Wigan Diggers Festival organisers planning for event's return

The team has its fingers crossed that the celebration of a local historical figure can go ahead.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 4:45 am
The Wigan Diggers Festival in 2019
The Wigan Diggers Festival in 2019

The Wigan Diggers Festival has been pencilled in for September 11 after the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to the 2020 event.

It will be the 10th time that Wiganers have gathered to remember Gerrard Winstanley, the 17th century pamphleteer and philosopher, who founded the Diggers movement and is well known for his view that “the Earth was made a common treasury for all”.

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The team behind the festival, which is always a highlight of the annual town centre calendar, spoke of their pride at reaching 10 events and their hopes that things will be able to go ahead as planned in the autumn.

Damian Liptrot from the Wigan Diggers Festival committee said: “It should be back this year and it is amazing to be celebrating this milestone.

“The event has grown from having 50 people in a pub garden to an eagerly-anticipated event which attracts people from across the country and has gained recognition.

“It was an incredible disappointment to cancel the festival last year but given the circumstances it was understandable. We have our fingers crossed for this year and the 10th festival celebrating the life and ideas of Wigan’s own Gerrard Winstanley.

“The roadmap has got a little smudged recently but assuming it goes according to plan it should look like it has done in previous years, although whatever restrictions are in place at the time will be included in our planning.

“It’s very excited, not least because we’ve not seen people involved with the festival for the best part of 18 months. Zoom is great, but it’s no substitute.”

The programme will have a familiar feel to it, with the festival opening with a recreation of the Diggers planting crops on common land.

The town centre will play host to a large number of stalls from organisations covering radical politics, justice and environmental topics among others.

There will also be music and poetry performances on two stages, with a bill including Wigan blues act the Brandon Lee Webb Band, Irish folk-influenced borough group Rare Ould Times, Headsticks and Attila the Stockbroker before Wigan folk-rock eight-piece Merry Hell close the proceedings on the main stage.

As in previous years the Golden Spade will also be given to someone who the committee decides upholds the values and ideas that Gerrard Winstanley spread during his life.

Previous recipients include film director Ken Loach and actor Maxine Peake, while the award was given to Pauline Town for her work with homeless people at the last Diggers festival in 2019.

Wigan’s community samba band will also provide a rousing performance during the day.

The Wigan Diggers Festival is scheduled to take place on September 11, starting at 11.45am and running until 9.30pm.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/groups/diggersfestival

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