The gardens adjacent to The Wiend, containing the ‘Face of Wigan’ statue, and the forecourt of the new Wigan Life Centre (shown on left), as well as a number of rooms in the centre, will be the site of the 2nd Wigan Diggers’ Festival to take place on Saturday 8th September 2012. The Festival will start at 12.00 noon and finish at 8.00pm. PLEASE PUT THIS IN YOUR DIARY NOW
The FREE Open Air Festival will commemorate and celebrate via the medium of poetry, songs, film and a range of other activities, the life, works and actions of Wigan born and bred Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676) and the 17th Century ‘Diggers’ movement he was the inspirational leader of.
Also known as the ‘True Levellers‘, the Diggers’ were one of the first egalitarian political movements of the poor and propertyless in the World, and the first to argue for full equality of men and women. Winstanley and they famously asserted: “The World was made a common treasury for all!”
Faced with the alternatives of starving to death, or the indignity of having to rely on charity, and an uncertain life of a pauper, or beggar, the Diggers argued that those without either land, or paid work, in the new post Charles I ‘Commonwealth’ be allowed to work ‘in righteousness’ and to dig up and manure unused, waste and common land and sow corn, and grow vegetables, so that “everyone born in the land might be fed by the sweat of their own brows”, “according to the reason that rules in The Creation.”
Since, Winstanley believed words and writing amounted to nothing without action, he and the Diggers not only advocated this idea, but decided to put it into immediate practice, first at St. Georges Hill in Weybridge, in Surrey in April 1649, then later at Little Heath near Cobham. Other ‘Digger’ communities, were set up in Wellingborough (Northants), Iver (Bucks), Barnet (Herts), Enfield (Middx), Dunstable (Beds) and Bosworth (Glos) as well as another in Nottinghamshire.
Winstanley argued that instead of enclosing any part of the land into any particular hand, all the land should be worked by all “as one man”, that everyone should work and feed together as if they were members of the same of family, and of the same father “…not one lording over another, but all looking upon each other as equals in The Creation.” As a result of this, the Diggers did not set about working their own particular plots of land, as individuals or family groups, but instead established the very first collective or co-operative farms, (some call them ‘agrarian communes’) and along with them, the very first truly democratic, egalitarian, and socialistic communities in the World, almost two centuries before the word ‘Socialist’ or ‘Communist’ was even invented.
Fearful that the Diggers’ ideas might spread, and lead to widespread squatting by the landless poor, also disdainful of Winstanley’s views concerning all existing land ownership being based on theft and murder, and then subsequently enshrined in ‘laws’ made by the new landowners, enforced by the power of “the club” and “the sword”, the new economic and political powers that be in the land (in the Diggers’ case, local Landowners backed by the ‘Council-of-State’) soon moved to break up and disperse every one of the Digger communities, all of which ceased to exist by 1651. But as Leon Rosselson’s “The World Turned Upside Down” song goes: “…still the vision lingers on!”
WHAT’S IN STORE IN 2012
Festival organisers intend to pack the day with an array of activities, as well as workshops, exhibitions, stalls and live entertainment including acoustic artists, a choir, and a range of bands and radical poets. There will be a Digger’s Songwriters’ workshop, repeat showing of the film “Winstanley”, a symbolic 17th Century Diggers’ Re-enactment, Diggers’ Exhibition, commemorative Beer & Pie tasting, group badge making, as well as bouncy castle for the kids and a lot more, as a great deal has yet to be finalised.
A great boon to the event organisers has been the support of the Council’s Town Centre Manager for Wigan, Mike Matthews, who has been instrumental, along with Councillor Steve Dawber in enabling the Festival to be staged at The Wiend site. He has also agreed to insure the entire event for public liability, arrange for us to have access to rooms and the toilets in the new Wigan Life centre, sort us out the stage and pa system, as well as a Marquee, a couple of Gazebos, and some chairs.
The Festival Organising committee, which consists of people involved in a whole array of local organisations such as Wigan Folk Club, Wigan Trades Council, UNITE the Union, Unison, Wigan Quakers, as well members of the Wigan BGS (and the Labour Party) would like to thank him and Steve for their support.
If you and/or an organisation you are a member of, would like to sponsor or otherwise financially support our 2nd Festival, which will be entirely FREE of COST to the public, and the cost of staging, is growing all the time, then please send cheques made payable to ‘Wigan Diggers’ Festival‘, and your messages of support to 39 Spa Road, Atherton, Manchester M46 9NR.
GUIDELINE SPONSORSHIP RATES:
Individuals (£10) Small Community Organisations/TU Branches (£25) Larger Community Organisations/TU Branches/Trades Councils (£50-£100) Regional Organisations (£200-£500) National Organisations (£500-£1,000) MAIN SPONSOR: (£2,000)
Wigan Diggers’ T-Shirts which are Black with White printing are available in Small, Medium, Large, XL & 2X are available from the same address. All sizes £10.00 + £2.50 p & p = £12.50 each
Again, please make cheques payable to Wigan Diggers’ Festival.