At a time when it’s needed most, The Old Courts Arts Centre in Wigan have attracted an array of support from well-known and loved personalities

Patrons Announced – Eva Pope, Darren Jeffries, John McArdle, Richard Searling, Reece Dinsdale, Graeme Park and Chris Hawkins

Despite the doom and gloom of Covid-19 and lockdown, an arts centre in the heart of Wigan has kept the positive work going. They have produced over 100 online events, performances and workshops for audiences to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes, free of charge. With the support of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, The Old Courts (TOC) Live programme has paid over 450 artists and toured a pop up panto to 8 locations around Wigan and Leigh to spread some cheer. They have commissioned and published a creative writing and imagery book containing over 100 pieces of work from the community about life in lockdown. As well as their creative achievements they’ve also taken good care of their community by delivering food parcels and packed lunches to over 2000 households and their army of volunteers have made over 900 welfare and isolation calls to residents in the borough. They saved the Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax from administration (along with 12 members of staff) and have now secured the support of some well-known and loved personalities in the industry.

The Old Courts in Wigan are pleased to announce actors Eva Pope, Darren Jeffries, John McArdle, Reece Dinsdale, and Northern Soul DJ Richard Searling as their patrons. They join original Hacienda DJ Graeme Park and BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Chris Hawkins who were announced as patrons earlier this year.

The Old Courts Artistic Director, Jonny Davenport, said: “It’s exciting and incredibly reassuring that such respected people have the confidence and willingness to be associated with our organisation. Our team work so hard to build up our reputation and this feels like a sign that we’re moving in the right direction. We are proud to have these magnificent patrons on board.”

Wigan’s very own Eva Pope has had a successful career to date and has also travelled the world acting and teaching. Pope’s work includes roles in TV dramas and series such as Law and Order, Casualty, Holby City, Spooks, Waterloo Road, Life on Mars, The Bill, Coronation Street, Cold Feet, and Bad Girls. The Old Courts are thrilled to have teamed up with a fellow Wiganer and look forward to working together on like-minded creative projects.

Originally from Manchester, Richard Searling BEM has been adopted by the people of Wigan. Searling is best known as the king of Northern Soul and is often found spinning the decks on various local BBC radio stations and also makes his own weekly programmes on Mixcloud. Searling was awarded the British Empire Medal for Services to the Soul Music industry and Community in the North of England in the Queen's Honours list, June 2019. Fans can expect some soulful collaborations between The Old Courts and the legendary Wigan Casino DJ.

Warringtonian Darren Jeffries began acting professionally aged 15, after a performance in Warrington’s Parr Hall led him to his first role in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. As prominent cast member Sam ‘OB’ O’Brien, he remained on the show for a further ten years. He has since performed on stage at various theatres across the UK including Manchester’s HOME, Bolton’s Octagon Theatre and Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax, alongside various TV roles. Jeffries also runs film and acting workshops for anyone wanting to get into the stage and screen acting industry.

Liverpudlian John McArdle is a familiar face on screen and stage. McArdle’s numerous television credits include playing series regulars in the ITV’s Emmerdale, Channel 4’s Brookside, BBC’s The Case, Waterloo Road, All the Small Things and Mersey Beat for which he won the award for Best Actor in the Regional Television Society Awards 2002. His stage credits include An Enemy of the People, Things I Know To Be True (Frantic Assembly) and The Red Lion for Rapture Theatre. McArdle is also an author as well as actor and director. His debut book 'You Never Said Goodbye' is available via Amazon.

Reece Dinsdale, who is currently starring in the award-winning TV soap Emmerdale is also a patron of The Old Courts sister venue Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax. Dinsdale’s career spans over decades and across stage, TV and film. Reece has starred in many high- profile TV dramas ranging from leading roles in the BAFTA award winning Threads and Jim Henson’s Storyteller, through Spooks, Life on Mars, to Joe McIntyre in Coronation Street and the hugely popular comedy series Home to Roost opposite the late John Thaw.

Actress, Voicer Over Artist and Meisner Teacher, Eva Pope said: “You can never really take a Wigan girl out of Wigan! I have such fondness for my hometown and, having a big family bond there, I visit home regularly. Exciting news about The Old Courts and the chance to become a Patron there! I have been lucky enough to forge a career for myself in my chosen profession and have been an actress, voice artist and writer/producer for too many years now. I also run my own company, The Actors Gateway, training actors in the Meisner Technique - what a vocation that has become. I can visualise so many ways to get involved in supporting The Old Courts and I am looking forward to getting my hands very dirty… there is something so satisfying about sharing your passion with the place that made you."

DJ Richard Searling said: “I've certainly got a lot to thank the town of Wigan for and I’d like to give something back! In fact, it was the mayor of Wigan who came along to present me with my BEM recently. I am honoured to accept the role of patron. The joy of music is so important in these times. I hope I can lend a hand with my music experience and knowledge.”

Actor and Film-maker, Darren Jeffries said: “It’s my firm belief that all communities should benefit from arts and culture in every way possible. Becoming a patron is a real honour and I’ll be supporting The Old Courts in their own mission every step of the way.”

Eva Pope, Darren Jeffries, John McArdle, Reece Dinsdale, Richard Searling will join original Hacienda DJ Graeme Park and BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Chris Hawkins as patrons of this much-loved arts centre who are continuing to share art and culture despite the challenges of this pandemic.

Chris Hawkins presents the daily Early Breakfast show on BBC Radio 6 Music and has interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Calvin Harris; The Killers; Florence Welch; Dave Grohl and Jack White. He is a notable champion of 2019 Brits Critics Choice Winner, Sam Fender.

Legendary DJ Graeme Park is an original Hacienda DJ who sells out at venues across the globe! He has spent 30 years on the decks and 20 years on the radio and is still going strong.

Anyone wanting more information about The Old Courts and their previous and future projects including events with their patrons, should visit and or sign up to their mailing list via the website.