WIGAN Council has hit back at a TV presenter’s suggestion Britain’s towns should play second fiddle to large cities after visiting the borough.
The local authority reacted to comments made by BBC presenter Evan Davis after coming to Wigan to research his new programme Mind the Gap: London vs the Rest.
The Radio 4 Today anchor made a trip to Wigan in January to film for the programme, which explores how the capital city has been able to dominate the UK economy at the expense of the rest of the country.
However, hopes that Wigan and other towns might be acknowledged as being a victim of London-centric policies appeared to be dashed by a critical blog Davis has written to promote the programme ahead of the episode featuring the borough going out tonight. Writing for the Radio Times, Davis said he visited a set of beautiful offices in a revamped mill which had cost several million pounds but were almost all empty, concluding Wigan could not compete with the cultural pull of Manchester and Liverpool.
Although Davis did not say exactly which part of the borough he had visited, he said the renovated building was located near Wigan Pier which the authorities had failed to turn into a “cultural quarter”, strongly suggesting it was a reference to Trencherfield Mill.
The article concluded by celebrating the fact that “our big cities are starting to buzz again” and any growth in small towns must not be “at the expense of the large metropolitan areas”.
The council confirmed the BBC had also requested permission to film at the town centre market when the crew made the trip north.
The broadcasting of the first episode, focusing on the strength of London, drew considerable online criticism for presenting a one-sided view of the capital as productive, culturally rich and booming, while using stereotypical images of derelict mills and bleak countryside to represent the North.
Although Wigan Council refused to comment fully on the programme until it had been aired, deputy leader Coun David Molyneux said the borough was doing well economically and said there was more to the country than London.
Coun Molyneux, who is also portfolio holder for the economy, said: “I’m looking forward to watching this programme and hope it shines a light on how London’s dominance impacts on other parts of the country like Wigan.
“I’m glad Evan Davis came to film in Wigan but was disappointed he didn’t want someone from the council to show him the work we’re doing to create growth in the borough.
Mind The Gap: London vs the Rest, will be shown at 9pm on BBC2.