Our journey actually began long before we came to occupy Gerrard Winstanley House, aka The Old Courts. With roots in music- gigs, recording, networking and promoting, we have been involved in the Wigan music scene in one way or another for over 20 years now.
We previously ran band rehearsal rooms in Eckersley Mill across town and have fantastic memories of the tenants that came and went over the years. Many longstanding creative partnerships and friendships flourished there, The Suzukis incredible eponymous album was conceived there, many collaborations happened because of there and in a way, we feel that Eckersley Mill played its part in recent Wigan culture . We also facilitated many workshops and youth group sessions and we were the place that various creative organisations called home such as design agency Microdot who re-emerged there and came with us when we moved.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though, these things never are. We were figuring out how to make things work in real time, we still are in different ways and we are always learning. As difficult as it undoubtedly was, it was worth it, but we always wanted more space to realise our ambitions of working with visual artists, theatre makers and programming public events that we had full artistic control of. We had organised many gigs and events but in other people’s venues meaning we only had a limited amount of access to get things right. Aesthetic has always been important to us and we grew frustrated at feeling our events could be better. That’s where The Old Courts comes in - It was all about timing as it often is.
We were at a crossroads with our building as the lease was due for renewal. We knew we needed to look for a new home and when we found out ‘The Old Courts’ was available, we went for it. We knew we had the space to develop our own venue and to accommodate our tenants who all wanted to come with us but in addition, we had a LOT more space to broaden our offering way beyond being ‘just’ a music venue. Slowly but surely we were lucky enough to see first-hand how many creative, brilliant people there are in Wigan and they began getting in touch, they began being brought down by friends who wanted to connect them or just being persuaded by us that they needed to join us on what was an exciting if unknown journey.
Fast forward 6 years and the project is unrecognisable from a small number of us rattling round in a huge building with massive potential. We now truly are a team. We have developed into a multi-arts centre who cite visual arts, theatre, dance, spoken word and of course music as part of our offering. We have experienced a lot of milestones so far, whether or not we realised at the time but we are merely at the start of what we hope will be a very long story...