The son of one the world's biggest literary stars came to Wigan yesterday as preparations for a new musical about the author’s local links hot up.
Richard Blair, son of George Orwell, attended a civic reception at Wigan Town Hall as part of a day of promotion for Beyond Wigan Pier, a lavish show being penned by Ince musician Alan Gregory.
The show’s concert premiere in the main venue at The Edge is being crowd-funded, with supporters so far raising more than £4,500 of the £25,000 being sought.
Mr Blair and The Orwell Society have been staunch supporters of the project ever since Alan came up with the idea of a full-length theatrical spectacular, a scheme which had its kernel in a few songs he wrote for the 80th anniversary of The Road to Wigan Pier.
The council has also thrown its backing behind the musical, which will be performed for the first time in April.
Local authority chief executive Donna Hall said: “We were delighted to welcome Richard Blair to the town hall to recognise all of the hard work he has put into telling the story of Wigan’s rich history.
“This exciting Beyond Wigan Pier musical which will be written, produced and performed by Wiganers, is a chance for us to recognise the changing lives of local people and the positive future ahead for Wigan.”
Alan, who is also a ballet pianist and co-founder of Pies, Pianos and Pirouettes which teaches dance to rugby league lads, has amassed an impressive cast with popular Wigan singer
Scott Chapman and the borough’s X-Factor star Olivia Garcia involved.
Love duet Look at Me will be released as a single on Valentine’s Day to drum up further interest in the show.
It is hoped that the crowd-funding appeal will show there is enough public interest in the borough to persuade Arts Council England to invest ahead of a full theatre staging in 2020.
The team behind the musical also believes it will be the catalyst for further regeneration in Wigan and, perhaps fittingly, underline the contrast between the town in the 21st century and in Orwell’s day.
Alan said: “This will create investment and jobs in the borough. My grand plan is to get all the people of Wigan to buy into this.
“The arts are an excellent way to attract investment into an area. This will be created by Wiganers and will hopefully create a whole different way of looking at the town and its people.”
Other supporters of the musical include church movement Transforming Wigan and Scholes community centre Sunshine House.
The crowd-funding campaign is the only way to secure a ticket for the first concert performance at the home of Today’s Community Church, with other rewards on offer ranging from being mentioned as a supporter in the end credits to VIP packages.
To find out more or donate visit http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/beyond-wigan-pier-1