Wigan Council pledges £2m to boosting borough’s cultural credentials

Trencherfield Mill and famous steam engine set for improvements
Trencherfield Mill and famous steam engine set for improvements

A major boost to Wigan’s arts scene has moved a step closer, weeks after the town was touted as having the potential for City of Culture status.

The authority has proposed spending almost £2m over the next five years, supplemented by external funding, to create a fresh “cultural landscape”.

It comes after chief executive Donna Hall said a City of Culture bid is a realistic aspiration in the next decade.

A report for the Labour council’s cabinet says a 2017 peer review identified “a gap in the provision of Wigan’s cultural offer” and proposed the council should build a framework to “create opportunities for home grown talent and increase its profile.” Boosting the borough’s offering will help improve the local economy, provide skills and employment opportunities and help promote health and well-being, the report adds.

The strategy – estimated to cost around £1.9m – will seek to “develop Wigan as a hub for artists” and “change the cultural perceptions of the town.”

A newly-formed Culture Team made up of current town hall staff will be tasked with sourcing external funding in addition to “driving the strategy forward.”

The report says no additional capital funding will be required as the costs will be met with cash from other department budgets and efficiencies. Some of the funds will be used to improve arts and cultural services at current hubs such as the Museum of Wigan Life, Trencherfield Mill Steam Engine and the borough’s libraries.

The mill engine was given a £200,000 EU-funded refurb several years ago, the money having been awarded on condition that the feature be complemented by other touristy features - a deal which has so far not been honoured at the Pier complex.

At one time, of course, it was part of a whole Wigan Pier experience involving The Way We Were Museum, working looms, The Orwell and the Opie Museum of Memories. Wigan Council earlier this year announced that Step Places had been chosen to turn the Pier quarter into a new, “multi-leisure destination”. No further details have so far been forthcoming from the developer.