Diggers Festival raises the flag for radical thinker

Wigan is once again preparing to celebrate a radical thinker and writer from the borough with a vibrant day of art and politics this weekend.

Friday, 8th September 2017, 11:27 am
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:41 pm
Hawkley Hall High School pupils present members of the Wigan Diggers Festival committee with their new flag for the event

The annual Wigan Diggers Festival celebrating 17th century political activist Gerrard Winstanley takes place in the town centre tomorrow.

A packed schedule on the Wiend, once again renamed Gerrard Winstanley Gardens for the day, includes live music, poetry, talks, dozens of stalls hosted by political parties and radical causes and historical re-enactments.

Ahead of the celebration of the head of the Diggers movement the organisers visited Hawkley Hall High School to pick up the new flag which will fly proudly over the celebration and which has been created by the pupils.

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Five young people, along with teacher John Whitehead, have created the flag to go on prominent display during the festivities.

Unlike previous years where high-profile socialists have been celebrated this year the Golden Spade will not be handed out.

However, there will be a commemoration of Wigan Diggers Festival committee member and folk music stalwart Joan Blackburn, who sadly died earlier this year.

The entertainment bill is headed by hugely-successful Wigan folk-rockers Merry Hell, who are almost guaranteed to pack out the stage area with their anthemic tunes and socially-conscious lyrics.

Other top local acts playing include John the Baptist and the Second Coming, The Brandon Lee Webb Band and Pauline Blackburn.

The festival’s two stages will also play host to performance poets and musical acts playing everything from folk to pop-punk.

The day will begin with actors in period costume recreating the digging of common land by the Diggers, reflecting Winstanley’s belief that the earth was made as a common treasury for all.

The festival fringe events include Dr David Taylor, who lives in Cobham in Surrey where Winstanley spent part of his life and where a Diggers community was founded, on the influence of the Bible and God on his work.

Acting group the Soothside Radicals will present two short plays during the festival and there will be more than 50 stalls covering everything from politics to environmental and green organisations, left-wing campaign movements to trade unions and radical publications.

The festival, now in its seventh year, has enjoyed support from the likes of senior Labour politicians Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, iconic British director Ken Loach, actor Maxine Peake and screenwriter Jimmy McGovern,

Gerrard Winstanley’s ideas have been credited as an inspiration for the French and American revolutions as well as an influence on famous socialist author George Orwell.

The festival is from 11am until 9.30pm tomorrow. Entry is free. Find out more at https://wigandiggersfestival.org