The Verve in Wigan 20 years on: The greatest gift

Brian Cannon
Brian Cannon

Photographer Brian Cannon said watching The Verve play their iconic show at Haigh Hall on his birthday was the greatest day of his life.

The Pemberton lensman, whose work with the band includes the iconic images for albums A Northern Soul, A Storm In Heaven and smash hit Urban Hymns, had a backstage pass when Richard Ashcroft and co played to tens of thousands of fans in May 1998.

With the 20th anniversary of the landmark gig approaching Brian spoke of the extraordinary atmosphere generated at the landmark location.

The whole thing was made all the more special as it was the day the Microdot founder turned 32.

Brian said: “It was the greatest day of my life. It was just an astonishing gig. When you go to all the aggravation of building a stage and putting on an event like that you usually make it two or three nights, but this was a one-off.

“They could have sold it out twice over but kept it something special and unique and that resonated with a lot of people.

“I was watching some of the footage the other day and I’ve never seen anything like that. Everyone in the field was jumping up and down at one point, it was mental.

“You ask anyone who was there and they will say it was the best gig. The whole thing was brilliant but I particularly love the track The Rolling People and when they played that the place went nuts.

“If you watch the footage and look at Simon Jones’ reaction you can tell he’s overwhelmed by it. He’s standing there with his bass guitar and looks gobsmacked.They knew the gig would sell out but it was the atmosphere.

“People who weren’t necessarily big music fans or gig-goers but were from Wigan went that day and got sucked into the incredible vibe.

“I was running all over the place during the gig. I was watching from the side of the stage for about half of it and I also went down to the front.

“I was also the only one in the team who had a day off while the band, the crew and everybody else were working. It was also my birthday so I was celebrating.”

Brian first started working with The Verve when he met frontman Ashcroft at a student party in Wigan when the singer and guitarist was a fresh-faced 18-year-old.

He looks back fondly at his time working with the group, a period which saw him team up with other iconic names in British music such as Oasis as well.

He said: “It was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime projects. We all clicked and got on really well and had a lot of respect for each other, and I think the results speaks for themselves.

“It was a beautiful working relationship with a fantastic band. What more could I want?

“Looking back the Haigh Hall gig was the culmination of years of hard work paying off.”