Since the start of lockdown back in March an arts centre in the heart of Wigan have streamed 70 events, performances and workshops for free direct to people’s homes with The Old Courts (TOC) Live programme, and paid over 400 artists, with the support of Greater Manchester Combined Authority. And there’s no sign of them slowing down in the run up to Christmas.

This year The Old Courts have teamed up with 12 local business owners to create a virtual Christmas Craft Market providing a one-stop place for shoppers to find their Christmas gifts safely online, whilst offering some much-needed support for small independent businesses. Each week between now and Christmas, more stallholders will be added to the site giving shoppers a variety to choose from and all at the click of a button.

This year the pandemic and lockdown has forced communities to go back to basics, living a simple and slower pace of life whilst the country tries to unite in finding a solution to the virus. Many independent and well-known businesses have felt the impact on their livelihoods as well as their mental and physical health and wellbeing. The Old Courts wants to restore the balance by supporting Wigan’s local small independent ventures in the form or a virtual Christmas Market. The idea not only supports local businesses, but also provides audiences with a safe online environment to shop for their festive presents for loved ones they are missing due to lockdown.

The Creative Accountant specialises in handmade wreaths crafted from lovingly recycled textiles and high-quality scrap ribbon - unwanted fabric that’s saved from going to landfill. Not only are the results a welcome sight full of Christmas cheer, but customers also play their part in supporting the planet with recycled products.

Anyone looking for a stocking filler should visit Hannah Eve Emporium’s for the perfect handmade gifts with bottle lights to brighten up the dark days, candles for that cosy home feeling, and gorgeous soaps leaving you smelling of happiness.

For those after the perfect gem for that special someone, or a treat for themselves after a tough year, will be sure to be drawn to the sparkle of Dragonfly Design’s pewter brooches and glistening ornamental mirrors and frames.

Nook Ninety create handmade sensory gifts, accessories and home decor for babies and children who need that extra special care and attention helping to bring light into their lives during the dark winter days and nights.

Cobalt Creations products are made by one man from his shed. Leigh based Kevin’s and products include handmade propagation stations which are perfect for people who may have taken up gardening in lockdown.

With the lockdown still in place, many are spending more time at home than ever before, change things up with artwork, sketches, paintings and prints by Art By CEA and home décor by Jessica Swift.

Put a smile on someone's face with a beautiful handmade traditional teddy bear by the international award-winning Nessa Bears.

Once you’ve filled your online shopping basket with lovingly handmade presents, settle down with the family and enjoy The Old Courts (TOC) live programme of events.

Families looking for ways to keeps their children entertained during the Christmas holidays will enjoy the array of fun, free, festive short online craft sessions on offer with local artists Anna FC and Klaire Doyle. These 15-minute make workshops will get those creative juices going. Grab the paper, glue, glitter, safety scissors and socks and make your own Christmas tree, sock snowmen, paperchains, pom poms and more. The perfect festive treat for kids and big kids alike.

The Old Courts Artistic Director, Jonny Davenport said: Whilst we're sad we can't celebrate Christmas in person this year, we're thrilled to be able to offer an additional platform for local businesses to advertise what they do and encourage people to shop local. The Old Courts belongs to everyone and we believe that art and culture is there to create, inspire, engage and have fun with. And what better way to have fun than with a programme of free festive workshops and a virtual Christmas market for all to enjoy and whilst playing our part to support local businesses and artists.”

Alison Unsworth, The Creative Accountant said: “I recently started handcrafting door wreaths mainly from recycled textiles. I would have loved to have sold them at a Christmas craft

A wreath made by The Creative Accountant

market, but as that isn’t possible at the moment, so I’m chuffed to be part of The Old Courts virtual Christmas Market.

My products are beautiful, unique and environmentally friendly as the fabrics used are all up cycled. I feel strongly that we should all be supporting local businesses where possible this Christmas as it’s been such a tough year financially and it’s great that the Old Courts has organised this and given us a platform to showcase locally made and unusual gift ideas.”

The Old Courts (TOC) Live was born directly out of the Covid-19 situation when the much-loved Wigan arts centre was forced to close its doors to the public. They wanted to continue providing free arts and culture for all and to help people feel less lonely and isolated in these uncertain and trying times and especially during the festival period.

For more information about the virtual Christmas Market and the free TOC Live events visit

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© 2020 by The Old Courts 

The Old Courts is a trading name of Arts at the Mill CIC a registered Community Interest Company registered in England

under Number 07411657 at Gerrard Winstanley House, Crawford Street, Wigan, WN1 1NA