Showcase hits the right note to start arts fest

Jeramiah Ferrari performing at the Wigan Arts Festival
Jeramiah Ferrari performing at the Wigan Arts Festival

One of the borough’s biggest cultural celebrations got under way in fine style as artists entertained the crowds on an open-air town centre stage.

Wigan Arts Festival, which is being hosted and organised by The Old Courts, kicked off on Saturday with a showcase of talent from the borough and further afield in Market Place.

Leigh-based reggae-rockers Jeramiah Ferrari performed their infectious tunes for the crowds while Exleys Dance Academy took to the stage to showcase their steps.

Compered by comedian Bobby Murdock, the event also featured singer-songwriters Jake McKechnie and Rik Jones, drum showcases, theatrical singer Alicia Kay Barlow, acoustic tracks by John Anderton, vocalist Maisie Jackson and two-part harmonies from Sarah Hardman.

Organisers also put up a festival tent in the town centre so curious shoppers and visitors could find out more about the cultural carnival taking place over the next two weeks.

The arts festival, now in its second year, is a result of the Crawford Street community arts hub linking up with the Collaborative Touring Network (CTN) run by Battersea Arts Centre in London.

The scheme brings high-profile and cutting-edge theatre and artistic works to towns which would not usually have access to culture, with the projects signing up to the initiative pledging to visit every place in the touring network.

These spine shows will bring the festival, which runs until April 16, to a spectacular close but there are more than 100 events planned for the fortnight in total.

Wigan enjoyed an arts bonanza over the weekend as the arts festival got under way.

Young theatre-goers could experience 5 More Minutes, a family-friendly show about bedtime with plenty of audience interaction, live music and puppetry.

Artist Anthony Barrow taught people some of the skills needed to produce a perfect portrait in the Victorian Court Room while Microdot founder Brian Cannon talked about his remarkable career in graphic art last night.

In the Bailiff Bar downstairs, meanwhile, Edinburgh Fringe favourite Jollyboat treated Wigan to its unique mixture of music and pirate-themed humour.

The packed schedule for the arts festival includes a wealth of live music performances, art exhibitions, film screenings, drama performances and workshops allowing Wiganers to explore their own creativity.

Regular events at The Old Courts, including poetry sessions and silent films accompanied by live music, will also enjoy a higher-profile outing.

Events also take place at Wigan Steam, the Museum of Wigan Life, the Turnpike in Leigh and Gidlow Lane music shop Guitars ‘n’ Things among others.

Tickets are available now. To find out more, visit