The Verve in Wigan 20 years on: Operation masterclass

The Verve on stage at Haigh Hall
The Verve on stage at Haigh Hall

As the excitement and anticipation built for fans ahead of The Verve’s home-coming concert, some Wiganers were hard at work to ensure everything ran smoothly.

It was all hands on deck for Wigan Council’s leisure services department, including Keith Bergman, who was in charge of marketing,

Keith Bergman at the site of the gig as it is today

Keith Bergman at the site of the gig as it is today

He said: “We were approached by a company called SJM, who are today a massive concert promoter, to see on the back of The Verve’s popularity at that time would we be prepared to host The Verve’s home-coming gig at Haigh.

“Once the leisure services department, as it was then, had agreed to support it and provide land at Haigh, SJM went off and did all they needed to do to deliver that particular gig.

“Our involvement beyond that was very much at a local level. We organised local box office facilities, we organised the local PR in terms of traffic management and making sure people knew where they could park, how they could access Haigh on foot and provided them with support locally at Haigh to ensure the park could facilitate that event.

“After that, it was down to them to organise the concert themselves.”

It was the first time Keith had helped to organise such a large event in the borough.

He said: “I had been involved in small events locally, but nothing of that size. There had been nothing of that real size in Wigan before, I certainly can’t think of anything of that size and scale to come to the borough before.

“I have delivered many events and still do but not one of that scale. It was a great learning opportunity for the borough really.”

After months of hard work, Keith was able to join the thousands of people from Wigan and further afield who attended the massive concert.

He said: “Our work was done in advance of the concert taking place, which was good because it meant having bought tickets ourselves, we could enjoy the gig.

“It was a great day. Myself, my family and friends made a day of it. We enjoyed Wigan town centre first and walked up. I remember walking up and joining hundreds and hundreds of other people. The weather wasn’t fantastic that day, it didn’t rain but it was overcast.

“I remember talking to people from all over England and the North West in particular, many of whom hadn’t been to Wigan before. It was a showcase day that day.”

He believes the borough had a real boost from the concert and the experience of holding big events is still being used today, such as for Lionel Richie’s upcoming show at Leigh Sports Village.

Keith, who has worked for the council for 31 years and is now the general manager for destination parks for Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles, said: “I have no doubt that it wasn’t just the hot dog sellers inside the arena that benefited. I experienced how busy the pubs were that day, how busy the restaurants were, I saw how busy the taxis were.

“I think it’s proof of just how valuable these large events can be to a town like Wigan.”

And 20 years later, Keith still looks back fondly on that day.

“It was ground-breaking I suppose at the time,” he said. “It was memorable for that reason.

“Having worked on it, it was great to enjoy it socially. I still talk about it with my family and friends now.”