Sadness as club suddenly closes
The sudden closure of one of Wigan's few remaining Labour clubs has been greeted with both sadness and shock.
Newtown Labour Club announced in a short Facebook message last week that it had ceased trading.
Councillors expressed their disappointment at the news and promised to look at ways of saving the building, which has hosted high-profile events as well as countless community nights.
The closure of the Scot Lane venue is the latest in a string of similar fates to befall clubs across the borough, with the likes of Goose Green Sports and Social Club also shutting their doors in recent years.
Newtown Labour Club has hosted events ranging from a political campaigning night organised by journalist and author Owen Jones to a visit by former prime minister Harold Wilson in the 1970s.
Coun Mike Dewhurst for Douglas ward said: “I’m extremely upset and disappointed about this. We’ve tried to help over the years but like everywhere else numbers have been dropping steadily.
“The facility itself is fantastic with adequate parking, which you don’t get everywhere. It’s been an important building in Newtown.
“It could be a sign of the times but the working men’s club at the bottom of the street is doing very well, so we might need to see exactly what they’re doing right.
“I’ve spoken to a few people who used to go in regularly and a couple have said they recently went in one evening and there was nobody in at all.
“The three ward councillors will get together with a couple of interested parties to find a way forward. I would certainly like to see it saved.”
His ward colleague in the council chamber Coun Pat Draper said: “It’s an important building in the area and it means a lot to us all. This is going to affect the community a great deal.
“It’s been around since the ‘70s and I remember I met Harold Wilson there in 1974.”
The club is believed to have reduced its opening hours in recent months, a move which sparked some concern among the ward councillors.
The declining fortunes of Labour clubs has hit the area particularly hard, with the once-famous Goose Green facility closing its doors and the Enfield Street venue in Pemberton also shutting.
Elsewhere in Wigan Swinley Labour Club also ended its connection to the political party but did re-open as The Swinley and now runs events for local people such as the popular Northern Soul gatherings at weekends as well as being available to hire for functions.
The Newtown club was run by a committee but as the building is privately owned the closure has naturally raised fears that it will be sold off.
Coun Dewhurst says he is remaining as optimistic as possible and the ultimate aim is to get it re-opened for community benefit.
He said: “We are going to have to move fairly fast if we want to do anything with it. If we can come up with some ideas we can see where we go from here.
“It’s sad to me because I’m a Labour councillor and it’s a Labour club at the end of the day but also because these are important meeting places for all different kinds of people, more so than pubs are.”