Artist's search for Boxing Day fancy dress information

Wiganers out in fancy dress on Boxing Day
Wiganers out in fancy dress on Boxing Day

Wiganers are being asked to share their memories of Boxing Day fancy dress as an artist delves into one of the town’s quirkiest traditions.


Anna FC Smith is doing a project to uncover the origins and human stories of the post-Christmas revels that have put Wigan on the national map in recent years.

Artist Anna FC Smith

Artist Anna FC Smith

She is asking for people to share their earliest memories of getting into costumes to head out on December 26 and also wants photographic evidence of particularly memorable outfits.

The delve into Wigan’s social history is part of the Arts Council-funded Imago project which is helping eight artists from the borough put new work together.

Swinley artist Anna hopes to put together an online resource for the fancy dress tradition but also mount a spectacular outdoor art project in Wigan town centre in spring.

She said: “Everyone thinks the origin of Boxing Day in Wigan in lost in the mists of time, but it’s well within living memory so I want to discover it.

“It’s something that is unique to Wigan. It has got a lot of attention and coverage at a national level in the last few years and they always say nobody knows where it comes from. That’s the go-to phrase and it really piqued my attention.

“I’m interested in any nice stories from Boxing Day as well. Two of my friends got together on that day and they are now married with children. Things like that will help to flesh the project out.

“There will be a website for everyone to access as a contemporary history resource and I’m going to donate the photographs to the archives.

“I’m also going to create a massive processional figure with bits of everyone’s fancy dress costumes I get sent incorporated into it.

“It’s going to be a big fancy dress monster and I’m going to process the creature through the town centre in April. It’s not a very Christmassy time of year but hopefully in spring there will be more people about and the weather will be better.”

Anna says she has been told various tales about the origins of the fancy dress but is already certain the tradition is older than she initially thought.

The Wigan tradition has attracted huge attention in recent years, whether it is Latics fans dressed up at the Boxing Day football matches catching the eye of camera operators or national newspapers running picture galleries of revellers in their pages and online.

Interestingly, Anna also says Christmas has been a time for ordinary people to don costumes and carry out fancy dress customs for hundreds of years.
She said: “I thought it started in the mid-80s but it looks like it goes back to the very early 80s or potentially to the 1970s.

“People have come forward mentioning it being a tradition around rugby or starting at different pubs. I’ve even heard that it was the owners of a fancy dress shop who would go out wearing the stock on Boxing Day.

“I’ve got conflicting stories at the moment but that’s OKay, anything at this stage is valued. Hopefully the more I get the more I can build up the overall picture.

“There is actually a long-standing tradition of dressing up around Christmastime and being in disguise.

“That goes back at least to Elizabethan times.

“It’s funny that something of this has popped up again in Wigan and has been going strong ever since.”

Boxing Day photographs, memories and stories can all be emailed to Anna at annafcsmith@gmail.com or submitted on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/159823454604447