Wigan Diggers Festival to celebrate radical thinker

The Wigan Diggers Festival celebrates the life and work of 17th century thinker and writer Gerrard Winstanley
The Wigan Diggers Festival celebrates the life and work of 17th century thinker and writer Gerrard Winstanley

The life and ideas of a well-known Wigan radical thinker will once again be celebrated with a day of art and politics this weekend.

The ninth Wigan Diggers Festival will take over Gerrard Winstanley Gardens on The Wiend on Saturday for a full day of events inspired by the 17th century writer and philosopher who founded the Diggers group.

Organisers have put together a packed line-up of socially-conscious music and there will also be poetry readings, talks on radical history and much more.

The bill is topped by British folk-punk act The Men They Couldn’t Hang, who have amassed a large and loyal fan base from a career spanning three and a half decades.

It is hoped Wiganers will once again pack The Wiend for the popular event and the team behind it said it was important to remember one of the borough’s most influential thinkers.

Damian Liptrot from the Wigan Diggers Festival organising committee said: “It is vital that we remember the ideas of influence of Gerrard Winstanley because he was so important in the development of a notion of a fair society.

“He could be seen as one of the fathers of socialism and has perhaps had the great influence on the world of politics and philosophy of any Wiganer.

“He is widely respected and Wigan should be very proud of having helped give birth to his ideas.

“We’ve got an array of acts in an array of genres and we are delighted to be able to attract artists with national and international reputations.”

The bill includes the likes of three-piece folk experimentalists Harp and a Monkey, the sought-after group Ranagri and Fine Lines.

Local acts appearing include Wigan’s krautrock-influenced groove experimentalists John the Baptist and the Second Coming, popular roots act Vision Thing and the thunderous Wigan True Levellers Community Samba Band.

Poet and musician Attila the Stockbroker, who rocked the Diggers last year with his group Barnstormer, is again returning to Wigan in a solo capacity this time around.

Other events include the annual recreation of the digging of common land in the 1600s, one of the best-known episodes in Winstanley’s life which reflected his idea that “the Earth was made a common treasury for all” at a time when the country was dominated by wealthy landowners.

Dozens of stalls will cover The Wiend with an array of radical and left-wing organisations and parties meeting Wiganers and sharing ideas.

The annual spade award for furthering the cause of socialism will this year be presented to Pauline Town, a pub landlady from Ashton under Lyne who feeds hundreds of homeless people.

The Wigan Diggers Festival is on Saturday and starts at 11.30am. Find out more by visiting the website wigandiggersfestival.org