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Since we began our endeavour into virtual entertainment back in March, we've released over 50 episodes of The Old Courts Live containing hours of content for you to enjoy from the comfort of your home. We wanted there to be something for everyone so you can find music, comedy, workshops, family content , poetry and more. Not sure what would be for you? Take a look at our guide and recommendations below! Click the links to watch your chosen video on YouTube. You: I’m interested in big ideas and radical thinking Digital Edition 1 - Bird Street: Louise Fazackerley Book Launch We are delighted to welcome the brilliant poet Louise Fazackerley for a virtual launch of her latest book ‘Bird St’ – a collection of standout poetry from her career to date. As a busy live performer touring The UK, Louise has built up a following of admirers with her no-nonsense, witty and heart-warming take on the everyday and beyond. This is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy an in-your-living-room performance from an outstanding character. Join us at 8pm! ‘Bird St.’ is a collection of vivid, visceral and razor-sharp poetry which captures Louise at her best. It hints at kitchen-sink realism whilst also carrying an otherworldly charm to deliver a knock-out blow.’ You: I want to see more of people who make original music and theatre Digital Edition 9: Aziz Ibrahim Aziz Ibrahim is nothing short of a phenomenal musician. Held in incredibly high regard by peers and fans alike, he played guitar in The Stone Roses post John Squire and then continued to work with singer Ian Brown when he embarked upon his incredibly successful solo career. The success of this collaboration was highlighted in particular with Aziz's work on the brilliant album 'Unfinished Monkey Business' - in addition, it's worth mentioning that Aziz is one of the nicest people ever to play at The Old Courts. You: I’m interested in local life and Wigan heritage Digital Edition 14: The Den Imagine this, late 80's/early 90's Wigan, you start an alternative club night, it goes off, Green Day play, NOFX play, local punks absolutely adore it, the nights are explosive and you make incredible memories. Well it happened and you can hear about it here. With contributions from two key founding players in Alan Woods and Dave Arnold and glued together by the brilliant Louise Fazackerley, this is a fantastic opportunity to hear part of the story of the legendary Wigan club The Den and how it is making a return to the scene....... You: I’m interested in a lively night in Digital Edition 2 - DJ Sandro Valentino Sandro Valentino is a dynamic, industrious and vastly experienced house DJ and Producer. A sought-after remixer and respected producer, Sandro has a fantastic ability to give new dimensions to classic records. Associations with all-time legends such as Marshall Jefferson have seen this Northwest-based, Naples-born DJ become in high demand. You: I want a chilled night in Digital Edition 19: Mark Peters Wigan-based musician Mark Peters is best known as co-founder of the band Engineers and for his collaborations with German musician/producer UIrich Schnauss. Creating dreamy, ambient soundscapes and effortlessly blending thought-provoking electronic music with stunning live guitars, Mark has established a deserved reputation at the forefront of sound design You: I’m an artist who’d like some practical advice The Old Courts Live: Digital Edition 11: Eddie Berg, Peter J Riley & Chris Boyle I LOVE MY JOB ON THE ARTS - EDDIE BERG, FOUNDER AND FORMER CEO OF FACT LIVERPOOL, FORMER CEO OF RICHMIX LONDON Working primarily in the digital lane of the arts and culture sector, there are few who have more experience than Eddie Berg. As founder and former CEO of FACT Liverpool and former CEO of Richmix London, Eddie and organisations he ran made giant leaps forward with art, film and technology. Now based in New York, Eddie offers some insights into his journey and why others can and should begin theirs. You: I’d love to learn something new! Digital Edition 42: Beatbox Workshop With Conrad Murray We are delighted to bring you international performer Conrad Murray for a brilliant beatbox workshop. Conrad is an actor, writer, director, rapper, beatboxer, singer and theatre maker based in Mitcham, South-West London and has led the Battersea Arts Centre Beatbox Academy since 2008. Passionate about making work through hip hop and beatbox theatre and an incredible, engaging tutor, this workshop will teach fundamental techniques of the discipline for all to enjoy. You: I want to do something crafty Digital Edition 20: Watercolours with Anna FC Smith Join Wigan artist Anna FC Smith for our watercolour workshop. Anyone can take part in this session as you will learn the techniques required to create your own watercolour scene and gain an understanding which will allow you to experiment with your new found skills. You: I’m looking for something fun for my kids Digital Edition 25: Kids Carpet Noisy Animals in Isolation Kid Carpet is on hand to bring you a special quarantine edition of 'Noisy Animals' - Aimed at kids but definitely entertaining for adults too, this brilliant creation of toy animals (who in this instance are dealing with quarantine together) will lift your spirits. Daft songs and plenty to chuckle at. For more content, check out

To find out what's coming up, head to


Gracing the world's most iconic clubs and festivals including Gatecrasher, Ministry Of Sound, Global Gathering and Creamfields, DJ Judge Jules has released over 100 tracks including TEN top 40 hits and has influenced an entire generation on Kiss FM and Radio 1. With accolades such as 'Number 1 DJ' (Mixmag), 'Best International DJ' (Dancestar Awards) and a regular spot in Mixmag's Top100 poll, unsurprisingly his Ibiza residency quickly became legendary.

In January 2021, Judge Jules brings his set to The Old Courts Grand Vault for an unmissable night of music for trance and house fans. Ahead of his visit, we asked him for his top 5 tracks of 2020 (so far).


EATS EVERYTHING - Honey Great new vocal house track, and someone I've been supporting regularly for some time now. 2. DARIUS SYROSSIAN – Diva (Original mix) A huge soulful vocal, with an absolutely slamming reversed bass. 3. ANGELMOON, VISNADI, MATTEO BRUSCAGIN - Rain feat Danny Losito One of the more progressive sounding vocal tracks of 2020. A really nice soothing male vocal from Danny Losito. 4. JOHN SUMMIT – Deep End Defected never disappoint, and they certainly didn't with this new John Summit record. Deep end has a great catchy vocal sample, running along some deep percussive grooves. 5. HUMAN MOVEMENT - Elevate (t e s t p r e s s Remix) The gated leads on this really do it for me. Old school sounds throughout create a spine tingling version of this from T e s t p r e s s For more information on the January gig, head to this link. For regular free lockdown live streamed DJ sets, check out the Judge Jules Facebook page WWW.JUDGEJULES.NET WWW.FRESHDJS.CO.UK


This week, we speak to local artist Reggie Doherty who works as a senior stylist at a costume house. A talented costumier, his art focuses on costume design, illustration & styling. Hi Reggie! Please tell us a bit about yourself. I'm Reggie Doherty and I'm a costume designer/illustrator, costumier, stylist and artist from Wigan. (That just about covers everything I do!) I've always been interested in film and theatre and fashion history and so costume design was always going to be the path I went down. What inspires your work? I've always loved old Hollywood films from the silent era to the mid-sixties and have been watching these since I was a teenager. I've always loved the clothes and fashions that all those great stars used to wear like Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davies and of course Marilyn Monroe. I've always felt the personas of these people are works of arts themselves. I think there's something about the twentieth century as a whole, historically and culturally that is fascinating. I tend to look a lot at societal shifts throughout history, such as the Edwardian era into the first world war and how this lead to the rise of the bright young things and flappers and how modern the world must have felt then. And then you get the great depression into world war two which is followed by the conservative, paranoid fifties and then we get things like the hippy and anti-war movements of the sixties and then civil rights, women's lib and gay rights. Queer culture has influenced design, fashion, celebrity and films hugely over the latter end of the twentieth century and still today so this also heavily influences my practice. I think queer culture today still gets inspiration from those old Hollywood things I love and I find it interesting how the two feed one another. Do you have a favourite project? Every project is different so it's hard to pick a favourite. Sometimes you're in a dark theatre for nights on end and other times it's a filmset surrounded by people or I might be working remotely, so with each project the approach is never quite the same. The things that do link them though would be a text, usually a script, and a director. So after the first readings and initial discussions it would then usually follow into research – I try to start with books rather than the internet as this was drilled into us at university and I love an excuse to buy a new coffee table book whenever I can. After that it's always a different process, sometimes someone else is the designer and I'm sourcing from costume houses, online, charity shops and car-boot sales. I might be hired to illustrate a designers ideas to hand over to a set of people who will make the costumes and I'm the visual bridge between the two departments. If I'm the designer I might make initial drawings and concept ideas and pass these to a director before production begins and if time doesn't allow it's literally just hit the ground running and start collecting costumes as soon as possible – there's never a simple formula.

You’ve worked with The Old Courts in the past, from Sew Social, BYOB and Drink & Draw to your first solo exhibition ‘Guise’ – do you have a favourite memory? I think the exhibition would be a favourite as I've never done anything quite like that before and it was great for my practice to think of myself as an artist and not just a costume designer – and how can clothing be presented as a work of art. So in Guise I was talking a lot about masculinity and how that's been expressed throughout history through clothing and how that's gone through dramatic changes. I also explored things you usually don't get to do as a costume designer, for instance, I was the one behind the camera taking photographs and editing them and making sculptures with clothing as well. I also loved how The Old Courts had the exhibition alongside one of Jane Fairhurst's whose work was about the feminine and to have my work sitting next to hers was great as I think it changed my work in a really interesting way that I wasn't expecting it to. I've really enjoyed all the events at The Old Courts though and I'm very much looking forward to returning to join in with them in person when we can. Alongside your job, you’ve worked on some film/TV projects – what did you do? So my main job is as a senior stylist for a costume house and with them I've been able to get freelance work with some of the designers who've come down to hire from us. There was some site specific theatre pieces and things like that which were great to work on as well, but the majority of my work outside of that has been with the theatre company imitating the dog. I first worked with them on Nocturnes in their wardrobe department during the filmed sections of that theatre piece. I got to learn about how they created their visual work and also did some prop sourcing as well. I then returned to work with them as a wardrobe assistant on their tour of Heart of Darkness which they created out in Italy which was an amazing experience getting to source things and fit them over there and then get to see it come and tour the UK as well. Most recently I've just done costumes and props for their project Airlock, which is currently on BBC iPlayer as part of their culture in quarantine specially commissioned pieces. It's a live action graphic novel that has been made using Zoom with all the actors in their own homes which is unlike anything I've ever done before, unsurprisingly! So trying to source and fit costumes when you're working from home and don't have your usual tools is interesting and the time frame was really tight but it was great fun and satisfying to see it come together. For anyone who follows you on Instagram, it’s inspiring to see how invested and immersed you are in what you do. Do you have any advice for anyone who’d like to get started in costume work? The most important part of my development has been the study of history and clothing. I'm constantly drawing every day to keep my practice up, especially now, and I always try and read and research and am constantly learning. I think I've just got such a thirst for it that it feels natural to me but it's definitely still a skill I've had to train over the years and get better at. Thanks Reggie! Where can people see more of your work? All three episodes of Airlock are now available on BBC iPlayer and across social media platforms for imitating the dog and for my personal work the best place to find me is on Instagram @rdrty where I tend to post the things I'm doing for fun in my spare time alongside career work as well.


Chelsea School of Art Fine Art graduate, Louise Garman creates uncompromising, experimental layered, multi-media images – drawings, photographs, silkscreens and solar plate etchings.

Last July, in collaboration with Cross Street Arts and Leigh Film Society, we held a screening of Ken Loach's 'Kes' as Louise's #inspiredbyfilm choice. Louise had some of her work on display and told the packed audience how her work was inspired by the 60's British classic.

"As you all know, art is a very solitary endeavour and as you will see Billy spends a lot of time alone, walking through woods and wandering round getting up to mischief, just like me.Billy finds his escape from reality and a bullying sibling by channelling these emotions into secretly training the kestrel and gaining some kind of self respect and hope. For him it is about creating a new reality and self expression.The link between Billy and myself or any creative person is the same."

You can read the full recap here. Louise contrasts opposites like ugliness and beauty, life and death, black and white, harsh and tender. Her art deals with abandoned and neglected secret places - the ageing Dungeness nuclear power station, the beautiful and brutal Saddleworth Moor, and the derelict side of Salford and Manchester. She wanders round these unwanted places, drawing, photographing, videoing and collecting forgotten items that have been tossed aside. She then juxtaposes and layers the images together, creating new displaced themes. “During lockdown, I have created a home studio, rather than my permanent one at neo:artists in Bolton. I have currently been accepted for the Flourish Award at Yorkshire Print Workshops and have joined with another Europia artist through Castlefield associates in Manchester. Throughout this difficult time, Cross Street Arts in Standish have been supporting all their artists, both studio users and associates with themed subject matter which has been a great inspiration.” Congratulations to Louise on the Flourish Award!! To find out more about her work and future exhibitions, head over to To find out more about Cross Street Arts click here.

To find out neo:artists click here.


We are grateful to announce that the National Lottery have awarded us a £25,000 grant to be used towards our Covid-19 Community Response.

The Community Response team handle calls from from people across the borough who may be lonely or isolated and need a chat. They also work with Wigan Council and Fur Clemt to provide people in need with welfare parcels. We're extremely proud of our volunteers and the help we've been able to provide with this service.

The National Lottery grant will go a long way in helping us continue our Covid-19 Community Response for the people of Wigan. If you or someone you know needs support, please go to If you would like to join the volunteer team, please head to the same link and click "Help Our Community".


Local historian Tom Walsh recently had some of his work accepted into our upcoming Creative Writing Book - a collection of creative responses to the Covid-19 lockdown. Here, Tom writes his personal response to George Orwell as well as a collection of essays depicting moments from his life that begin with his first day at school. Wigan Has No Peer. Born 8 Days after V.E.Day, 1945 in the Scholes area of Wigan, one of the areas castigated by George Orwell in his book 'The Road to Wigan Pier' published in 1937. From a very young age I was aware that Orwell was an anathema in my home town because of his betrayal of Wigan and in particular Scholes and Wallgate, both areas with large Irish communities. Most men worked in the mines and were fearlessly proud on their work. Women too were proud of their homes, both felt they had been besmirched by the imposter from the south. I can't vouch for it but as a child I heard stories of his image being used as target on dartboards, so intense was the feeling of betrayal. I'm as convinced today as were the people of 1937, that the author came with an agenda to the north. His was not a crusade to help the downtrodden, rather to find those less fortunate and to use them to suite his preconceived prejudges, some less charitable may say to sell his book. Whatever his motivation, his writing did a great disservice to the north in general and Wigan in particular, mainly because of the title he chose, which has hung around the neck of our town like an albatross for the last 80 years. I have lost count of the times I've heard reference to this work always in a derogatory way and each time it does a little more damage almost like the sea pounding the coastline, indiscernibly but taking its toll nonetheless . My time in my beloved Scholes was several years after the book was written, but I questioned my parents, and countless aunties and uncles at length , all agreed that whilst there was poverty and the vast majority still had gaslight and outside toilets this didn't equate to the filth and squalor as depicted in the book, of course there were homes where cleanliness wasn't the order of the day but they were a tiny minority. I dare say you could find that today in some very affluent neighbourhoods, even among some of our southern brethren! On the contrary, homes were spotless, steps being moped often a daily bases, competitions to get the whitest washing. All this a thousand miles from the picture painted by Orwell. As alluded to earlier I know that my birthplace was looked upon with some misgivings even among people from the better off areas of the town itself. Much of that is down to this piece of fiction, and that is what it is 'fiction' dressed up to be a serious look at the plight of the working class of the 1930s. To be fair he did some good and some of the observations he makes are to be applauded, highlighting the appalling working conditions in the mines the unfairness of the Means Test, but that didn't give him carte blanche to belittle the people who trusted him. He says in the book "if there is one man I feel inferior to it’s the coal miner" and so he should! He came to find squalor and if that was his raison d'être then he succeeded, if it was to give a fair unbiased view of of life in the north at that time, then he failed and failed miserably. In the chapters that follow I try to unpick the damage to Wigan's reputation and in doing so show that we in the north are proud people with a story to tell. However in my story, a collection of essays written over several years. I hope they show the human face of northern England, the humour often in the face adversity. To coin a phrase cut one and we all bleed, Orwell cut us with the sharpness of his pen. In an article I wrote for The Wigan Observer written to coincide with the anniversary already mentioned, I say quite clearly that I don't doubt his prowess as a descriptive and talented writer, I do however doubt his sincerity. For the record this is the article, much of its content is a repeat of the sentences already penned, but I think for accuracy it is necessary to include it in full. Wigan Observer Article As the 80th anniversary of the publication of that wretched book 'The Road to Wigan Pier' nears, there are moves afoot from various quarters to celebrate the occasion. And, while I can see that these efforts are sincere and well meaning, I take completely the opposite view and hope it passes with as little fanfare as possible. Although, I'm sure the author will be lauded as a working class hero, a title he neither sort nor deserves, not insofar as this piece of writing is concerned. I have no doubt that he was a talented wordsmith as much of his other, and some aspects of this work proves. George Orwell did incalculable damage to Wigan at the time of printing and the harm carries on to this day, an example, American travel writer Bill Bryson wrote: "Such is Wigan’s perennially poor reputation that I was truly astounded to find it has a handsome and well-maintained town centre". Much of the blame for its "poor reputation" can be laid at the door of this odious book. Many commentators and politicians often refer to this work as a serious example of working class life in the 1930s nothing could be further from the truth, at least as far as homes are concerned. One of the few times he seems to begrudgingly admit that there is possibly another side to life in the North is when he writes in Chapter 2 " The whole of the industrial districts are really one enormous town, of about the same population as Greater London but, fortunately, of much larger area; so that even in the middle of them there is still room for patches of cleanness and decency. That is an encouraging thought. In spite of hard trying, man has not yet succeeded in doing his dirt everywhere." How's that for for being condescending, it almost takes your northern breath away! To be a true insight, all aspects of life should at the very least be touched upon, not a mention of visiting what was a main source of recreation and social interaction ‘the pub’ of which there over 80 in the Scholes and Wallgate areas, six within a stones throw of his lodgings, not a word about the Churches, equally well attended in those days although often by a different clientele! Not even a nod to Mesnes Park, a jewel in Wigan's crown. These may seem trivial points, but they are not, it gives credence to the belief held by many, including myself, that he only saw what he wanted to see, namely squalor and dirt. He does however rage against the Roman Catholic Church in part two. I find it particularly unbelievable that a man who writes about his idea of the perfect pub ten years later, the fictitious Moon under Water,(Wetherspoon's got the the name from his ideas,) would he not at the very least visit a local watering hole, The Preston Arms was only yards from his chosen lodgings. I say chosen advisedly. I was born in Scholes in 1945, nine years after his visit, and whilst obviously I have no knowledge of life at the time of his writing my Mother, my Father and numerous Aunts, Uncles and other relatives lived in the area throughout the 1930s. I questioned them about the book for an essay I wrote whist at school, I think in 1957, the twentieth anniversary of the first print, I can't be sure of that date but it does seem a logical conclusion, I remember a kerfuffle at the time. All of them, without exception reacted in the same way, his name being an anathema because of his unfair portrayal of Wigan in general and Scholes and Wallgate in particular. As they pointed out that were undoubtable problems, and some families where hygiene wasn't the first priority but these were a small faction. They readily agreed that poor housing conditions were rife but his description of the way people lived, they felt was deliberately misleading. Orwell's depiction of his sordid lodgings above a tripe shop – with an unemptied chamber pot beneath the breakfast table – makes great copy but tells us little about the living conditions of most Wiganers. It generally believed that he only moved lodgings because his first port of call was too clean, so much for accuracy! The vast majority of people lived in clean and well kept homes, albeit money wasn't in abundance, many houses still lit by gas light, with outside toilets but this doesn't equate to filth, far from it. Women would take a great pride in their homes often mopping steps on a daily basis and woe betide you if you walked on their mopping. Home baking was practiced almost universally , especially on Sundays. Washing day Monday, there was a joke that there was a rainbow over Scholes on Mondays. Bedrooms Tuesday and so forth. All this a thousand miles from Orwell's portrayal .He painted a picture of filth and despair. I believe he came to the North with an agenda and a suitcase full of prejudices, he says in the book that he had lost most of the latter, alas he was deluding himself, to be fair to him I don't think deliberately, his canvas already partly painted he sought to fill in the spaces to suite his preconceived ideas. He completely ignored the side of life that didn't fit into his fantasy or that of his paymaster Victor Gollancz. According to Orwell's biographer Bernard Crick, publisher Victor Gollancz first tried to persuade Orwell's agent to allow the Left Book Club edition to consist solely of the descriptive first half of the book. When this was refused Gollancz wrote an introduction to the book. "Victor could not bear to reject it, even though his suggestion that the 'repugnant' second half should be omitted from the Club edition was also turned down. On this occasion Victor, albeit nervously, did overrule Communist Party objections in favour of his publishing instinct. His compromise was to publish the book with an introduction full of good criticism, unfair criticism, and half-truths. Almost like the book itself you might think! Not only Gollancz and the people from Wigan found the book repugnant, a fellow writer Jack Hilton, who Orwell greatly admired, and who incidentally gave him the notion to visit Wigan, he had originally intended to visit Rochdale, Hilton’s recommendation that Orwell concentrate on colliers rather than cotton operatives was also significant, encouraging him at an early stage to see the representative working-class figure as a man engaged in skilled, essential, dangerous and ill-rewarded labour, Hilton described the book as “piffle”, Jack Hilton was a writer from a working class background and I'm sure saw through the snobbery of the book. Orwell would be the last person to think himself a snob but even a cursory reading of part two shows that he was, and in large measure at that. He claimed to be a socialist a claim that is spurious at best, again in part two he seems to decry so much of the principal and denounces the would be participants, although in the very last chapter he seems to contradict himself and struggles to champion what in earlier chapters he debunked. He did however join the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War to fight against Fascism. On the positive side, and there are some positives,Orwell described graphically the harsh and inhuman conditions in which miners worked and this aspect of the book told a story that needed to be told, as did the harshness and unfairness of the Means Test but this didn't give him carte blanche to demean proud neighbourhoods in order to give his work "a shock factor ". It is thought in some circles that the book lead to better conditions in the mines, I disagree with this analysis. The improved conditions, came about because of two factors. World War II, and subsequent need for energy gave them a better bargaining position but by far Nationalisation of the industry immeasurably altered the lot of the miner, and not a moment too soon. To say Orwell was selective in his choice of lodgings and houses visited would be generous, a generosity that should not be afforded a writer who claimed his work was a factual record, which in some aspects it was, telling some unpalatable truths, but to use the people he used to suite the aforementioned painting whilst almost completely ignoring the vast majority of well kept homes belittles what could, and perhaps should have been a chronicle of great importance. Highlighting the plight of the miner and the appalling conditions in which he worked. Orwell says in Chapter 7 "That the miners of Lancashire and Yorkshire treated me with kindness and curtsey that was even embarrassing” also said “if there was a man I felt inferior to it was the coal miner" and so he should be, they trusted him and in my opinion he betrayed their trust, as surely as if he had slapped them across the face with a piece of "black tripe". I have thought long and hard before writing this book but on reflection I felt it was not only something I need to do, in fact it was my duty. A duty to my kith and kin and to all the descent people of my beloved, but much maligned Scholes of yesteryear. If there is one paragraph in the work that caused me to rage more than any other it was this, in Chapter 4 - where he speaks of “superior ' types”. “I found that the people in Corporation houses don't really like them. They are glad to get out of the stink of the slum, they know that it is better for their children to have space to play about in, but they don't feel really at home. The exceptions are usually people in good employ who can afford to spend a little extra on fuel and furniture and journeys, and who in any case are of “superior” type. The others, the typical slum-dwellers, miss the frowsy warmth of the slum. They complain that “out in the country”, i.e. on the edge of the town, they are 'starving' (freezing).' This is a bit rich coming from a man who liked to be thought of as an egalitarian I hope readers don't think I'm over sensitive, it's just that this book is an abhorrence to me, the slum dwellers, a phrase he throws about like confetti, are my parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, so I hope people will understand why it rankles so very much. The following chapters are an insight in the life of a working class lad in from a northern town. I had a wonderful childhood in Scholes and wouldn't have wished to be born and raised anywhere else. Wallgate whilst I have only limited knowledge, I'm sure was equally as damaged by Orwell's blinkered observations as was Wigan as a town. Maybe you would need to be born within the sound of St.Patrick's or St.Joseph's bells to fully understand the community spirt and sheer goodness of the residents of Scholes and Wallgate. If there is an afterlife I'm sure George Orwell will feel a need to apologise to the good people of Wigan and the other towns he besmirched in such a cavalier way. My First Day At School (St. Patrick's 1949) My first day at St.Patricks School, is etched on my memory as brightly as the moon on a clear frosty evening. My Mam takes me to the school door, as far as parents were allowed to go in those days, I'm not at all nervous, on the contrary,I'm looking forward to my life as a schoolboy. My Mam had been telling me for several months that I'm a big lad now, and would really enjoy it, new friends learning to read etc., and I've heard her say to my Aunties "he's ready for school", he of course being me. Mam gone, a very large statue of St.Patrick gazes down on me, with what I convince myself is a disapproving look, not the hint of a smile. I in my childlike way try to reason why if our patron saint is in heaven he looks so glum, on the other side of the large hall, is another statue of The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the expression on his face is only marginally more friendly, maybe he's annoyed with St.Patrick for not showing more joy at being in paradise. I soon avert my eyes from the residents of heaven, and busy myself with my new class mates, some of whom I know from the adjoining streets, but the vast majority are completely new faces. Several of the new faces are much taller than me, and like the statues don't seem overjoyed at my presence. I start to wonder if this school thing is such a good idea, and I sure my Mam will be lonely, and missing me terribly . Tears are only held back by the fear that, if I allow them to flow,I will be called a softie, or worse still a cissy. The atmosphere of the hall changes noticeably on the arrival of the Head Teacher,Miss Egan, whom I know by sight, from seeing her at Mass on Sundays, she is welcoming.and seems very very pleased with her new charges. Miss Egan tells us that we are fortunate to be coming to the best school in Wigan, and we ought always to remember that, both in and outside school. Miss Egan then introduces us to our class teacher, Miss Dickinson, who is at least 7 foot tall, she has very friendly countenance, and I think looks a lot like my Mam. Everyone is delighted with her pleasant manner, none more than me as I'm sure she'll be particularly nice to me, because of her striking resemblance to my Mam . As we make our way to the babies’ class, the first class was always referred to thus. As we make our way we pass the afore mentioned statue of St. Patrick, I give a sideways glance at the saint, he seems to have the hint of a smile, no more than a hint, mark you. Statues I ought to explain are a feature of most Roman Catholic Schools, not of course to be worshiped, as some people imagine, but as a reminder of the saint that we may direct our prayers, asking, for their intercession, perhaps as one mightn't look at a photograph. On reaching the classroom the first thing I notice is the very large fireplace and the equally large fire guard, although no fire at that time as it was the middle of Summer, it would be something that later in the year I would appreciate very much. After that my eyes dance round the classroom, little green chairs and desks, displays all over the walls, and then my eyes alight on a sandpit with buckets and spades, which reminds me, where do your own go to. On a visit to the seaside new ones bought on each occasion, only to disappear into the ether, never to be seen again, similar to lost socks later in life, however I digress. At the back of Miss Dickinson’s desk, yes you’ve guessed, another statue, this one of The Virgin Mary, much smaller than her saintly companions in the main hall, and looking in good humour, with a definite smile on her face. On closer inspection I notice that her nose had been chipped more than once, and repainted, probably by Miss D. who in the following weeks I'm convinced can do anything. On her desk there's always a vase shaped jar of Gloy, (water based glue) with which she seems able to make anything, from birthday cards to little paper lanterns at Christmas time, all done without difficultly. I try to persuade Mam to buy a bottle of Gloy for home, so I can show her how to make paper chains and all the other things Miss D. has demonstrated, but Mam says flour and water mixed into a thick paste is just as good, "it's not as good" I protest, "there's a little brush in the jar at school" "well you can use the brush from your paintbox",says Mam in a you've gone your limit way. I realise I'm fighting a losing battle, and content myself with the thought that when I grow up I will be able to buy my own, plus anything else that takes my fancy. The morning seems everlasting, and I keep wondering how they are coping at home, without me. I ask Miss Dickinson if it is possible to go home to make sure everything is as it should be, she assures me that all will be well, I'm not totally happy with her assurances. My mind’s taken away from home by the announcement, “Thomas (me) Brian, and Martin your turn at the sandpit”, much more fun then learning new prayers which had taken up the majority of the morning. Then at last, grace before meals, and the realisation that Mam would be waiting at the school gates. Mam seems overjoyed at seeing me, I knew how much she would miss me."Have you made some new friends'” ?,”Is teacher nice?", the questions go on all the way home. When we arrive, my Auntie Maggie's waiting to welcome me,"here comes the big schoolboy!" she exclaimed. We have a nice dinner(lunch for our southern brethren ),more questioning of course. Then like a bolt from the blue, Mam says "Wash your hands and face", time to go back to school, "WHAT twice in a day," I sigh. After a lot of persuading, and I mean a lot. We, three, this time, as Auntie Maggie decides to join Mam and me on the short walk to school. I'm not as happy as I was, only a few hours earlier, on my initial journey to St. Patrick’s School for Young Gentlemen, as a sarcastic neighbour always referred to it. I'm not aware of his sarcasm, and thought that was the full title of the establishment for many a long year. Thank goodness I never uttered it within the hearing of a teacher. Grace after meals, the first prayer of the afternoon session, so to speak. Prayers completed. Miss Dickinson reads a story, and although I can remember almost everything of that day, I can't recall the contents, but I know I enjoyed it enormously, and wondered for the rest of my school life, why teachers didn't employ this method of teaching more often. I hope against hope for the call to the sandpit for a second time, alas the call never came. The afternoon passed much quicker than the morning, thanks, I think to the story. Afternoon prayers, thank God!, home time. Miss Dickinson says "that we've all been very good ", and she was looking forward to seeing us tomorrow, (not if I can help thinks me) On the way through the main hall, I half look up at St. Patrick, and from that day, to this, I'm sure he gave a wry wink. As the anniversary of the end of First World War approaches I began again to think about Wigan’s involvement in the war to end all wars – if only it were so – and my mind wandered back to my school days at St Patrick’s School and being told about Thomas Woodcock V.C., a former pupil of the school. We were told how after a Civic Reception at Wigan Town Hall he was the guest of honour at our school and that very night he left Wigan to return to the front, never to return to Wigan. He had cheated death once but wasn’t to be so fortunate a second time. He was killed in action on the 27 March 1918, only months before the armistice. His bravery was further underlined by the fact that as a recipient of the Victoria Cross, he was excused front line action, but he insisted on rejoining his comrades. Considering his experience, his insistance on returning to rejoin battle was surely as brave as his exploits on the battlefield; by this commitment surely another medal for bravery was deserved. His citation reads: ‘On the 13 September 1917 north of Broenbeek, Belgium, when an advanced post had held out for 96 hours and was finally forced to retire, Private Woodcock covered the retreat. Private Woodcock heard cries for help behind him – he returned and waded into the stream amid a shower of bombs and rescued another member of the party the latter he then carried across open ground in daylight towards our front line, regardless of machine-gun fire.’ In preparing this story I had the great pleasure of meeting Mrs Veronica Ashton, grand-daughter of this outstanding man. She was able to give me an insight into the pride his family still have almost a century after his sacrifice; she allowed me to view her albums and a picture that has pride of place in her home. She recalls clearly his medals being displayed in a glass case in her grandmother’s home in Cambridge Street. Mrs Ashton has visited her grandfather’s grave along with her children; she tells me of the overwhelming feeling of pride mixed with sorrow, tears only just held back. Veronica is a kind person, of steely determination and it is clear that Thomas Woodcock’s traits have been passed down the generations. As she is proud of him, I’m sure he in turn would be equally proud of her. There are memorials to this brave soldier in both St Patrick’s Church and School. His Victoria Cross can be seen at The Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, London. I haven’t yet seen the medal but on my next visit to the capital I shall certainly pay a visit. I’m sure it will be a surreal experience knowing that I’ve shared a schoolyard with a man of such outstanding courage, albeit 55 years apart! My only real memory regarding the First World War was of seeing a large coin type ornament on the sideboard of a neighbour in McCormick Street. Mrs Kelly had lost a son in The Great War, as she always described it, and asking her about it she explained that it was given to the families of servicemen who died in the war and that it was called ‘The Deadman’s Penny’. I remember saying in a childlike way, ‘a penny isn’t much for a life’. I can still remember her reply, ‘Eh" love it’s not but it’s all I’ve got of him, and it’s worth its weight in gold to me’. At such a young age I couldn’t fully comprehend what she meant or understand her great sorrow, which never truly healed. Mrs Kelly died in the family home in 1951, still a broken woman. The suffering of the First World War was not only on the battlefields of Flanders and Passchendaele, but in the hearths, hearts and homes of the mothers and fathers who would never see their sons again, not even left with a grave to tend. I think I half realised, even for one so young, that part of Mrs Kelly died on that day in 1918. As the centenary of the start of that war is remembered, my mind went back to Mrs Kelly and the so called Deadman’s Penny and I resolved to find out more about her son. The following article is what I was able to ascertain with the help of the records from Wigan’s Archives & Local Studies, where the newspaper index and records of the war are truly amazing; thanks are due to all who worked on its compilation. Below is the full report: ‘Wigan Observer, 2 November 1918. Nineteen, and Four Years’ Service. Mrs Kelly of 34 McCormick Street Wigan has received news that her son Pte. John Kelly, Royal Irish Fusiliers Lewis Gun Corps, has been killed in action. Pte. Kelly who was nineteen years old and single enlisted in November 1914 and was last employed as a drawer at the Maypole Collieries. A comrade-in-arms, writing to the bereaved mother, tell her that her son was very well liked by all the boys in the platoon.’ John Kelly was born on the 4 June 1899, so he was only fifteen years, six months old when he volunteered (conscription was only introduced in 1916). Therefore, he must have exaggerated his age to enlist; I don’t think many questions were asked in those days. The tragedy is compounded by the nearness of the ceasefire; had that taken place a week or so earlier, John Kelly would have returned to Wigan a war hero and Mrs Kelly would have been spared thirty-three years of heartache. If a week is a long time in politics, it must be an eternity in war. I was only six years old when Mrs Kelly died and I have often wondered what happened to the penny. I hope it didn’t go in a house clearance or was sold in a second-hand shop for a few coppers; a man’s life surely deserves better than that. Had I been older when Mrs Kelly died I would have suggested that it was placed in her coffin. Mother and son together forever. What ever its fate, I’m sure Mrs Kelly would be proud to see her son still remembered almost a hundred years after his death. References: • Wigan Observer, 2 November 1918. • Wigan Observer, 20 October 1917. • Wigan & Leigh Archives Online Sunday Afternoons, 1950s A Sixpenny Wish Early nineteen fifties, Sunday afternoons without fail, I, along with a collection of older cousins, walked to Mesnes Park. Church out of the way, and armed with coppers earned throughout the preceding week, going errands for neighbours, or on a particular good week, shillings from the rebate, after the gas meter had been emptied. This time of wealth alas, only occurred infrequently. I know more than one school pal, who decided that the collection money meant for the upkeep of the church, would be better spent in The Park Cafe, "anyway it's only tuppence and won't be missed", said to justify their misdeed. I must confess to being tempted to follow their lead, but after much soul searching, concluded that eternal damnation, and the fire that never goes out wasn't worth risking for a few pence. Catholic guilt I suppose! On the way to the park we would often call at The Market Square to admire the cars that had been parked over night, each child would decide which car we would like to have when grown up, my choice was always the Triumph Mayflower, an ambition that hasn't totally disappeared. On reaching the park gates, the race was on, to reach the statue of Sir Francis Sharp Powell. Each believing the story, that if you rubbed his foot and ran round the bronze figure three times, you would find a sixpence. I can't remember feeling disappointed when week after week the promised reward failed to materialise. However, I can still remember the excitement when the predicted dividend, almost transpired. That particular Sunday, I won the race, and having completed the ritual, made my way towards the cafe. As I made my way along the path (no waking on the grass in those days). In the distance, glinting in the afternoon sun, I see what I convinced myself was the long looked for tanner, alas to be crestfallen, on discovering the windfall was only a threepenny bit. After initial disappointment, I am pleased with my find. Hence from that day, I have believed that this local piece of folklore is at least half right! Next stop the cafe to spend our treasure, winter months hot Vimto, on warmer days a glass of lemonade, and if funds allowed a Cassinelli ice cream, with raspberry. The establishment was always packed to overflowing, my sister, seven years older than yours truly, was usually there, and not at all happy to see my smiling countenance. Her group of friends used the cafe to show of their Sunday best and look for eligible young men, more than one marriage had its beginnings in the Park Cafe. An uninvited little brother may well have cramped her style. I more often than not managed to blackmail her in to giving me a copper or two to make myself scarce. Then loot in my pocket off to the playground. We would play all sorts of games, the girls Seashells , two balls, hopscotch and skipping sung to rhymes such as "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich-man,Poor-man ,Beggar-man, Thief" . The boys would have no truck with such girly games, perish the thought! You’d have been ostracised if you so much as touched a skipping rope, worse still a ball if it wasn't a football or a rugby-ball . Although some games were played by both sexes Hide and Seek and my particular favourite, SKilly, a game I think peculiar to Wigan, I won't go into the rules, but I'm sure many readers of The Wigan Observer will also remember it with fondness. Another popular game, the older boys would play Tarzan on the monkey bars, the younger boys Cowboys and Indians and even more controversial Japs and English,or Jerrys and Brits. Remember, this time was only a few years after World War 2,and people were far less hung up on political correctness. It was a time when people would examine goods to make sure that they had no input from Germany or Japan, thank goodness times have moved on and scars have healed, today terms such as these would be frowned upon, but not so in those days, so I felt I ought to mention them for accuracy ,certainly not to cause offence. After the playground, a brief visit to the bowling green, the stay there was short because like my sister and her compatriots, the men,(always men bowlers in those days) were not pleased with our presence and would threaten us with 'The Parkie', now there was a man not to tangle with. The threat ringing in our ears and a similar welcome on the Tennis Courts, off then to see the ducks, and then home, passing Sir Francis without so much as a glance; strange on entering the park everyone wanted to take part in polishing his shoe, on the way home he was universally ignored, so much so he mightn't never of lived! Home then to a good old fashioned tea. Mothers would have been busy in our absence, baking, the tables would grown under the weight of meat and potato pies, meat pies, egg custard tarts and of course home baked bread. Sitting in the middle of the feast, a trifle, which couldn't be disturbed until everyone had their fill of the savouries. When tea was over the leftovers were carefully wrapped in greaseproof paper and placed in the meat safe ( very few had refrigerators in those days) waste wasn't an option, my Mother was a particularly good manager, Aunties would joke " Janey can make a meal out of a dish cloth". Waste was a luxury that couldn't be afforded! The residue from Sunday would make a lovely Monday tea or "jack-bit" for Dads and Uncles to take to the pit, today it would be called 'a packed lunch' ,although truth to tell it never tasted as good on the second day. I reasoned because the baking aroma had dissipated, that on the previous day had the gastric juices flowing on entering your home, or even passing a neighbour’s house, everybody baked and the smell emitted from every door. Nothing could be touched before hands and face had been washed and the obligatory inspection of said hands had taken place. Christmas 1952 November 6th, acrid smoke still hanging in the air, skeletons of spring interior mattresses and other incombustible items litter the sites of of the previous night’s fires. Bonfire night over for another year, the weeks of collecting ' bommy' standing guard in case a rival gang decides to help themselves to your hoard, already seems a distant memory. The excitement of that night well and truly behind, Christmas then became the main focus , strangely in 1950s no one seem to think about Noel until the last embers of Guy Fawkes night had died down. However from that day forward everybody, particularly children were obsessed with the coming celebrations and merriment that would certainly occur. The religious element was much more important in those days, sadly as each year passes the real meaning of the 'Holy Day' diminishes. I know that younger readers couldn't possibly imagine the anticipation of Christmas that abounded in the early 1950s, only a few years after the deprivations of WW2 and before that the depression of the 1930s. People could at last start to think of better times and splash out for the special day. Rationing was still in force for many things including 'Toffee' but everyone was determined to make it something to lift the spirits. Talking about spirits, better off families would have a bottle of whisky and possibly brandy, while those whose budgets were more stretched would have to settle for a bottle of sherry. It was very unusual in working class homes to have 'drink on tap' so to speak. So there wouldn't be anymore alcoholic drink in the house until the following Christmas, likewise the pedestal glass cake stand which at Christmas teatime held pride of place at the centre of the table would be laid away until the following year, although thinking about it that may have made a reappearance on Whit Monday. I still have my Mam's , which I treasure as a reminder of happy times of yore. Houses would be decorated with crepe paper of various colours ,bought in sheets to be trimmed into 3 inch strips and twisted into twirls and then drawing pined to the ceiling, criss crossing living rooms, houses with gaslight had to make doubly sure the festoons were kept well clear of the light fitting. Families with a little more disposable income would boast a Christmas Tree, some ' real ones', others the artificial kind that seemed like green toilet brushes on a stick, to be fair the fake ones when decorated looked quite acceptable especially when adorned with electric lights.There was a device that could be fitted that would make the lights flash on and off at rapid intervals they would drive neighbours to distraction, goodness knows what effect it had on the mental wellbeing of families where these contraptions were installed, flashing from dark until bedtime, it must have been tantamount to torture. Schools would start rehearsing nativity plays. I had hoped against hope to be St Joseph along with the kudos that went with the staring role, if not Joseph one of the Kings or at the very least a Shepherd, you can imagine how I was crestfallen when informed I would be one of the trees, a role that even came without a costume. I'd thought at the very bare minimum a tea towel would have been required and I told my Mam weeks before the performance to make sure there was a new one available for the big day. However the only requirement was brown trousers and shoes. A tree, I ask you, how could you look forward to being a tree! After the disappointment of missing out on a leading role in the play, I content myself to looking forward to Christmas Day itself and the presents that would be left in a pillowcase at the bottom of my bed. I can still remember the feeling of overwhelming happiness on waking as I gazed at the pillow case with its many shapes sticking out at abrupt angles straining against the confines of the pillowslip. The carefully wrapped gifts would peep out above the top of the make believe sack. I remember asking my Mam if I should leave a bolster case( twice the size) but it was explained that if all children did that Saint Nicholas would never get round, I can recall being sort of satisfied with the explanation . All Christmas wrapping paper seemed the same in those days, white with green holly and red berries . I'd been to see Father Christmas at Lowe's a few weeks earlier, and he had explained that dogs, cats and other livestock were outside his remit ,so I wasn't expecting to see a Jack Russell running round the bedroom. Maybe that would be something to be considered for my birthday in May! however I digress, back to the job of opening the parcels , many seem to be old faithfuls appearing every year, paintbox and colouring book, a chocolate Father Christmas , a Soap Bobby and gold chocolate coins in a net bag. Girls would Invariably get a post office set or a Toffee Shop ,with jars of dolly mixtures and a little set of scales ,skipping ropes were always a perennial favourite for young girls; John Bull printing sets and a compendium of games ( Ludo, Snakes and Ladders etc ) were unisex. One year I got a Magic Robot, and whist a long way from today's computer games it really did seem 'Magic' and the ultimate in educational toys. The Christmas of 1952, I'm sure of the year as we had for years a photograph, dated with pencil on the back, of myself resplendent in my Cowboy outfit, try as I may I can't find the picture, but I tell you I could have given The Milky Bar Kid a run for his money. Stetson, waistcoat, holster with two six-shooters adorned with white handles with little red fake jewels and of course the obligatory Sheriffs’ Badge. I'm delighted with my main present, a delight that lasted until afternoon when I go with my sister to see our Auntie Nellie who lived near St George’s Church. Thereupon the despondency of being overlooked for the Nativity play pales into insignificance as I see a boy on The Drill Hall steps, he's similar age to me, with an identical outfit, but, and to me at 7, it's a very big BUT, he sports a pair of chaps ( coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt), brown with fringes no less ! I'am ashamed to say I have never felt so envious, nothing in my outfit seemed to please anymore, as my desire for a pair of the afore mentioned chaps became overwhelming. My mood is lifted somewhat when my Auntie Nellie gives me a 10 Shilling note, which my sister assures me would be easily enough to buy a pair of you know what. I'll be at Woolworths at 9 O'clock the day after Boxing Day me thinks. On the way home from Auntie’s I realise my Sheriff's Star is missing, in my childlike way I wonder if God is teaching me a lesson for feeling so envious, but I needn't have fretted, after retracing my steps only 50 yards or so I see it glinting on the pavement in the afternoon sun. Christmas Day comes to an end when the last of the visitors leave. The house is tided, the fire quenched ( wasting coal in those days would have been an unforgivable sin). My feeling of envy has completely dissipated, quite forgetting the trauma played out on the The Drill Hall steps, and the feeling of animosity towards the unknown boy only hours before forgotten. In the meantime I'd convinced myself that mine was a much better hat than his and I'd put the idea of chaps firmly on hold, I reason they are a little bit ostentatious and I'm too old for them anyway, in any case real cowboys don't have fringes, perish the thought ! Auntie Nellie's ten bob would be spent on a 'Tommy Gun' instead. Mam puts me to bed and asks " Have you enjoyed the day" l reply with my well rehearsed lament "CAN I HAVE A DOG FOR MY BIRTHDAY ?". Christmases and birthdays came and went and the longed for canine pal never arrived, in fact it would be decades later before that particular ambition would be fulfilled, when in my mid forties I became the proud owner of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Sally, who became a wonderful companion for over 10 years . I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that she was well worth every minute of the wait! The King ls Dead, Long Live The Queen The first time I heard King George VI had died was at St Patrick's School, the Headmistress, Miss Egan went to each class in turn to say she had some very sad news; in very gentle way she broke the news “The King had died”. Miss Egan said we should say a prayer for him and The Royal Family, we should also especially remember Princess Elizabeth as she was now our Queen. I remember thinking in a child like way "they've soon sorted that out!" I couldn't wait to get home to tell Mam, thinking, in a another child like way she wouldn't have already heard. I remember her saying he had been a good King who had been unflinching during the war, age 7, I didn't know what unflinching meant, and thought Mam must have heard the word on the wireless. The following day, even as a child, I could sense a feeling of sadness in the air; everyone seemed to be talking in whispers. We started the day with prayers for The Royal Family, a lad from my class who had a sister in the 'girls school', a completely different buildings in those days, said some of the girls had been crying on the way to school, we less emotional boys were wondering if we would get a day off school. I can't remember if we got a day off for the funeral. Wigan held its own funeral service on 15th February, the The Mayor of Wigan went in procession from The Town Hall to The Parish Church for a service at 3pm, a further service was held in the evening for those unable to attend because of work commitments. Prayers were also said throughout the town’s other churches. After the initial sadness the talk seemed to go to The Coronation and all the celebrations that would abound. We children thought the The Coronation would have been immediately after the funeral and couldn't believe it when it was announced it would be over a year, in the event it was it was 15 months, to a child a lifetime, 2 birthdays and a Christmas! Tuesday, 2nd June, 1953 was a day well worth waiting for, the day, for many started with a visit to church as The Queen had asked for prayers. The months of preparation when everybody seemed to be involved in the planning, every shop, house and street was decorated in ‘Red White and Blue ‘, photographs of Her Majesty The Queen everywhere. All the children singing songs and ditties, one I remember, though there seems little sense in it, was - 🎶 Red White and Blue, The Queen’s got the flu, The Duke’s got the chickenpox and doesn't know what to do 🎶 All the children in Wigan received Coronation Mugs and specially minted coins and other items of memorabilia. For months street parties and been planned, trestle tables and forms borrowed from here there and everywhere. A Queen and Duke chosen for almost every street, I had harboured thoughts of being McCormack Street’s 'Duke ' in the event a soldier was to be my part. I was getting used to being overlooked for major roles having been disappointed at losing out on my ambition to be St Joseph in the previous year’s nativity play! Finishing up as a 'tree', so a soldier doesn't seem so bad by comparison! The day before Coronation Day there was a thunder storm in Wigan, it spoiled many of the decorations that had taken months to make; everyone hoping for the best for the ' Big Day '. Alas we were to be disappointed, rain was the order of the day. Schools, pubs, clubs anywhere with a large room available to hold indoor 'Street Parties’. The rain wasn't allowed to spoil the day, ,Wiganers, like the Queen of Tonga were not about to let rain interfere with the celebrations. To explain, it rained in London too on the day but The Queen of Tonga insisted on traveling in the Coronation Parade with the hood down on her horse-drawn carriage. In an interview in Australia her way home Queen Salote said "Although I got a good soaking, I enjoyed every moment of it " Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, I imagine impressed by Queen Salote's tenacity, paid a visit to Tonga in December of 'Coronation Year' Back to events in Wigan, everyone was in high spirits, some more than others as the public houses joined in the jollities. A few families had televisions and those houses were packed to overflowing with neighbours and new 'best friends'! You could tell which were the lucky households with ' tellies' the curtains drawn so to be able to see the flickering screens better. Others listened to proceedings on the wireless. My Aunty Maggie got a relay from Central Wireless specially for the 'The Big Day'. Relays were basically a speaker with 2 wall sockets one for The Home Service the other The Light Programme. The limited choice was compensated by a crystal clear reception. The rental was 1/6 (8p) per week. We lesser mortals ( those with no access to the little screen ) had to wait till we went to ' The Pictures' to see Pathe News, the cinemas of Wigan and district were packed, everybody wanting to see the ceremony. I remember clearly something being said about a prayer being heard only in Westminster Abbey, whilst researching I consulted the archive of Pathe News, my memory served me well. The Communion Consecration Prayer could only be heard by the congregation. Isn't it strange the things that stick in the mind! Everybody seemed overjoyed on the day, the privations of the war only 8 years before and previously the depression of the 1930s still clear in peoples’ minds, people were determined to let their hair down and as the song goes " Let's be Hale and Hearty - Let's Have Jolly Good Party " The Queen has been an outstanding Sovereign, unflinching ( I knew I would use that word one day) in her commitment to her people; she has certainly fulfilled the vow she made on her 21st Birthday. "I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong” I wonder if many people realise what a debt we owe to Mrs Simpson? Later the Duchess of Windsor, had Edward VIII married someone else and had children we would have been deprived of one of this country’s greatest monarchs. "LONG MY SHE REIGN". *Footnote- Queen Elizabeth’s was the fourth and last British coronation of the 20th century. (Edward VIII was never crowned) It was estimated to have cost £1.57 million (c. £38,680,000 in 2018). The Magic of Electricity The big day had finally arrived, we were going to have electric light, and two power points one in the living room, posh people in the parish would refer to it as the parlour, and the "back kitchen" always referred to thus both by posh households and we ordinary folk alike. I've often puzzled why "back" surely kitchen would have sufficed. However that was how it was, and our Mrs Buckets (we had quite a few in Scholes, believe it or not) and we less mortals called the room. I must confess that I still use the term back kitchen occasionally, much to the amusement of my grandchildren. "You can take the lad out of Scholes but you can't take Scholes out of the lad!" I hear you say . How true, I found such peculiarities endearing and still do. I loved my childhood and wouldn't change a jot, not for the world. We knew for several weeks that the magic of electricity was coming to our street, my Mam had the money saved to be connected for quite awhile, but a number of homes had to agree to make it cost effective for the contractor, 8 seems to stick in my mind, whatever the number we now had enough homes willing to cough up make the dream come true. No more going for gas mantles (made from a very fine gossamer) so fragile that you had to carry them back from the shop as carefully as you would a baby. The weekly chore of taking the accumulator (battery) to be charged, this was the contraption that powered the wireless in gas powered households, would also be a thing of the past. On the day the contractors were due to perform the miracle, I did everything in my power to wangle a day off school, sore throat, diarrhoea, earache, nothing worked. I must admit I was never really enamoured with school in any case, but today of all days I felt I ought to have been allowed a day off, to be present for the big "switch on" My Mother (Mam) didn't think along the same lines and reasoned or tried to reason with me that I would be in "in the way", and whilst I vehemently disagreed with her logic, in retrospect, as always she was quite right . The last thing a tradesman wants is a child asking "What’s that for?” or "What are you doing now?" Whilst he will say to the Mother, through gritted teeth, "if he doesn't ask he'll never learn" really he's thinking "get this kid out of here and let me get on with the job", or some less polite sentiment. The day seemed everlasting as I fantasied about life after gas, so to speak, I would be able to have an electric train set, my clockwork one could be given to someone less fortunate, a child living in a home without electricity ,it's strange how you can become so snooty so soon after being connected to the National Grid, I pity those who find themselves in such unfortunate circumstances, unlike our good selves, or so I assumed until home time. 4 o'clock finally arrives I run home with one thought "I want to be the first to trip the switch" Disappointment of all disappointments, the workmen are still in our house, the work won't be completed so the connection won't be until tomorrow, worse still the gas fittings have been removed so we would have to manage with candles for that night, good job we hadn't given the battery wireless away in anticipation me thinks. The disappointment is compounded when I realise that some of the adjoining properties have been connected and have electric lights burning brightly one of the houses hasn't even drawn the curtains, show offs! Never mind it'll be our turn tomorrow and we will have glass light shades bought from Adams Stores, they been sitting in the cupboard for months awaiting the big day, one for the living room the other for front bedroom, the back bedroom and "back" kitchen will have to go naked until funds allow. Younger readers will be amazed that things so mundane would need to be saved for, credit was almost unheard of in those far off days. Credit Cards would have been frowned on even if they had existed.The following day the workmen are in our house before I reluctantly leave for school, my Mam warning me not "mither" them, an instruction I obey, apart from getting a promise from the foreman that we would be "on " by the time I came home. The day passed as slowly as the previous day, then home to find that we were truly connected, alł 4 lights burning as the workmen completed final tests. My Mam had bribed the men to put on the afore mentioned light shades. I really thought we were very posh, electric lights, with shades and a tile fireplace, fitted only a few months before, such luxury, such decadence! This new found affluence would be made more obvious a few weeks later when my Mam acquired a contraption that fitted to the bedroom light allowing the light to be controlled without needing to leave the bed, ( known by one and all as a (Lazy Betty) now that was true opulence. The back bedroom had no such innovation but I was more than happy to jump out of bed to use the switch to give the kind light that came with electricity. Gaslight had the unnerving effect of making everyone and everything look a sickly green colour. Soon we were the proud owners of an electric wireless, my sister would spend hours trying to get Radio Luxembourg which she did intermittently, depending on atmospherics I imagine. My Auntie became a devotee of The Archers my favourite was Journey into Space. Much later a television set would take pride of place, now that was magic personified, but that's a story for another day! Television 'The Miracle' In an age when people have become blasé about the miracle of 'The Box' my mind often goes back to the first time I saw a television working. I had seen them in shop windows of course, but don't forget there was almost no daytime television in the early 1950s. Broadcasting started at 5pm with 'Children's Hour' it would then go off air until 7pm and go off air again at approximately 10-3pm. My first glimpse of a TV was throughout the window of a terraced house in Jockey Terrace, The first one I saw one working, so to speak. The curtains left drawn back so that neighbours could marvel at seeing the receiver. The ultimate status symbol in those early years of the ' little screen'. Obviously I had no idea what was on at that first sighting, very possibly What's my Line or a similar programme. I could only see one person’s head and and shoulders in each shot, and until the next time I saw a TV. In my naivety I thought that was the limit, only one person on the screen at a time. I know it sounds ridiculous but it's quite true ! I think it would be 1950/1951, I know by the time of The Coronation (1953)a few families were proud owners of this fantastic invention. I was once invited to watch Children’s Hour on a neighbour’s recently purchased set, a 12 inch SOBEL. Having become over exited I knocked a plant pot over, a red geranium in a green jardiniere, neither pot or plant received lasting damage, but from that moment forward I became 'persona non grata' in that particular household. Try as I may, offering to go errands or anything else for that matter hoping to get into good books again, alas all to no avail, a second invitation never materialised. I managed to convinced myself that it wasn't my fault anyway, if the plant hadn't been placed in such precarious position, if I hadn't knocked it over someone else would, and they would have been banished! 60 odd years later I'm sticking to that theory. For accuracy, rather than use national data about prices of televisions and average wages I consulted copies of The Wigan Observer for 1951 ( available on Microfilm at Wigan Local Studies based in The Museum of Wigan Life). I think this gives a better indication of how expensive a set was in comparison to income and shows what a luxury it was to own one. Using national figures I think would skew the figures. Haywood's, have an advert for 9 inch and 12 inch sets prices ranging from £44/00- £233/00. The latter a consul model with built in wireless! As an example, to show what a luxury these new fan-dangle contraptions were in comparison to earnings, in the same edition there's an advertisement in the Situations Vacant page for a labourer for North West Gas,wages for 44 hours £5/15 shilling Another example of wages, the N.C.B. (National Coal Board) rates for 1950, one week’s holiday pay was £7 16s 0d (£7.80) for adults, £6 5s 0d (£6.25) for 18 to 20 years and £4 14s 0d (£4.70) for under 18. Back then, a state pension was£1/10s (£1.50) with a further £1 paid to married couples. Even in families fortunate to have the wherewithal to buy one there was an anxiety about the cost if “the tube went” a major expense in those days. Consequently people would ration themselves as to time watched, in the belief the the less it was used the longer the tube and valves would last. I know of at least one firm Walker Bros, where the workforce formed a 'tube club' members would pay half a crown (twelve and a half pence) in the unfortunate circumstance that the tube failed they claimed from the club, this insurance didn't cover other malfunctions, valves etc. Older readers will recall how difficult it was to get a 'good picture' needing to fiddle with the horizontal and vertical hold, having stabilised the picture and returned to your armchair of it would go again spinning like a fan on steroids, atmospherics also played a part. If a lorry or bus went past the screen would fill with white dots (snowing). In what seemed a relatively short time TVs became much more reliable. Then, came an all new ballgame when ITV made its first appearance in 1955. Older sets couldn't receive the new programmes but it was possible to have a converter fitted to the back of the receiver that would make it possible. On the first night of broadcast from the new service the BBC, I imagine annoyed at losing its monopoly tried the biggest "spoiler” of all time, they decided that would be the night that a tragedy would befall Grace Archer and her horse Fury. It worked, The Archers had a fantastic following, it was estimated that 20 million listened to that broadcast. The figures for television ownership is remarkable, in 1951 only 350 thousand households had a set by 1960 three quarters of homes had one. Today most homes have numerous sets and other devices capable of receiving crystal clear pictures In the fifties, the hours people watched television were tightly controlled. The 24 hour broadcasting of today was unheard of. The Postmaster General stipulated how many hours of television could be shown each week. In 1956, for example, the BBC was allowed to broadcast television on weekdays between 9am and 11pm, with not more than 2 hours before 1pm. There was also a period between 6pm and 7pm when no television was broadcast. This period was used by parents to trick young children into thinking that the evening's television had finished so they would go to bed without complaint. It was known as the 'toddlers' truce', imagine that today! At the weekends, the rules were no more relaxed. A maximum of eight hours broadcasting was allowed on Saturdays and 7 3/4 hours on Sundays. On Sunday another anachronism reigned, television shown between 2pm and 4pm was intended for adults, children were meant to be at Sunday School! Gradually the rules on broadcasting hours were made less strict; The 'toddlers' truce' for example. May Queen. A sight that hasn't been seen for many a long year, 'May Queens' which used to generate so much excitement and was a very common occurrence. The Queen at the head with other girls holding her train, then the bit players dressed in any fancy dress they could put their hand on. Some seemed to put in more effort than others, as you will see later in the story. Many streets would hold one if they had enough children to make a show; some streets seemed to excel. Cambridge St/ Hardybutts seemed outstanding thanks to Mrs Wiggigton a sewer who lived in Cambridge St and seemed to be able make anything from her 'off cuts bag', thus 'The Cambridge/Hardybutts Brigade' started with a massive advantage over others with no such 'secret weapon ' ! Mrs W. was also very gifted crocheter making doilies for half the parish using different coloured silks, made into daisy shapes then sewn together to make one large floral work of art. It was one of her masterpieces that would come to our streets rescue, as you'll read later! Which brings me to my street, McCormick St., with only a few young children, certainly not enough to put on a descent parade, in such scenarios, recruits would needed to be found from streets with similarly lack of would be participants. That's exactly what we decided do on that May Day, to join forces with other streets, on the morning of the big event, realising we would miss out on a possible windfall from the collecting boxes that always accompanied the walk. The first overriding priority was of course was to find a Queen, no Queen no show. My street had a complete dearth of girls young enough for the position, when girls got to a certain age, about 10 self consciousness kicked in and no amount of persuading would make them take up the throne, so to speak. The year I write about I'm almost sure was 1954 because I remember some of the paraphernalia used at the Coronation the previous year was on show. We needed a Queen and quick we had a fallback plan, of sorts, to make one like a female 'Guy Fawkes' which would be placed in a tansad (push chair) to be pushed by the Page Boy. We needn't have fretted, we secured the services of a girl from a nearby street who came complete with her own net curtain and her Mum’s high heel shoes, along with some lurid plastic flowers. We'd cracked it we had our monarch, now for the rest of the retinue, my outfit already sorted, a 'pit man', my uncle’s pit helmet 'tommy tin' and soot from the side of the of the fire place smudged onto my pink cheeks. I recall our next door neighbour asking what shift I was on? This gave assurance that the ensemble was realistic, 2 of the lads had gas masks, bought from Kay's Army Surplus Store. I still don't know what they were supposed to be, likewise a girl from the same street as The Queen came in her Mam's coat, velvet hat and handbag, when questioned as to her identity she said she'd come as 'women' ! that must have taken months of planning, me thinks ! Scholefield Lane had quite a reasonable Boudicca, thanks to bits and bobs from the Coronation, a resplendent Queen in full regalia also from celebrations the previous year, ; we have a 'women' and a pit man ! I feared for our financial well being, donations are given on how well passers by judge each parade . I must admit I didn't see Schofield Lanes effort myself, and relied on reports from 'spies ' who would go from Street to street giving a running commentary and sewing seeds of discontent among the children ; come to think about it they had a lot in common with the Startsi the East Germany secret police. Back to our motley crew -several cowboys at least 2 soldiers one complete with a real bayonet snaffled by his Dad from his army days .a nurse, from our street about 4 or 5 not yet old enough to take the responsibility of being The Queen, maybe in a few years her time will come We were certainly a poor imitation of Cambridge St/ Hardybutts, but 'hey ho” what we lacked in costume we made up for in enthusiasm. Our Queen however seemed less than regal the lace curtain pinned to her hair with clips and forming a train for her attendants to hold while in procession, with strict instructions not to get it dirty as it had to back on the window later that day. We needed a crown, the girl who had come as 'a women' offered to lend us her velvet hat as a substitute, even at the age of 9 I realised that it would look absolutely ridiculous, and scuppered the idea before it took hold. We thought of making one from a cardboard box but time was against us , we'd spent all morning gathering recruits and sorting a route out, we didn't want to clash with another procession, particularly if they were better turned out than our crew! The absence of a crown was sorted before we proceeded. To the rescue, came our next door neighbour Mrs McHugh with the offer of a doily crocheted by the aforementioned Mrs Wigington. When placed on the Queen’s head seemed it appeared to transform the whole costume, so much so that I thought our Queen looked grander than our main competitor. Another neighbour remarked that she looked like "The Queen Mother on her wedding day". That was a backhanded compliment if ever I heard one! To be fair it wasn’t said with any malice whatsoever, on the contrary, said as encouragement to what must have seemed a rag tag of a fancy dress pageant . All parades had collecting boxes usually National Milk tins with a slot made in the lid. After the parade, the tins would be emptied and the proceeds divided on usually a strictly equal basis. In our case , the Queen not getting a penny more than the girl in the velvet hat who had come as a 'women', even though there had been a great variance in the effort made, a women! I ask you. Some of the better organised outfits would have a party in someone's yard. Ours being a last minute decision lacked any adult involvement and thus Mary Bakers little sponge cake adorned with icing and hundreds and thousands, and jellies provided by Mams would not be on our 'Bill of Fare' Ours being self organised, we had to make our own party plan so to speak. After much debate, we decided, if we collected enough to get a pie and cake each from 'Pie Joes' in Scholes. In the event there was enough with a few shillings over. The success of our collection was down to ours being a Saturday afternoon affair, which coincided with pubs closing time, some of the men with what used to called 'a ten bob sway' (slightly tipsy) would be far more generous then if we caught them on their way into the watering holes. Scholes being a big mining area was fertile ground for anything to do with mining and I must say my 'pit man' went down a treat, and I'm sure got us some benefactors we wouldn't have got if I'd been a pirate! At first there was general agreement that the surplus cash should be put in St Patrick's Church Decoration Fund Box. After our pie and cake - a few decided to spend their cake money, on 2oz of Sherbet Lemons from Telford's Toffee Shop, reasoning that the toffee would last long after the cake had been devoured. The split of cake and toffee deciders was on exact gender basis, all the girls taking Marie-Antoinette’s advice and opted for cakes. Then the final decision of the afternoon, the money left over after our picnic, and that's what it was, none of the Mothers allowing us to eat our pies indoors even though it was threatening rain, to be fair if the rain had materialised, I'm sure at least one, my Mam would have relented. However back to the ' kitty' the earlier decision regarding 'The Decoration Fund' seemed much less certain, and having reconsidered, taking into account my observation, (I still feel a little guilty about putting my ninepence in) that it wouldn't even buy half a tin of paint, and I felt certain Father Murray would rather we enjoy ourselves, after putting so much effort into our parade. It was then decide unanimously to take Father Murray's advice, albeit notionally, the kitty would be spent on Penny Arrows ( caramel bars) and pear drops and other such delights divided among the participants. Back to Telford's Toffee Shop, en-masse! Memories of Scholes A Town Within A Town I have very fond memories of Scholes. Born in McCormick Street, named after the second parish priest of St Patrick’s, this in itself made it part of the history of the the township. I describe the area as a township because that was what it was, a separate community in every sense. People had a feeling of belonging to Scholes first and Wigan second. The majority of men were miners, many women worked in the cotton factories both in Wigan and further afield traveling to local towns by coach, putting hours on to the working day because the pay was slightly better. I remember hearing the Knocker Upper rousing households and not leaving until a response was forthcoming, the lady who filled that role in the streets surrounding my home was Agnes Wynn who charged a shilling a week. Agnes, lived locally, and because of her job, went to bed early, children were instructed not play near her house, she needed her sleep, if she overslept half the parish would miss a days work! Scholes itself had shops of every sort, so much so that many older people would rarely visit the town centre as almost everything could be sourced locally, from ladies fashions, Vi. Almonds, to motor bikes, Millers, we had two cinemas, countless public houses and grocers, a Chinese laundry and a myriad of other businesses. Locals say that if they had put a roof over the street in its heyday, it would have been the first Trafford Centre! Many shops had nicknames, "Pie Joe's "being one, it's a wonder he didn't go bankrupt. I remember going there, sent by neighbours for a meat pie, they would send a large jug with the instruction to fill it with gravy, free in those days. I think the surplus was for use on the Sunday dinner! Another amusing name was ‘Polly do out’, a clogger, it was said she could put a clog iron on a bladder without bursting it! One of the less hygienic shops often had a cat sat on a flitch of bacon. Needless to say most housewives avoided that shop's delights. A temperance bar, though fair to say it wasn't the most frequented of venues. Public houses seemed a more tempting prospect to most. Similarly many of these had colloquial names the two most famous the Dust Hole, (Rose and Crown) this establishment was reputed to sell the best pint in the district, and was one of the last ale houses ( licensed to sell beer and porter only) and the Kill and Cure (The Regent) the latter because it was near to Dr Hoey's surgery . Whilst times were difficult for many, the feeling of community was tangible, even though many struggled and had little, they would share what they had. Anyone without family who fell ill would be cared for in the neighbourhood. People could leave the door unlocked, in my Mother's case she would leave the rent on the sideboard for collection. I never heard of a house being burgled. When recounting this fact the reply often comes back "there was nothing to steal" on the contrary, every house had a gas meter full of money, talking of which after the gasman had emptied the meter and left the rebate there was unusually spare money in the parish, children armed with shillings bombarding local sweetshops. No deed for ASBOS, “I'll tell your mother", or a more a portent "I'll bring Father Lappin, the respected parish priest of St Patrick’s, was enough to bring the most unruly youths to book. The overwhelming majority of houses were very well kept women would mop the step daily, and woe betide anyone who walked on their labours. Mondays was washing day, few had washing machines, dolly tubs and rubbing boards was the order of the day. It was said that there was a rainbow over Scholes on Mondays! There was great excitement when the first launderette opened, half a crown for a 9lbs wash, the price alas put it out of the reach of many families, An example that would have bought fish and chips twice, in the early 1950s! Every day a different task, bedrooms , baking another day and so forth. Thursday in our house was the day Mother would black lead the Yorkshire Range, I remember the cleaning agents Zebo and Brasso each with its own distinct smell, as had Mansion polish used on well cared for furniture. I am proud of my background, and wouldn't wish to be reared anywhere other than my beloved, and much maligned Scholes of yesteryear. Maybe you had to be born within the sound of St Catherine's or St Patrick’s bells to fully appreciate the wonderful atmosphere and sheer goodness of its people. I am often accused of looking back with rose tinted spectacles. I suppose there is an element of truth in that, but better that, than looking back in anger. Whit Monday Whit Monday morning has finally arrived, I live at the back of St.Patrick’s RC Church. Mam has been up and about for hours, ironing, last minute alterations, cleaning and polishing, not to mention baking, in preparation for the many visitors we would most certainly receive on this very special day. The first thing I hear is the sound of the bands and the bagpipes tuning up, Mam has left the job of getting me up and ready, till as long has she dare, in case I get over excited. I always need great persuasion to get from under the eiderdown, except on Whit Monday, Christmas Day, and come to think about it, Easter Sunday too. The teachers have been drilling us for weeks, on walking day etiquette, don't walk too close to the pavement, don't wave to people you know, and definitely “DO NOT TAKE MONEY”, the latter instruction was almost universally ignored. The excitement is palpable, it has been for weeks, possibly months, it is difficult to explain how important a day this celebration of Whitsun is in the homes of the Catholic community. Lining up outside school the teachers and the helpers, usually parish stalwarts, would remind all the children again on the etiquette of the day with the added proviso, not to walk too fast. Starting off at St Patrick’s Church we would process down Rupert Street, on to Darlington Street, very poor territory for me, being from the heart of the parish, I knew only a handful of people from that street, although my Dad had an auntie, who if she remembered me, might have been minded to give me sixpence, or being a relative, maybe a shilling. I looked unsuccessfully ever year for Auntie Maggie, or was it Mary? which ever, had she spotted me she would undoubtedly have given credence to the old maxim, blood’s thicker than water. After the poor pickings of Darlington Street, into Chapel Lane, then onto Caroline Street where the welcome (though not in financial terms) was absolutely unbelievable, the parishes of St. Joseph’s and St. Patricks, both with large Irish diaspora communities, had an affinity that was tangible, even to a child, I remember with great fondness the shouts of “Come on The Pats” from the old ladies of our sister parish. On reaching the Market Square, to meet up with the other parishes, the two already mentioned, along with St. Mary’s, St. John’s and Sacred Heart. The heightened excitement, was taken to an even higher level, as hundreds and hundreds of people, and the massed bands seemed to have no end. The cacophony of sounds all added, strangely to the solemnity of the day and contrasted to the almost silence as the conductor mounted the rostrum, to lead the bands and the laity in hymns and The National Anthem. I think you would have needed to have been present to understand the feeling of nostalgia and pride, when Faith of our Fathers was sung, hairs on the back of your neck would stand to attention. The National Anthem was sung with equal gusto and then what seemed the long walk back to our parishes loomed. The road ahead was going to be difficult, but realising that my best patch lay not too far away gave renewed vigour to my little legs, Scholes, Wellington Street, (The Wearing of the Green was always played when entering this street) and Hardybutts, full of Aunts, Uncles and older cousins, now working, as the modern saying goes "with disposable income". I would probably be able to buy a bike, or at the very least a scooter. The end result was a few Dinky Toys and a YoYoyo. I didn't want a bike anyway and scooters are only for babies. On finally reaching home we were treated like returning heroes, having walked seven miles, forgive the poetic licence, be it seven, or three (nearer to the truth), it was a long way for the afore mentioned little legs. Now the business of the day to count the coins collected. We hadn't ignored the instruction “Not to Take Money”, but it would have been churlish to refuse, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Your home would be full of visitors, the table groaning with home baked pies, meat, meat and potato, apple, jam lattice and of course two flavours of jelly, along with Carnation milk, few in St. Patrick’s parish had a refrigerator in those far off days, although most could boast a meat safe, a cupboard with a mesh front, usually painted cream or white. I suppose to make believe we had the next best thing to a fridge. I've never worked out why this devise would keep meat, milk, or anything else for that matter any cooler than an ordinary cupboard. All the aunties and female cousins would pitch in making pot after pot of tea, cutting the pies and cakes into equal sizes, they had to be equal to save any arguments among the children. As a child I always wondered where all the uncles and older male cousins where, and was told they were having a chat, only years later did I realise that the "chat" was taking place in one of the many public houses that adorned Scholes in those days. After the feast, the post-mortem, Mam had given orders that there should be no gossiping, everybody had done their best and that's what mattered. This diktat, along with the instruction from the teachers regarding money, alas was largely ignored. It was agreed that all the children looked lovely, but our parish just edged it, this sentiment would be common parlance in the homes of the other participating parishes of the walk. Then down to brass tacks. The women of the parish, and their outfits, Agnes such-a-body, had that suit that had been on display in Vi. Almond’s window, it looked very nice in the window, pause, enough said, and then just to ram home the point "It wasn't right for the fuller figure", and the fur trim wasn't appropriate for Spring. Mary so-and-so, had that same hat, that had made three appearances before, or was it four, my memory's awful nowadays! The conversation goes on. Not gossiping you understand just expressing an opinion, you can do that even in Russia, Auntie Janey (Mam), says one cousin sullenly, having been admonished for unflattering remarks about a parishioners’ choice of frock. I think the K.G.B. might have something to say about that, mutters one of the more politically aware cousins, almost under her breath. When Mam's back's turned, the conversation is returned to. However, I digress from the story. After a long day, all the guests had gone home, Mam has tidied the house, and so to bed. Sleep doesn't come easily, after all the excitement of the day and thoughts of next year running through my head. I will be a year older and will consequently know more people, who I will not want to offend by refusing the well intended donation, and maybe, just maybe, my Dad’s Auntie Thingy, might spot me, she's very well off, she used have a chip shop, and if she does, I bet she'll give me ten shillings, to make up for past years. What with that and my new found friends I might get enough for a racing bike, with a dynamo, and in any case it will be a year nearer to be able to have a chat with my uncles. Sweet Dreams! My First Day at Work I leave home in a very nervous state. I've been awake half the night wondering what the day would bring? Would the men be nice? Would I be able to come home at dinner (lunch for southern cousins)? My Mother made the morning more anxious, “Have you got a clean handkerchief?’‘ Have you cleaned your shoes?, ‘Have you got your dinner money? (...interpretation time again...). ’Mam’, I yell back, “Stop fussing I'll be alright if you'll just stop fussing, please. I'm not bothered at all about going to work. It's just you keep going on,” which of course is a complete lie. I don't think I have ever felt so scared in my life. I start my journey into the world. I had secured a job at Lowe’s, a very posh department store a week before. I would be an apprentice carpet fitter, considered a very good trade in those days. I felt very fortunate to have landed a position in such a prestigious establishment. As I near the emporium I start to wish I hadn't been so fortunate. I think a less posh place of work would have suited me better. I'm from a mining family, but from my earliest days it had been drilled into me, “You’re not going down the pit”. My Dad had been hurt in a pit fall and my Grandfather had lost a leg in similar circumstances. But if not there, where? The world certainly wasn't my oyster, I had done particularly poorly at school, spelling being my biggest drawback, (I am grateful on a daily basis for spell check ). In the mile or so walk from home to shop I convince myself once again that I am indeed fortuitous. On reaching the Market Square, I look up at the imposing edifice that was Lowe's Victoria House, a cathedral to poshness. Even though I had caught the bus to school outside it every day for four years I never dared enter until I went for an interview. Mr Lowe said my well written letter had impressed him. I had enough nous not say my sister helped me. In truth she had written it and I merely copied the missive. My Mother, likewise had never entered the hallowed halls, nor I expect the vast majority of my extended family, far too grand for the likes of us! As I gaze up, summoning courage to enter, I start to worry again. But here goes. At the interview I was told my start time would be eight in the morning, on the first day I would be met by Mr Marshall, Furnishing Workroom Manager, and he would introduce me to the staff. I enter the building just as the Parish Church clock chimes. A tall distinguished looking man approaches me, “Are you our new recruit”? he asks in a decidedly officer-type accent. “Yes, Sir” I mumble, trying to keep my voice as low as possible. It rises three octaves in a stressful situation. “No need for sir, you’re not at school now”. “Mr Marshall will do nicely” he says in a firm way. We take the lift to the top floor, I was relieved that we don't use the stairs as I imagine everybody is looking at me and wondering how I'II fit in worse still, if I'II fit in. We reach the workroom and it’s all very formal, as was everything at Lowe’s. I shake hands with all the seven carpet fitters and the four lady seamstresses. The ladies are all lovely and do everything to make me feel at ease. One in particular seems to take a shine to me, Betty, who I discover lives near to me. We walk home together every day and she becomes a confidant and trusted adviser on workroom politics. We are great friends to this day, a few years later we are to share the same surname when she marries my cousin Jim. What a small world Wigan is! All the men seem very friendly and welcoming apart from one who seemed less than pleased to see me. I shan't name him in case he still roams the planet. I learn later that it was nothing personal, he drinks heavily every weekend and is in a foul mood on Monday mornings. That first day seemed everlasting. My first duty was to go for toast at The UCP (United Cattle Products), they had a cafeteria at the back of the shop, a strange combination with tripe at the front and tea and toast at the rear. But that’s how it was and I was to become a frequent customer, going for morning snacks for colleagues. On this first visit I got flummoxed and the biggest mix-up was with the fitter with the hangover who seemed in an even more aggressive mood as the day went on. He threatens to thump me if I ever get his order wrong again. “He's only joking he's as soft as my pocket underneath”, says Betty trying to reassure me. I am not so certain. He has a mean look and I imagine that a smile has never visited his thin angry lips. I remember thinking I hope he doesn't frequent his local this week and that his disposition changes with sobriety. Whilst he appeared slightly more approachable later in the week, he was always disagreeable and once carried out his threat to punch me when I got his order wrong from the Millgate Chippy. I've never seen him since leaving Lowe’s and I feel I would prefer a meeting with Lucifer than an encounter with him, please forgive the hyperbole . On my first day I had decided to go home for lunch –see the poshness is rubbing off already. Mr Marshall greets me as I enter the shop bang on one o’clock. Mr Marshall tells me in no uncertain terms that a one o'clock start means just that, in the workroom not front of store, “Sorry sir, Mr Marshall”, I utter in a pitch as high as a violin, nerves doing their best to make me look and sound ridiculous. “Don't let it happen again or you'll be looking for another job” he says in the brusque manner that was his way. I half expected him to follow it up with, “And, you'll leave without references”, so Victorian did everything seem. So much for the formality of the first day. My time at The Cathedral has stayed with me for the rest of my life, even down to handshakes and other formalities, nothing like a modern High-Five by way of greeting! Lord forbid, but it was this very attitude that later I came to accept and I actually came to like, and traces of this old fashioned way of doing things are with me to this day! In conclusion I hope that some of the contents in this book lead readers to look at my home town with fresh eyes (mine) and in so doing see through the mist of bigotry and misinformation deliberately peddled by a one-time police officer from Burma. Today, I think it would be described as 'fake news'. I may seem to have been dilatory in taking up the cudgel to right a wrong that incensed me on first reading of it almost 60 years ago at St John Fisher Secondary Modern School, but is no less heartfelt for the delay. I hope I have managed to portray my love for Wigan, to show why I have been moved to put pen to paper, or more correctly finger to ipad. You see for me WIGAN has no PEER !


We're grateful and excited to announce that we've been awarded a one off capital grant from The Clothworkers' Foundation. The Clothworkers’ Foundation's primary aim is to improve the lives of people and communities, particularly those facing disadvantage, deprivation and/or discrimination. The money we have been awarded is for IT equipment and support for our Community Response Programme (running the phonelines and coordinating volunteers for the food parcels). More specifically, the grant will go directly towards ensuring that our volunteers and systems can handle increasing demand. It will support additional software licenses, laptops, an additional telephone number, and costs relating to a text message alert system for the next three months. As it becomes more evident that there is no short-term solution to the Covid-19 crisis, their support will mean that this effective community response effort can be a long term one. It will mean that we can continue to calm people with anxiety who are calling us every day with a new panic. It will mean that we can be there for older people who have no one else to talk to. It will mean that Wigan will come out of this crisis safer and better connected.

Thank you, The Clothworkers' Foundation.


We are pleased to announce that our School of Rock project is being supported by Youth Music, using public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The grant of £6,061 in emergency funding, means that that we can now restart School of Rock and reconnect with young people when they need music the most. The School of Rock is a collaboration between The Old Courts and Wigan Music Service which was started back in 2015 using a blend of professional music teachers, musicians and volunteers. Since then, School of Rock (SOR) has provided the space, support and expert guidance so young people aged 11-17 can create original music with feeling. To date, School of Rock has produced over 57 musicians in Wigan, a town with one of the lowest levels of cultural engagement in the UK and in the 20% worst areas for IMD deprivation. Jonathan Davenport, Artistic Director said: “Due to Covid-19, we had to close our doors to the public, meaning that we had no choice but to completely pause School of Rock. We run School of Rock at a financial loss but it is a project that we are passionate about so we make up the short fall with profits made on drinks and ticket sales but with neither of those things happening we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to continue with School of Rock until maybe 2021. This gap in the programme would have had a detrimental effect on our young people’s music skills, mental health, confidence and relationships during this crisis period. Music can open up amazing conversations about bullying, mental health, anxiety and grief and we recognise that we need to support our young people now more than ever. We would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Youth Music for their amazing support. Their grant means that we can make our studios Covid-safe, can purchase additional equipment to avoid mass-sharing, and can cover the costs of the programme whilst our doors are otherwise closed to the public. For our young people, this means that they can once again connect with each other, our supportive team, and their music.” Graham Millington, parent of School of Rock attendees said: “School of Rock is a unique opportunity for youngsters to develop their musical ability and perform regularly in front of a live audience. However, as a parent of two teenage girls I see far greater value in the School of Rock experience than simply the musical benefits .I have watched both my girls grow from their slightly self-conscious first attempts at appearing on a stage and blossom into wholly confident young women able to stand before an audience without fear. I have seen them develop interpersonal and management skills that will hugely benefit them in their working lives. They have learned how to work as a team towards a common goal, how to take account of competing aims to draw the best out of individuals, and how to listen and learn from others. Most importantly, as young women they have learned that their voices are as valid as their male contemporaries, and how to make those voices heard. The School of Rock has given my girls an innate sense of self-worth, self-belief and self confidence that money simply can't buy. I am genuinely immensely grateful to The Old Court’s team and SOR, Lindsey, Ben and the team do a magnificent job of drawing out musical talent and directing the kid’s energies in a positive direction. The SOR has given both of them a safe space to enjoy being with like-minded kids enjoying developing their musical skills and learning so much about what they can achieve together and individually. It is an enormous relief that this incredible asset can continue thanks to the funding from Youth Music”.


"Watching Goldfish Suffocate is not only a brutally honest depiction of mental health that has never been seen, it is a story of how the unconditional bond of love can lead one to the road of recovery."

We caught up with local actor, writer and film maker David Degiorgio to find out more about the upcoming film adaptation of his play, "Watching Goldfish Suffocate". Hi David, please introduce yourself My names is David Degiorgio, I’m 38 years of age and am from the lovely town Wigan! By day I work at the local Total Fitness Leisure Centre and at night I try and moonlight as actor. Bit like Joey from friends only not as talented! For anyone who isn’t sure, can you tell us what “Watching Goldfish Suffocate” is about? I've written the sypnosis below - just to add, it was originally a stage show before it moved into the feature film stages. Oh and when ya read the name Dave, it’s really me, as I not only wrote it but also star in it……. Watching Goldfish Suffocate is the true story of David, a man whose undiagnosed mental health (bipolar) spirals out of control, without him or his loved ones ever suspecting it possible to happen to a guy of his character. Whilst hiding dark stages of depression as just one off incidents, he begins to snowball into a realm of psychosis, where the explainable laws of reason are soon welcomed with open arms. Believing he has been chosen by a higher power David sets out on a journey of high stakes grandiosity, that soon turns into the destruction of his and his loved ones lives. Will David accept his slip on reality from his sisters strong will or will he succumb to being just another notch on the life taking illness chart? Watching Goldfish Suffocate is not only a brutally honest depiction of mental health that has never been seen, it is a story of how the unconditional bond of love can lead one to the road of recovery. During promotion of the play, David has used imagery of Barry Manilow and Wile E. Coyote as they are metaphors of not giving up when times are bad.

So, you previously brought your play to The Old Courts back in 2017. How did you find that experience? Erm, it was pretty sweet experience tbh! At that point the play had made good ground and its title was finally being noted as something connected to mental health and not a comedy as many thought when hearing it. Doing the show is always a great opportunity to spread the word on how sever the illness can get. I like to think that its story is unapologetic and extremely raw, we don’t pull any punches, and being honest about my own experiences really has shown that it gets others talking about theirs, and I’m all for that. Also it was at The Old Courts performance that I was approached by producers who wanted to turn the story into a feature film, which was amazing when I think back on it. I remember being at the bar afterwards, chatting with them, and though I was trying to play it cool, in my head I was like ‘PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE MAKE IT INTO A FILM!’ Sadly like many films, that move forward saw us falling at the final hurdle, but after picking myself up, I did something that I'm often asked not to do, and that’s think! I couldn’t get the idea out my head and because of that chance moment at The Old Courts, I’m soon going to start filming. Happy Days! You’re currently adapting the play into a film, how has the process been so far? Though I may have babbled a bit too much in last question, already answering this, I can say the process has been an absolutely amazing experience. People who know me well enough know that I’m obsessed with film, always have been from a very early age. In fact my brothers nick named me Barry Norman and whenever I’d done something wrong, as a punishment I was sent outside to play, away from my VHS player! Its also a nerve wracking experience, because for me, I truly believe the film could do some good in so many ways. However connected to that is a constant self doubt! I really want this to be something special for everyone to experience but throughout the process so far there’s always those thoughts of ‘is the script right? Am gonna be able to give the type of performance needed? Have I done everything needed so far?’ and on and on the thoughts go. And if anyone thinks I’m being too hard on myself then ill ask them read the synopsis again! But joking aside, I’ve got an incredible team working on this with me so far, which is enough to push me through the difficult times! BRING IT ON I SAY!!!! How has the casting process been? Are you still looking for certain roles to be cast? We are in the early stages of casting, at the mo we are looking for our two leading ladies and the response has been fantastic so fingers crossed there. Next we will be looking at the other more prominent roles, and since I have changed my job description in the film to be working at The Old Courts, this will mean we I need to find actors to play the real life Dave, Bec and Johnny, who run the building! Though I am worried about finding someone to play Johnny my old school mate, might have go scouting in Harrys Bar! Also we are gonna be needing extras, some with speaking roles and thanks to The Old Courts, once lock-down is over, I am going to do an open audition that I’m calling ‘A SEARCH FOR A WIGAN INDIE FILM STAR!’ I’ve always believed in the phrase ‘untouched talent’ and truly believe that out in our great town there are people who could be perfect for smaller roles, maybe even one of the big ones, who knows! I’ve already cast my mate Chunk in one role and he’s never done any acting before, I just know he’ll deliver on the day the way I need him too, so keep a look out for that my fellow Wiganers, maybe introduce yourself before hand and email me at We’re really looking forward to welcoming you back to The Old Courts for the filming, see you soon! You can stay up to date with the project by following @watchinggoldfishsuffocate on Instagram and @watchinggoldfishsuffocate on Facebook.


We've been chatting to some great local musicians in a campaign to get more people supporting local original music. Here's 5 minutes with Quaintest Show On Earth. Who are you?

The band was formed in 2013 by singer songwriter T.W. Jones, featuring a variety of musicians and song writers and is often cited as a music collective. They played locally, perfecting their show, then started to expand by taking it to larger and further afield audiences, including in 2019, a residency in Nagano prefecture, Japan.

QSOE has played mainstage alongside artists from all over the world at festivals like the Ukulele Festival of Scotland and the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival.

The Wigan band has released three full studio albums of original music, 2 Eps and one live album, now available on most online stores. You can listen on Spotify , iTunes , Bandcamp.

Their music has been featured on highly successful advertising campaigns reaching 100s of thousands. QSOE has had extensive radio play, contributed to film soundtracks and the band was recently asked to submit original music to the British Library.

Quaintest have performed many live sessions that have been watched online all over the world such as ' The Narrow-boat Sessions' and 'Sofar Sounds'

QSOE has helped to revitalise the local music scene with regular performances around Wigan and by helping to organise fantastic live music events. Also, putting a bimonthly event showcasing local talent and bringing in new performers from out of town to join in the music scene.

Since the sad loss of his mother, Jones has organised a series of fundraiser events called ‘Quaintest Show and Friends’ with the help of fellow local artists and often takes place in the fantastic Old Courts Theatre.

What 3 words best describe your sound?

Northern Alternative Folk

How does being from Wigan/the Northwest influence your music?

I have attended and played at Wigan Folk clubs and learnt so much about the rich history of local and traditional music, this has massively aided my writing process. I was always drawn to learning and performing music on the banjolele, made famous by the legendary George Formby, which helped set me on the path that allowed me to play at amazing ukulele festivals across England, Wales and Scotland.

Since 2013, I have been a Key organiser of the Wigan Live festival and performed every year. It has really helped to bring the community together for great causes. Many of the venues that we included early on, had never previously considered live music and have since become true venues with gigs throughout the year.

Whilst in Japan, many locals showed a keen interest in the music and history from where I originated and I would share stories and anecdotes centred around the songs that I played using the knowledge I had picked up over the years. My Father Rob Jones, who has been playing professionally as a bassist for many years across the Northwest has always encouraged and inspired me greatly as a performer and as of the past few years has become a pivotal member of Quaintest.

The QSOE Facebook page features a web series called ‘ The Wigan Songbook’ in which I cover fantastic songs by local artists that I have stumbled across, and share some information about the artists to help promote them, whilst also showcasing the true talent within our little town.

Just this year, Quaintest Show on Earth became the first featured local artist in the Wigan branch of HMV with the special re-release of ‘Day To Day Parade’. Being able to buy your own release from an actual shop, alongside the music of the greats, gave a great feeling of accomplishment.

I’ve just recently been informed that a piece I had written is set to be included in the Old Courts People of Wigan book documenting the thoughts, feelings and experiences from the Covid 19 lockdown period. I’m really excited to read the other entries.

What role do you think music plays in society?

In many ways, for myself and many others, music is the glue that holds everything together and makes hardship worth the while. It brings people together and transcends language. Its pure entertainment factor is also very important to me personally as a good show can really turn someone's day, or even year, around completely. I’m often so overwhelmed by compliments that I can hardly process the value of, but it enables the viewpoint that, in many ways, performance is not only an artistic expression but a public service. Key examples of this can be seen through music therapy and playing music in care homes, to those unable to go out to a gig.

‘Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands ‘

- Stevie Wonder - Sir Duke - 1976

If you had a magic wand, how would you change the music industry?

I would create more opportunities across the board and make it easier for talented, hard working performers and writers to profit directly from their art. There is currently a massive divide in the industry and appropriation of funds. I would also love to see more music brought directly to those who would struggle to access typical live music events.

What’s next for Quaintest Show On Earth

We’re all really looking forward to being able to play in front of live audiences again once it is safe. New music will continue to be written and recorded. I will continue to try and stretch the reach of my charity and community events and hope to venture out even further to play music for as many people as possible. Stay up to date with Quaintest Show On Earth by following them on social media:

Facebook: @qsoearth Twitter: @qsoearth
Spotify: Quaintest Show On Earth YouTube: Quaintest Show On Earth


We've been chatting to some great local musicians in a campaign to get more people supporting local original music. Here's 5 minutes with The Facades. Who are you? We are The Facades, a 4 piece indie rock band from Wigan. We consist of Alannah Webb- vocals, Luke Ashton- Drums, Sam Bowery- Bass and Evan Armstrong- Lead Guitar. We all met in college and played together a few times before deciding to start writing original music. We formed officially as a full band in January 2020 on the back of playing a few acoustic shows as a two piece in 2019. We did our first gig as a full band in February at the Tudor in Wigan which went down really well with the audience and we even got asked to do another song at the end of our set. What 3 words best describe your sound? It's hard to define our sound in 3 words as we all take influences from different styles of music, with bands like Wolf Alice, Arctic Monkeys and Jade Bird but also bands with a heavier style such as The Blinders and Soundgarden. But if we had to sum it up it would be 'Distinctive, Unconventional and Melodic' How does being from Wigan/the North West influence your music? We're lucky to live in Wigan because we can get to Manchester and Liverpool in 30 minutes on the train so it's easy for us to go and watch our favourite bands and artists and we take a lot of inspiration from watching other bands perform live. We're very lucky at the minute too to be part of the music scene that is happening in Wigan with bands and artists like Stanleys, Neptune Valley, Rivver, Flechettes, Island Dam, Joe Astley, Pink Shirts for Pale People and loads more (hope we didn't forget anyone!) all smashing it at the minute which is really good to see. There are also a few brilliant venues in Wigan where new bands can play and show off their music to an audience. What role do you think music plays in society? A huge role. Music is everywhere you go these days and there are so many different styles of music which is really good as you can take a lot of inspiration from that when writing songs. Music is very influential to the way people are and act and even the way they dress has been impacted by idolising their favourite musicians. If you had a magic wand, how would you change the music industry? We think there are a lot of things that we would want to change in the Music industry but a lot of it is probably better left unsaid! Having said that we do think artists should be paid a lot more from streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music because a lot of bands are left out of pocket after recording a song or an album which can be very frustrating. What's next for The Facades? Before the lockdown started we had quite a few exciting gigs planned which have all now been cancelled or rearranged to later in the year and we were aiming to have our debut single out in June which has now been pushed back along with all the plans we had to go with it. Hopefully once everything is back to normal this won't set us back in terms of where we wanted to be. Listen to The Facades' demo 'Better' here: Follow the band on social media:

Facebook: @thefacadesband
Instagram: @thefacadesband
Twitter: @thefacadesband Soundcloud


We've been chatting to some great local musicians in a campaign to get more people supporting local original music. Here's 5 minutes with Matt from Island Dam. Who are you? Hi guys, We are Island Dam, a 5 piece alternative rock band from Wigan. What 3 words best describe your sound? Energetic, dynamic & original How does being from Wigan/the Northwest influence your music? The North West is renowned for its musical heritage and its live music scene. The areas musical icons and the early gigs we went to first got us passionate about music. Often we look to capture elements of these bands and subsequently make it our own. More recently, the music scene in Wigan seems to have really taken off, which gives us an added incentive to prove ourselves. What role do you think music plays in society? I think Music is one of the bedrocks of society. It can bring people together, be a rallying call or a place of refuge. It’s difficult to imagine society without it. If you could a magic wand, how would you change the music industry?s I wish promoters and festivals took more chances on smaller bands. There’s some great bands out that deserve the opportunities to play to bigger crowds. Also, I think Spotify should pay artists more than they currently do. Listen to Island Dam's latest single 'No Fire Here' here Also, you can follow the band on social media:



We've been chatting to some great local musicians in a campaign to get more people supporting local original music. Here's 5 minutes with DEAFDEAFDEAF. Who are you? We’re DEAFDEAFDEAF, a band from a few different bits of the north west but mostly Leigh. What 3 words best describe your sound? We’re bad at this so this is what other people describe us as: Abrasive, Coarse and Noisy How does being from Wigan/the North West influence your music? Us being from the north west definitely gives us a different perspective. We don't live the same lives as say a band in a big city, there's a certain grimness about where we’re from and I think it comes through in our sound, a lot of our music is somewhat bleak and aggressive, there's a lot of frustration built up being from small towns where your only career options are working a manual labour job, working in an office or playing rugby. Any sort of ‘art’ is almost unheard of in Leigh. What role do you think music plays in society? Music plays a huge part in society, music’s literally everywhere it has the ability to do so much to people and a lot of music goes hand in hand with the rest of society. Musicians affect fashion with what they wear, music brings awareness to social issues and so on. I think we’re seeing more and more punk and aggressively opinionated music these days, it’s not really a surprise with the bleakness of the last say 5 years. So yeah music plays quite a few roles in society with the ability to change culture or sometimes it just acts as an escape for some people, depends what you’re into. If you could a magic wand, how would you change the music industry? Probably get people to buy more records than resort to streaming services. Also get rid of the many odd characters who use their position as a reputable musician to manipulate...there's a lot out there.

Listen to their debut single 'Proud' on Soundcloud.

Follow them on Facebook & Instagram


We've been chatting to some great local musicians in a campaign to get more people supporting local original music. Here's 5 minutes with LYNCHS Who are you? We are LYNCHS. A four piece, post-punk band founded upon sibling rivalry and childhood friendships. Before this crisis, we enjoyed a sell-out, headline show at Manchester's Deaf Institute and BBC 6 Music's Chris Hawkins described us as 'definitely ones to watch in 2020'. What 3 words best describe your sound? -Purposeful -Hopeful -Independent How does being from Wigan/the Northwest influence your music? We feel Wigan is the perfect musical melting pot. We are close enough to both Manchester and Liverpool to draw from their rich musical dynasties, without turning into replica Oasis/ Beatles cover bands with naff haircuts! We also have the most progressive council in the UK that actively supports and champions its artists. What role do you think music plays in society? Music allows people to escape. It can be the soundtrack to their good times and a force that gets them through the bad. If you could a magic wand, how would you change the music industry? I’d make it illegal for bad bands to reform! Stay up to date with the band on social media


Instagram: @lynchsband Twitter: @lynchsband Facebook: Plus, have a listen to their latest single 'BREATHE'


Lee is part of the welfare call team and makes many weekly phone calls to residents – a lot of them over an hour long. Here's how he's found the experience so far.

During the pandemic, your role as a volunteer has had an enormous, positive, direct impact on our community, what do you think it has meant to you? It’s made me grateful to be able to help vulnerable people by being ‘just on the other end of the phone’ to listen when they needed someone to talk to. I’ve also made a couple of friends out of this and are planning to meet up for tea/coffee once all this is over. Have you had any stand out moments during your time volunteering over the last couple of months? I helped out one of my welfare gentlemen to switch phone providers as he was wanting a new contract and didn’t understand all the options that were available to him. Also helping him with his food parcel that was cancelled for no reason. Prior to Covid-19, what was your experience of volunteering? Not much really, but it’s always something I wanted to do, but whilst working it’d hard to fit it all in sometimes, so whilst I have been on furlough it’s been the ideal opportunity. If others in our community are considering volunteering, what are the best reasons to recommend it? The satisfaction of helping others is the biggest reward, if it ever becomes available to volunteer for things like this, I would say do it 100%, knowing you’re helping vulnerable people is the biggest reward ever.

Thank you Lee!


Barry Sheppard kindly offered his time to the food parcel delivery team. We asked him a few questions to see how he's found volunteering during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, your role as a volunteer has had an enormous, positive, direct impact on our community, what do you think it has meant to you? Happy to be of help. Have you had any stand out moments during your time volunteering over the last couple of months? Just a routine and grateful people. Prior to Covid-19, what was your experience of volunteering? Prior to covid i have worked as a befriender for a local charity. If others in our community are considering volunteering, what are the best reasons to recommend it? Nice to feel you are doing your BIT!

Thank you Barry!!


During the pandemic, our lovely Courtroom Manager, Jasmine, has volunteered as a team leader on the food parcel delivery team. Not only has Jasmine coordinated 374 food parcel deliveries but she has also made several deliveries herself too. During the pandemic, your role as a volunteer has had an enormous, positive, direct impact on our community, what do you think it has meant to you?

At the start of the pandemic I felt quite worried, as I'm sure many others did too. Volunteering has allowed me to direct my energy towards something positive, in many ways it has helped me as much as it has other people.

Have you had any stand out moments during your time volunteering over the last couple of months?

One moment that really stood out for me was when I delivered a food parcel to an elderly lady who had been isolated for a number of weeks, she was quite emotional when she answered the door. She seemed really grateful, not just for her food parcel but to see another person and have a brief chat. I told her about our chat line and gave her a leaflet, it really made what we're doing feel worthwhile. If we can help alleviate even one person's struggle it's all worth it. I was just thankful I was able to direct her to some resources that may help. Prior to Covid-19, what was your experience of volunteering?

Before I began working at The Old Courts I spent 4 years studying education and child development at university, during this time I volunteered in numerous primary schools that were deemed to be in 'disadvantaged areas'. I feel really passionate about levelling the playing field in providing equal opportunities for all children, especially at a young age. Such a sentiment is part of why I enjoy working at The Old Courts so much, they serve a similar purpose in providing opportunities within the Arts for our local community.

If others in our community are considering volunteering, what are the best reasons to recommend it?

If you're thinking of volunteering I can't recommend it enough. Education, NHS, policing, mental health and numerous other public services are really struggling under austerity and with the biggest recession approaching in over 100 years, now is more crucial than ever to get involved if you're able to.

Aside from this the Arts will always need volunteers to make the events we all love possible. I suggest looking for local (CIC) charities as they're often small not-for-profit companies and will benefit from your help more so than bigger charities. Overall, all my experiences have been really fulfilling and definitely recommend it.


Dan Carty of Daniel Carty Images is a Leigh based photographer with a versatile body of work and a strength in capturing candid moments. Dan approached us earlier this year, interested in photographing some of our events. He's also worked with on the All Write Up North project associated with Wigan Libraries, as well as an archive project. We got in touch to ask him how it's gone so far.

During your time so far as a volunteer, what would you say was your best memory of an event? Meeting & shooting Wolfgang Flur was an utter privilege and was laced with personal teen memories and was so incredibly special. It was also great to meet and shoot like minded fans too, lovely atmosphere. Great to see the Old Courts team working together and I was most definitely made to feel part of that team as well. I also loved shooting the Camille Lepage exhibition, profoundly moving and images that very much resonate with me and my documentary aspirations. Again I got to meet personnel from Wigan Art & Culture department and was able to swap ideas. Best memory though would be shooting the Improv Night in the Bailiff Bar, meeting the artists/acts/performers including Phil and his team and the guys from The Something New Show Improv Team, Casino Improv. Small, cozy intimate venue which I am sure makes for quite a challenge for the performers, but for me, they were all fantastic. Small but knowledgeable crowd made for an inclusive and encouraging environment. Not easy, but achieved here in spades. Once again, I was made to feel very much part of the team, with a very warm welcome and very enthusiastic explanation of the aims and goals for the night. I felt as much a part of the audience as I did a member of the team AND an attending photographer. Good fun, good company, like minded people named a great sense of supporting smaller acts / acts starting out. Great night! As part of our team of volunteers, you provide The Old Courts with a crucial resource which helps events run smoothly and adds the personal touch which means so much to our visitors but what does volunteering mean to you? In this very specific example, I am very proud if not just one of my images is used to support The Old Courts, but that my `sytle` of shooting is recognised. Hope this makes sense as I have ALWAYS strived to shoot from a slightly different perspective? Volunteering of any sort (I Have worked with MNDA, MIND, SANE & The Bridge at Leigh) means a conscious decision to freely give up your time. In my opinion time is the single most precious commodity you can possibly give. This was my Dads mantra and I love to think that he would approve of me doing what he did so freely and with no strings and for so many. We host a variety of events, in your experience, which have the most valuable impact on our community and why? Very difficult to single out specific events however, I would have to say exhibitions, gigs, stand up etc that has gone on to inspire just one single person, that might not otherwise of done so, to go back again, pick up that guitar, beat that drum, scribe that first line, snap that image with that old camera - that then in turn means the introduction to a whole new world of discovery, meeting new people and of course fun and a sense of achievement. Then you would have to say that the regeneration of a building becoming a conduit to people making these personal discoveries has been an overwhelming success? If others in our community are considering volunteering, what are the best reasons to recommend it? A huge sense of community, team work, achievement - meet some wonderful new people, Slightly more personally - a sense of worth and real value both as a person and for the effort you put in, that your contributions matter and that others care and are appreciative because your contribution matters.

Thank you Dan for everything you've done so far, we look forward to having you back for more events in the future!

To see more of Dan's work and make print enquiries, head to Daniel Carty Images on Facebook


As many of you will recognise, Sue is one of the wonderful chefs here (The Coven/The Fork and Brush Arts Cafe) and part of The Old Courts family. She has kindly offered her time during the lockdown to volunteer in the Wigan community. During the pandemic, your role as a volunteer has had an enormous, positive, direct impact on our community, what do you think it has meant to you? I loved delivering the food parcels with Eleanor. As a shared experience it was beautiful. Also, it showed me just how much wonderful work is being done the whole time by kind, generous and inspired people such as Shirley and the team at Fur Klempt. No fuss, just doing it, and in a way that doesn’t view people as victims. That organisation already existing made the lockdown effort so much easier from the very first day. It was a reminder that there are still areas of poverty. They look and feel different and seem more hidden away these days. It’s easy to forget they exist. It showed me, both in deliveries and calls, that for some people this experience was just like their normal life - they hardly see anyone anyway. One person can’t talk easily because of that and takes a little while to get her voice going. Almost everyone has been lovely, regardless of their circumstances. That’s what I think people are, anyway, but it’s been touching to really see it under difficult circumstances. Have you had any stand out moments during your time volunteering over the last couple of months? Learning that one of the people I speak to is a published poet. You just never know what a person has done. Our first delivery was like a Benny Hill sketch without the rudeness. Chaos but fab. Prior to Covid-19, what was your experience of volunteering? Just pro-bono work as a therapist I think. If others in our community are considering volunteering, what are the best reasons to recommend it? It restores your faith in human nature, if you find that dwindling a little. Doing good things feels good. It reminds you that everyone is a person with their own story, and that you can help make that a better story, at least for a little while.


We are working hard to fully understand how your work can be better supported in our sector. ​ We are committed to helping you to fulfil your potential and filling out our survey offers us a clearer insight into how that is achieved.

Thank you!!

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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