CHARLES GRAHAM - Sour note at food festival

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THE final countdown has begun to this year’s much-trumpeted Wigan Food and Drink Festival.

We’ve got celebrity chefs, cookery demonstrations, loads of marvellous ales and plenty else. It promises to be a tasty cultural feast and I would exhort you all to drop in.

But, if you’ll pardon the pun, I do have one beef, and that it is the lost opportunity to promote the more neglected but not unattractive side of town.

On Monday we had the bells and whistles launch of the Wigan Life Centre with a new Hollywood-style Walk of Fame for local stars and lots of live entertainment.

And during next month’s epicurean bonanza the same piazza outside the Learning and Information Zone will be at the heart of festivities, being home to a large cookery demonstration marquee called Kitchen Theatre.

Many local restaurants are also getting in on the act. But it saddens me that neither the indoor nor the outdoor market figure at all in this year’s celebrations.

Given how much has been said about trying to attract custom back to the markets - as well as the Galleries - since the Grand Arcade sucked custom further east, it is a real shame that they have been elbowed out. The above picture of Jilly Goolden and co from two years ago was taken in the outdoor market, so it can be done!

I am particularly sad about the indoor market though which is still a fabulous place to visit and provides all that fresh produce that celebrity chefs like Jean-Christophe Novelli and Simon Rimmer, who are starring in the festival, always insist are crucial to good food.

I know the authorities are keen to promote their new Life Centre, especially after so much money has been spent on it.

But ultimately all those offices and facilities in the north building would remain there if the public completely ignored it because they don’t rely on customer income.

Meanwhile this neglect of our stall holders and other shopping centre shop owners can only hit them in the pocket and further damage the “northern crescent” of town that plans were unveiled to supposedly aid several years ago.

Sorry for a sour note on a sweet occasion but it needed to be said, in case someone cares enough to help the hardest-hit side of Wigan town centre at future food and drink festivals.