Wigan craftsman's amazing fairground organ built to support borough charities

He is using his crafty talents to support good causes.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 3:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 9:58 am

John Ball, from Bickershaw, created the stunning object out of recycled items and is now planning to sale it to raise money for Wigan and Leigh Carers’ Centre and the Lewy-Body Dementia Charity.

The retired signwriter began creating the fairground organ when the second national lockdown due to Covid-19 began and even installed a DVD player in it so it would play music.

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John Ball with the fairground organ he has built to support two local charities

Creative John, 77, says he loves building objects, with previous projects including a couple of narrowboats and a traditional caravan.

He also says turning items into incredible constructions also provides him with much-needed respite from his duties and gives him a chance to switch off and concentrate wholly on what he is building.

He said: “I started working on it when the second lockdown started. I went and bought a sheet of plywood and the rest of it I just made from bits and pieces.

“There were drain pipes, anything I could find really. I got the DVD player for the music from a friend who got it off a free website.

A close-up picture of some of the detail on John's fairground organ

“I’ve done things for various charities, but this time I decided I would go direct.

“My wife has got dementia so I decided I would support a dementia charity and I also went to see the carers’ centre. It makes sure that whatever we get for the fairground organ goes where we want it to go.

“Building things is a complete break for me. I’m not under any pressure, I can do it when I want and do as much or as little as I want.

“I just make things up as I go along. Normally I have an idea in my head I’m working towards or I will see a picture and decide I’m going to make that.”

John working on a canal boat during his career as a signwriter

John’s previous projects include creating a fairground locomotive out of plastic containers he found in a skip, making a fairground generator out of an old Daihatsu van and carving two flat wooden carousel horses using his favoured tools of a Stanley knife and a saw.

His work as a signwriter, which included designs for fairground organs and canal boats, has also given John a flair for creating beautiful paint jobs on his pieces and his latest is no exception.

His creations have been seen at a scarecrow festival and a caravan he made was bought, put on a chassis and taken to steam fairs and other similar events.

John’s talents have also helped a variety of good causes over the years, including the British Heart Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support and Age Concern.

John left school without being able to read or write fully and started working at his uncle’s firm which renovated old wagons, having already started going there in the evenings after classes and at weekends.

He said working there gave him the confidence he needed to embark on his eventual choice of trade.

He also spoke with particular pride at being invited into schools to do murals with the pupils, saying he enjoyed getting the youngsters involved.

He said: “If you look at something long enough you can work out how it works.

“Once I’ve finished something I’ve no interest in it. My brain goes on to something else.”

John’s creativity has certainly delighted the two local charities who will eventually be the latest beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, though, that is going to involve selling the organ as the carers’ centre and the dementia charity have nowhere to store or exhibit John’s handiwork.

Attempts have been made online to gain the interest of Drew Pritchard from TV programme Salvage Hunters.

Lisa Fletcher from Wigan and Leigh Carers’ Centre said: “John has such an amazing talent and the organ is absolutely fabulous.

“It is a shame his ability has never been recognised, especially when he is doing all this for charity. As well as thanking him we wanted to raise his profile.”

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