Alan's folk opera on George Orwell

The story of author George Orwell’s visit to Wigan will be told in a whole new way when a new “folk opera” on the subject is performed.

Ince-based musician Alan Gregory is writing the spectacular new musical celebration of the borough’s links with the famous book The Road to Wigan Pier.

Writer and musicial Alan Gregory, centre, with members of the community attending a planning meeting for the new folk opera production of George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, held at Sunshine House

Writer and musicial Alan Gregory, centre, with members of the community attending a planning meeting for the new folk opera production of George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, held at Sunshine House

The work, which has been commissioned as part of the 80th anniversary of Orwell’s book being published, brings together drama, music and dance in what promises to be an unforgettable cultural extravaganza.

The unusual piece, currently titled The Road To Wigan pier And Beyond, began when Alan, who plays the piano at ballet and dance schools across the region, wrote three songs to be performed at Sunshine House as part of the Orwell weekend earlier this year.

The trio of tunes quickly became 10 and then turned into a full-length work on the subject of the author’s relationship with the town and the legacy of what he is perceived to have said about it compared to what he actually wrote in the book.

The Scholes community hub quickly got on board with full support and the project has also attracted the backing of Wigan Council.

Following a launch meeting earlier this week at Sunshine House Alan now has two years to get the folk opera ready for the world’s first performance, which will grace the stage of Today’s Community Church’s large concert venue near Wigan Pier which is currently under construction.

The composer says his intention is to get as many of the borough’s arts and grass-roots community groups involved as possible for a spectacular celebration of all things Wigan and creative.

Alan said: “I wrote the three songs for the 80th anniversary weekend based on the book. That then became more songs and then the whole thing turned into a folk opera.

“Act two of it will be a ballet which I’m currently writing the music for. It’s all about Wigan during the Road to Wigan Pier era and then the ballet is about what has happened since, with Northern Soul and all sorts of stuff in it.

“We’ve invited lots of CICs to get involved and I’m hoping Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra will do the soundtrack. We’re also hoping it might get turned into a film.

“I’ve got two years to bring all this to the stage and Today’s Community Church has already given us the theatre for the premiere.

“The Orwell Society, including the author’s son Richard Blair, is also backing us all the way.”

Wigan Council says it is delighted to be involved in the showcase of local talent.

Town hall chief executive Donna Hall said: “The Road to Wigan Pier is an important part in Wigan’s history and we have been proud to celebrate our industrial heritage this year to mark the 80th anniversary of George Orwell’s classic being published.

“This exciting project is a chance for us to recognise the changing lives of the people of Wigan and the positive future ahead for Wigan, creating new opportunities in future industries such as digital technology for its people and we are delighted to be supporting it.”

Alan is also co-founder of Pianos, Pies and Pirouettes, which teams up with Wigan Warriors Academy to encourage more boys and young men to take up dancing and plays across the country at ballet teaching workshops and events.