Playwright wants to speak to Wiganers about Northern Soul and town's fortunes

A playwright known for his account of the glory days of Wigan Casino is back on the subject of Northern Soul and wants to hear from residents.


Mick Martin is hosting two days of events at The Old Courts to speak to locals about their impressions of the town and the music in the 21st century as research for the follow-up to Once Upon A Time in Wigan.

Mick Martin

Mick Martin

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Bradford native Mick had not intended to return to the sounds that made the borough famous having written his tale of 18-year-old Eugene Drennan who discovers the music and atmosphere of the legendary venue and its all-nighters.

However, he decided that a second look at how the music scene changed after the Casino closed might provide a way in to talking about issues which interest him, such as the fate of towns which used to be industrial powerhouses.

Mick said: “I want to explore how the Northern Soul scene has evolved since the ’80s.

“Wigan Casino has closed and the country has changed so much with de-industrialisation.

“In these fractured times these left-behind towns get categorised a little bit. I think Wigan has such a proud sense of itself and it has its own history, its own heritage and its own story to tell.

“People in these towns always get the blame for Brexit but I want to talk about how they reinvent themselves through culture and art, especially something as beautiful as the Northern Soul scene.”

Mick is adamant returning to the subject of Once Upon A Time in Wigan is about the future as much as the past, and for that reason he is particularly keen to speak to a generation of

Wiganers who never got to go to the Casino to find out what living in the borough in 2019 means to them.

He said; “I sometimes think the nostalgia for the Wigan Casino years might not help young people feel they can own the scene themselves.

“What is the story of Wigan now? What does Wigan mean to you if you were born in the year 2000?

“There’s no point telling them there used to be the best nightclub in the world here, what does it mean right now?

“I want to look at how they feel the town is represented in the media too and how they can express themselves.

“This is not about shying away from the difficult conversations we need to have in the country.

“Writing something about the Northern Soul scene now is something people have asked about many times

“For a long time I thought I had written about it but then I realised there is a whole new story out there to explore, not just about Northern Soul but about how people are living in places where it used to be about mills and now is about call centre, minimum wages and zero-hours contracts.”

Mick has been a regular visitor to Wigan for decades, although he never went to the Casino, as Northern Soul has always been his favourite music and he is also a massive rugby league fan with numerous trips to Central Park under his belt.

He says he has an outline of the new work in his head but is also determined to let what Wiganers tell him shape what he writes.

The project is partly funded by Wigan Council’s community programme and has backing from Arts Council England.

Mick is also partnering with the Crawford arts hub, Wigan Youth Zone and the Alra North drama college near Wigan Pier.

The two research events are at The Old Courts on Thursday April 18 and Friday April 19, both sessions running from 11am until 4pm.