The Fire Within: Musicians, artists and dancers to showcase their skills at Wigan’s milestone cultural manifesto

Wigan could be about to undergo its biggest artistic revolution yet with the launch of an amazing and far-reaching cultural manifesto.


The Fire Within has been put together by Wigan Council working with internationally-known artists Al and Al, based in Standish, consultants and other creative organisations across the borough and will begin on Saturday, May 11.

Wigan Council chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan, centre, pictured in The Galleries, with, from left, Al Holmes; Georgina Bentley, business manager for culture, arts and heritage; Lesley OHalloran assistant director for customer services and Al Taylor

Wigan Council chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan, centre, pictured in The Galleries, with, from left, Al Holmes; Georgina Bentley, business manager for culture, arts and heritage; Lesley OHalloran assistant director for customer services and Al Taylor

Their vision for Wigan as a national cultural hub will be unveiled to the public at a spectacular launch event in The Galleries Shopping Centre next week.

The project has financial backing from Arts Council England and leading cultural bodies who have seen the plans have described them as ‘a game changer’.

The council also hopes investing in the arts will lead to the regeneration of the ailing retail hub as well as boosting health and wellbeing and providing a pathway to success for local talent.

Musicians, artists, poets and dancers are among those who have already been booked to appear, while the units around the project’s base are being transformed into a spectacular wonderland of visual arts and displays.

Attention will largely focus on an enormous bone-shaped bright yellow stage dominating the unit formerly used by Peacocks, one of six former retail spaces around The Galleries which will be taken over by artists.

Wigan Youth Orchestra will fill the space with sounds when the 50-piece ensemble takes to the stage and there will also be a musical performance by Zack Carpenter and electronic soundscapes by Overload.

Artist Anna FC Smith is recreating her procession celebrating Wigan’s Boxing Day fancy dress tradition and is also creating a new work for the occasion.
WigLe Dance, led by Amy Burdon, will showcase their skills on the stage and poet Louise Fazackerley will display the borough’s way with words.

One of the biggest figures being celebrated in the manifesto is unique Appley Bridge painter Theodore Major and three works which have never been seen before, part of a monstrous collection of 300 works he completed in the last year of his life, will be on display.

There is also a notably high-tech feel to some of the immersive art displays being created for visitors.

Louise Robson, a data artist, has tracked footfall through The Galleries over a period of 15 years and turned it into a mesmerising visual account of how retail centres have lost out in the era of online shopping.

Also using multiple screens to good effect is artist and council IT worker Dustin Lyon, whose contribution will enable Wiganers to experience a total eclipse.

Given their central role in pulling the manifesto together Al and Al will also have work of theirs on display.

Not only are they creating enormous visual projections which will be beamed onto the walls of the main space, they have put together a kind of nativity scene involving taxidermy animals which refers to the work of Isaac Newton and how his mathematical discoveries gave birth to the modern world.

The famous objects and people from the borough’s history are also part of the displays, including the priceless and stunning Egyptian gold mask.

As people enter the exhibition their faces will be scanned and technology can then be used to create the illusion they are wearing the ancient object.

The manifesto area in The Galleries will be open to the public from around 11am until 4pm on May 11. The live performances are expected to begin around 12.30pm and go on for about two hours.

Afterwards the old Peacock’s unit will continue to act as ground control for The Fire Within, possibly for the entire five-year duration of the project, while exhibitions will be in the surrounding five rooms for between eight and 12 weeks.