A Wigan church is throwing open its doors for a festival to celebrate the borough’s mining heritage.
A patronal weekend is held each year at St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Swinley to honour its namesake, with a different theme each time.
This year’s event, which runs from Friday, September 21 to Sunday, September 23, will have a mining theme.
The church has strong links to mining, with parishioners among the thousands of Wiganers who worked in the pits and a memorial to a local girl who died after going to the USA to work in the mines.
The festival will also support the campaign for a mining statue in the town centre, which is backed by the Observer.
The Reverend Stan Higginson feels it is important to honour the men, women and children who worked in the mines.
He said: “The church has good connections with miners. At the turn of the last century this church raised money to feed miners and their families.
“We are doing this in connection with WHAMM (Wigan Heritage And Mining Monument) and we are doing it right over the weekend.”
The festival will open on the Friday when school pupils will be invited to the church to learn about mining.
They will be able to find out about the history of mining in Wigan, look at displays and touch artefacts.
Floral displays will include chrysanthemums, which were popular among miners as they were easy to grow, and it is hoped Wigan MP Lisa Nandy will be able to attend.
An open event will be held the following day, from 10am to 4pm, for members of the public to visit the church, learn about mining and enjoy coffees, homemade cakes or a light lunch.
All generations of the family are invited to attend, so children can learn about mining and older people can share their memories.
After the Sunday morning church service, at 2pm, there will be a special event in the church for people to learn more about mining.
There will be talks by former pit brow lass Rita Culshaw, ex-miner and writer Alan Davies and sculptor Steve Winterburn, who is currently working on Wigan’s mining statue.
Musicians will perform folk songs and the weekend will be brought to a close by Wigan Council leader Coun David Molyneux.
Sheila Ramsdale, chairman of WHAMM, welcomed the church’s efforts to highlight mining and support for the campaign for a mining statue in Wigan.
She said: “I hope people will become more aware of mining.
“It’s an important part of our history that is gradually eroding.
“This church has pits underneath it. There is a lot of history around here and a lot of old pits around the town centre. It should be recognised.”
The statue, featuring a miner, pit brow lass and a child, will be situated between the Life Centre South and Wigan Town Hall, the borough’s former mining college,
WHAMM has raised £100,000 for the statue but needs another £50,000 to make their dream a reality.
The next fund-raiser will be a performance by Wigan Police Band at Swinley Labour Club on November 2.
To buy tickets or make a donation to the appeal, contact Mrs Ramsdale on 07964 122114.