A renowned artist took Wiganers on an extraordinary journey through time to explore how his life is linked to Haigh Hall and the aristocrats who lived there.
Ripton Lindsay explored the often-forgotten links between the borough landmark and Jamaica on a moving evening at Wigan Parish Church.
Ripton, who was brought up in Jamaica, is the direct descendant of Alexander Lindsay, the 23rd Earl of Crawford, and his research has uncovered the borough’s links to some of the darkest chapters of slavery and the British Empire.
However, he says he is sharing these troubling and difficult slices of the past not to stoke up anger or bitterness but to discuss coming to terms with what has happened in history and look at how society on both sides of the Atlantic might move forward.
He said the night at the historic place of worship in the town centre was a huge success but said this is just the start of exploring this part of the borough’s past.
Ripton said: “It was a really good evening. I left feeling free and that I had shared a lot. I could feel people were really interested and engaged, which was great. People also said they learned a lot and it didn’t feel harsh or bitter, even though it was about slavery.
“It has put out a little spark. This is just the beginning. I think I will find the right people and it will go in the right direction.
“I hope it sends a message to everybody, not just dealing with the slave trade but with conflict. I want to turn a negative into a positive.
“Alexander Lindsay was about family, community and providing for people, and I want to continue that part of his legacy.
“It’s our duty now as a community to take that history and turn it into something worthwhile.”
Ripton says slavery is an extremely difficult subject to talk about in Britain today and cites Alexander Lindsay as an example of a complex figure involved who had many qualities he admires but was also involved in the horrendous atrocities that were part of the appalling trade in people.
The 23rd Earl of Crawford was Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica from 1794 to 1801 and faced an armed rebellion led by a group of the people known as Maroons, with his actions during the insurrection still remembered on the island today.
The evening at the parish church also included Zanzibar musician Mim Suleiman performing with Ripton, who is an acclaimed musician and dancer, accompanying her on percussion.
The Rector of Wigan, Rev Will Gibbons, wrote on social media: “A great privilege to host Ripton Lindsay speaking transatlantic truths and finding peace to reconcile. An honour to hear his journey and the understanding he offers on the history of Wigan.