Fantastic fortnight ahead for Wigan art lovers

Culture vultures are in for a fortnight-long fiesta of theatre, art, music and more as one of the borough's biggest artistic events returns.

Monday, 19th March 2018, 10:49 am
Updated Monday, 19th March 2018, 4:40 pm
Acclaimed theatre show Ugly Chief

Wigan Arts Festival will put on two weeks of packed programmes at The Old Courts ranging from local community talent to some of the country’s most talked-about theatre shows.

The festival, which happens twice a year, also gives artistic residents plenty of chances to get their own creative juices flowing with workshops and interactive sessions at the Crawford Street community cultural hub.

Dozens of shows and events are being put on to attract culture enthusiasts of all ages to Wigan between March 29 and April 14.

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Events at the top of the bill include an appearance in the borough by Chris Helme, the frontman of The Seahorses, a group founded by John Squire after The Stone Roses finished.

Acclaimed theatre show Ugly Chief is making its way to The Old Courts, based on the incredible true story of Victoria Melody and her dad, celebrity TV antiques dealer Mike.

Victoria began helping organise her dad’s funeral after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, with plans being laid for a send-off in style involving a New Orleans jazz band and the tangerine colour of his beloved Blackpool FC. However, soon after that he was told the diagnosis was a mistake. Victoria and Mike now consider the whole experience with a thought-provoking and funny show exploring deep and uncomfortable questions about the end of life.

The Old Courts is picking up the theme of this, putting on an art installation based on asking people questions about death ranging from philosophical advice to their ideal funeral playlist.

Chris Helme

The borough’s youngest arts fans are well catered for too with children’s theatre show Sponge, a soft bouncy adventure through the subjects of playtime and dreams, all set to a memorable 1970s soundtrack.

Following the massive success of the event at last year’s bash BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) is also making an appearance at the 2018 Wigan Arts Festival.

Cutting-edge visual artists will experiment with projections, film and high-tech new media inside the Victorian theatre with a boundary-smashing musical contribution from Mark Peters, whose new album Innerland is inspired by journeys to Wigan and around the North West.

Elsewhere on the bill talented young musicians from The Old Courts’ scheme School of Rock get to strut their stuff on stage, alternative comic Rob Auton returns to Wigan with a new show ruminating on the subject of hair, Grammy-award-winning musician King Hammond brings the authentic sound of Jamaica to the borough and a number of films, ranging from arthouse documentaries to family favourites, will be screened.


On the final day of the festival Wigan artist Anna FC Smith will unveil her new work about the town’s Boxing Day fancy dress tradition with a spectacular parade featuring a giant sculpture summing up the spirit of the festive fun.

Dave Jenkins, director of The Old Courts, said: “So much hard work has gone into programming the festival again so we’re excited for everyone to see what we have in store. Again we feel we have a good mix of local and nationwide work coming to The Old Courts.

"We’re particularly happy with the volume of enquiries we’ve had from people wishing to get involved be it theatre producers, ushers, invigilators or people offering to hand out what’s on guides to spread the word, it all helps so thanks to everyone for assuming ownership of the festival, that’s what it’s all about.”

Regular events at The Old Courts, such as Friday Night Live music gigs and the popular Drink and Draw sessions, will also take place with a Wigan Arts Festival twist.Wigan Arts Festival runs from March 29 to April 14. For more information, or to book tickets for any of the shows, visit

Chris Helme