NOW here’s a sight for sore eyes.
My friend and fellow tenor Roy Ashurst has written a short history of Wigan Choral Society and among the documents and pieces of memorabilia can be found this photograph of the choir letting it rip under the baton of the late and lovely Ron Kay.
Many of those in the picture are no longer with us, but this circa 1973 image is poignant and historic for another reason too because it gives Wiganers a reminder of what we used to take for granted: a proper concert hall.
This concert was one of many to be hosted by the magnificent Queen’s Hall on Market Street. Complete with pipe organ, balconies, stage and seating for a couple of thousand, I’m told, it was typical of venues to be found all over Britain.
Unfortunately this wonderful auditorium met with a tragic end: a wrecking ball flattened all but the foyer (which was turned into the present day Methodist chapel) and the remainder became Wigan Bus Station.
It makes me quite angry to look at this photograph.
Countless have been the opportunities since the Queen’s Hall’s demise to find a replacement for it, during good times and bad.
And every time those opportunities have been squandered. One by one, Wigan’s once plentiful theatres and cinemas have been demolished or converted for other purposes with a seeming total disregard for the cultural vandalism being inflicted on the Wigan population.
Of course there’s a great excuse each time about the viability of such projects, although they rarely seem to be offered up when it comes to sporting venues of which we have copious amounts and also depend on subsidy to stay open.
I know that carping on about our dearth of performance venues when the country is in such an economic plight is tantamount to banging my head against a wall. But then again I’ve been doing that for 21 years now.
By the way, if anyone recognises people on this picture, I and my fellow singers from the 2011 vintage of the Choral Society (who these days have to perform largely in churches) would be delighted to hear from you.
Please give me a ring on 01942 506271.