geoff Shryhane hasn’t been here all that time) and we’re still going strong, reporting the news, campaigning and banging the drum for Wigan. Newspapers may be declining but we’re proud to say we’ve enjoyed year-on-year growth, yet again.
Pies. Wigan’s connection with the crust-covered delicacy is known far and wide, and the town also hosts the annual World Pie Eating Championship!
The Queen’s family. Wigan has had its share of Royal visits. The Queen and Princess Diana captured hearts of those old enough to remember their trips, while more recently Prince Edward toured the Youth Zone and Wigan and Leigh Hospice.
Rugby league. If Wigan aren’t the biggest club in rugby league, they’re arguably the most iconic and certainly the most successful. From Sullivan to Boston to Edwards to Tomkins, legacies have been built as records have been smashed, many in the famous Cherry and White, and all in the under-dog code which thousands follow with slavish devotion. Elsewhere, many Wiganers have won trophies for other clubs (Mike Gregory, Chris Joynt, Sean Long, Chris Hill), and then there are the...
Sports clubs. Some of whom made huge marks, past or present (Orrell RU, Riley’s Wrestling, Wigan Wasps, Wigan Harriers). To the medallists who fly the flag for Wigan, and to those volunteers who make the amateur clubs tick, we salute you.
Town centre. “Such is Wigan’s perennially poor reputation,” wrote travel writer Bill Bryson, “I was truly astounded to find it has a handsome and well-maintained town centre.” Since the American wrote that sentence, Believe Square and the Grand Arcade have improved it further.
Uncle Joe’s Mintballs. Famed since Victorian times for making your granny go, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls are sweets which firmly put Wigan on the confectionery map and can be found everywhere from Japanese department stores to the Royal Yacht Britannia.
The Verve - They formed at Winstanley College and went on to spawn monster hits Lucky Man and Bittersweet Symphony. A nod, too, to Wigan’s other musical masters, from George Formby to Starsailor to, erm, Limahl.
Wembley. Yes, it’s 200 miles outside the borough, but how many other towns the size of Wigan have been represented as often at Wembley? Answer: None. And more than that, Wigan has made history there, in the Challenge Cup and, more lately, the stunning FA Cup triumph. Be proud.
X-rays. As in, the world-beating joint replacement surgery pioneered by the late Sir John Charnley and continued to this day at Wrightington Hospital. Among the many grateful recipients of new hips there over the years was one-time Hollywood silent movie starlet Lilian Gish.
You. And you, and you, and you... Wiganers. We’re friendly, we can thrive against the odds, we can laugh at ourselves - in our distinct accents - and, when the going gets tough, we help each other out.
Zone. As in, Youth Zone. Tip-top facilities and a fantastic environment have ensured the Youth Zone has become a source of pride since it opened in 2013, so much so it has proved as a blueprint for copy-cat clubs all over the country.
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