Tributes to popular folk singer Joan

Joan Blackburn
Joan Blackburn

Tributes have been paid to a popular folk singer who played a key role in the borough’s music scene for decades.

Joan Blackburn, from Norley Hall, died aged just 66 at Wigan Infirmary on August 2 following a short illness.

Joan ran Wigan Folk Club for more than 30 years, originally taking the helm in the mid 1980s, and was also a member of the organising committee of Wigan Diggers Festival from its earliest days.

Her grieving family spoke of her musical talents and also her strong beliefs in people, demonstrated by her strong support for radical and left-wing movements and her work in pensions, which included a long stint at Tameside Council where she was also a trade union rep.

Her daughter Pauline, who is also a musician, said: “She was a beautiful person. I know that’s said a lot when somebody’s passed but she genuinely was.

“She never had a bad word to say about anyone and always said you had to know the reasons why someone might say things or come across differently.

“She was a very strong believer in people and was always making sure they got the right things and had what they deserved.

“She had time for everyone and was so welcoming and warm-hearted. At the folk club everyone was on the same level: you could be a beginner or a professional but we all sang songs together.

“She was always encouraging and she taught that to us, to think of other people and care for them. I know my mum is proud of us all as a family.”

As well as playing at the folk club Joan was a regular visitor to festivals and countless stages around the country.

Her family are currently in the process of preparing an album of her own songs called Plant A Million Acorns.

She frequently attended events supporting causes close to her heart, such as anti-fracking, anti-racism, Free Palestine and organisations which promoted human rights. When the idea of creating a celebration of 17th century radical thinker and writer Gerrard Winstanley in his home borough was mooted Joan was one of the first to get on board, eventually serving as secretary at the Wigan Diggers Festival.

Fellow committee member Damian Liptrot said: “Joan was instrumental in setting up the Diggers Festival and was always extremely organised and enthusiastic.

“Her concern for humanity as a whole and the wellbeing of others meant she was a true socialist through and through. She always had a smile and a bit of a twinkle about her whatever she was doing, especially when she was singing.”

Her funeral is today, Friday, at Howe Bridge Crematorium at 3.15pm, with a wake from 5pm at Sacred Heart Catholic Club on Throstlenest Avenue in Springfield.

All who knew her are welcome to attend and also invited to bring along their instruments.