CHARLES GRAHAM - Let’s take a step back in time

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I GOT my visa stamped to cross the Pennines and visit the parental home of Brighouse on Sunday.

As well as visiting rellies, the Wigan-based Grahams had been prompted to come by publicity for the West Yorkshire town’s inaugural 1940s weekend.

No jokes about that neck of the woods having never left that decade, please.

Hardly a new concept, I know, but I reckon the businesses who clubbed together to get the party going must be congratulating themselves on an economic triumph.

I’ve never seen the town centre so packed. There must have been 10,000 folk there.

We arrived to find an Arthur Askey lookalike organising a mass sing-song, a Spitfire performing a dramatic fly-past and numerous people getting into the spirit of things by dressing up in both the armed forces and civilian garb of the period.

Both days had seen speeches by Chamberlain and Churchill impersontors, the streets were thronged with food, memorabilia and bric-a-brac stalls and there was much historical military hardware on show.

The vast majority of shops had got into the spirit of things, not only getting the bunting out but adding a further flavour of wartime authenticity by criss-crossing tape on their windows to minimise bomb damage.

Schools had earlier got involved with evacuation re-enactments and entertainment of yesteryear, including a variety show at the civic hall, was much in evidence.

And the stores - many of which wouldn’t normally deem it worth opening on a Sunday - were doing a very brisk trade.

It set me thinking that Wigan itself, if not some of its other townships might like to replicate this. After all there are plenty of places whoses retailers need a bit of a lift at the moment.

Those on the main A roads like Standish and Hindley might struggle to bar vehicles from their town centres for a weekend (Brighouse is blessed with a bypass and so when the Olympic torch came there last year they were able to lay turf down the length of the high street and held a sports day!)

But nothing is impossible, and Wigan town itself might lend itself very well to such a morale and coffer-boosting enterprise given that it is mostly pedestrianised already.

We’ve had continental markets and free jazz gigs. Why not a bit of patriotic retro to get the tills jingling too?