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The Language of Lockdown is a book containing poetry and creative writing penned about thoughts, feelings and experiences from the Covid-19 lockdown period. ​ The idea of this book is to create something that we can all have to look back on as a reminder of both how difficult things were and how we managed to overcome them in different ways. At times like this we can sometimes feel helpless to affect change so in some tiny way, this is an opportunity to put your thoughts down forever for the world to read. The book contains over 150 pieces of writing and imagery by the people of Wigan and beyond. We're hoping to have an official release date very soon so watch this space. Thank you to Greater Manchester Combined Authority for helping us to make this possible.

As soon as we have an official launch date, we'll shout it from the rooftops. Watch this space.


We're looking for more volunteers for our outgoing welfare/ chat phone calls. We are looking for kind, chatty people who can make one or two calls a week to isolated residents. Even if you can only commit to over the Christmas period, it would be a big help! Please share and get in touch if you have any questions. Sign up here:


Earlier this month, we were interviewed by Ambassadress from Angers! You can follow their new Ambassadress from Angers page on Facebook to stay up to date with everything to do with the twinning of Wigan and Angers.

Here's the Interview:


Since the start of lockdown back in March an arts centre in the heart of Wigan have streamed 70 events, performances and workshops for free direct to people’s homes with The Old Courts (TOC) Live programme, and paid over 400 artists, with the support of Greater Manchester Combined Authority. And there’s no sign of them slowing down in the run up to Christmas. This year The Old Courts have teamed up with 12 local business owners to create a virtual Christmas Craft Market providing a one-stop place for shoppers to find their Christmas gifts safely online, whilst offering some much-needed support for small independent businesses. Each week between now and Christmas, more stallholders will be added to the site giving shoppers a variety to choose from and all at the click of a button. This year the pandemic and lockdown has forced communities to go back to basics, living a simple and slower pace of life whilst the country tries to unite in finding a solution to the virus. Many independent and well-known businesses have felt the impact on their livelihoods as well as their mental and physical health and wellbeing. The Old Courts wants to restore the balance by supporting Wigan’s local small independent ventures in the form or a virtual Christmas Market. The idea not only supports local businesses, but also provides audiences with a safe online environment to shop for their festive presents for loved ones they are missing due to lockdown. The Creative Accountant specialises in handmade wreaths crafted from lovingly recycled textiles and high-quality scrap ribbon - unwanted fabric that’s saved from going to landfill. Not only are the results a welcome sight full of Christmas cheer, but customers also play their part in supporting the planet with recycled products. Anyone looking for a stocking filler should visit Hannah Eve Emporium’s for the perfect handmade gifts with bottle lights to brighten up the dark days, candles for that cosy home feeling, and gorgeous soaps leaving you smelling of happiness. For those after the perfect gem for that special someone, or a treat for themselves after a tough year, will be sure to be drawn to the sparkle of Dragonfly Design’s pewter brooches and glistening ornamental mirrors and frames. Nook Ninety create handmade sensory gifts, accessories and home decor for babies and children who need that extra special care and attention helping to bring light into their lives during the dark winter days and nights. Cobalt Creations products are made by one man from his shed. Leigh based Kevin’s and products include handmade propagation stations which are perfect for people who may have taken up gardening in lockdown. With the lockdown still in place, many are spending more time at home than ever before, change things up with artwork, sketches, paintings and prints by Art By CEA and home décor by Jessica Swift. Put a smile on someone's face with a beautiful handmade traditional teddy bear by the international award-winning Nessa Bears. Once you’ve filled your online shopping basket with lovingly handmade presents, settle down with the family and enjoy The Old Courts (TOC) live programme of events. Families looking for ways to keeps their children entertained during the Christmas holidays will enjoy the array of fun, free, festive short online craft sessions on offer with local artists Anna FC and Klaire Doyle. These 15-minute make workshops will get those creative juices going. Grab the paper, glue, glitter, safety scissors and socks and make your own Christmas tree, sock snowmen, paperchains, pom poms and more. The perfect festive treat for kids and big kids alike. The Old Courts Artistic Director, Jonny Davenport said: Whilst we're sad we can't celebrate Christmas in person this year, we're thrilled to be able to offer an additional platform for local businesses to advertise what they do and encourage people to shop local. The Old Courts belongs to everyone and we believe that art and culture is there to create, inspire, engage and have fun with. And what better way to have fun than with a programme of free festive workshops and a virtual Christmas market for all to enjoy and whilst playing our part to support local businesses and artists.” Alison Unsworth, The Creative Accountant said: “I recently started handcrafting door wreaths mainly from recycled textiles. I would have loved to have sold them at a Christmas craft market, but as that isn’t possible at the moment, so I’m chuffed to be part of The Old Courts virtual Christmas Market. My products are beautiful, unique and environmentally friendly as the fabrics used are all up cycled. I feel strongly that we should all be supporting local businesses where possible this Christmas as it’s been such a tough year financially and it’s great that the Old Courts has organised this and given us a platform to showcase locally made and unusual gift ideas.” The Old Courts (TOC) Live was born directly out of the Covid-19 situation when the much-loved Wigan arts centre was forced to close its doors to the public. They wanted to continue providing free arts and culture for all and to help people feel less lonely and isolated in these uncertain and trying times and especially during the festival period. For more information about the virtual Christmas Market and the free TOC Live events visit


Exciting opportunity for paid work for Wigan's storytellers, artists and performers! Darren Pritchard and The Old Courts are looking for five exceptional performers to perform in a Wigan remaking of a classic Darren Pritchard show! Do you have something to say about the world around you? Do you have an interesting story to tell? We want to hear from you! We are looking for solo acts to be part of a uniquely special show staged in Wigan in March 2021. We are looking for singers, dancers, comedians, rappers, spoken word artists, jugglers, circus or variety acts or any other kind of performance talent that will blow us away. You might not have ever performed professionally before or might have performed in nightclubs, raves, festivals or in your friend’s front room. We are interested in your talent and anything goes! We are looking for people from all backgrounds and ages. You will be from or be connected to Wigan and Leigh Borough. The performance will be devised and will feature live performances (Cabaret style) with moments of honest personal storytelling – this will be created with Darren and the company in rehearsals. Performers will be paid a rate of £500 per week over the course of three weeks. If you are interested in being considered for the casting please send us a video of yourself performing your best talent (this can be filmed on your phone) and send us a short piece of writing (or film) about who you are, your story, and why you’d like to be considered for this show. Please email for any further information or with your submissions. Admissions must reach us by 5pm Thursday 03/12/2020 This performance is part of the Moving Roots project. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin w/c 15/03/2021


The Old Courts is part of the Moving Roots project alongside some fantastic arts organisations from around the UK. Our aim is to collaborate with local people throughout Wigan and Leigh to explore the practice of Co-Creation. Over the next three years we will be working closely with the community to develop new ways to create art in celebration of local voices, people and stories. The project is centred around three performances and the social change that these performances invoke. Our sounding board will be a group of local people who share our passion for celebrating our borough while effecting positive change and growth. We will meet once a quarter to share Ideas, discuss the issues and needs in our borough and how this can impact the art we create. You will be reimbursed for your time and this opportunity is available to any local person from any background. We are looking for a variety of folks from inside or outside the Arts industry, parents, young people, retirees, professionals, community leaders, and everyone in between. We want to include anyone who may have felt excluded from the arts and/or under-represented. We want to hear from as many of you as possible. For more information or to register your interest, please contact


Being in lockdown certainly doesn't mean we have to stop getting involved in fun family events. With The Old Courts, The Turnpike, Museum of Wigan Life, The Fire Within, Umbrella Arts, Healthy Arts & Project Inc all offering an array of workshops, quizzes and more, there's plenty to keep you busy!

You can see all the upcoming November events in one place on the brand new Creative Lockdown Calendar put together by Hannah Gaunt (The Turnpike), part of Wigan & Leigh Cultural Education Partnership.

View the interactive calendar here & click the event links to find out more:


The Old Courts: #Incoming is a monthly roundup of music from bands and artists in Wigan and across the North West. Are you a band or musician with music out that you want to share? E-mail Meg at with a link to the track, a photo we can use and a short landscape video to introduce yourself and the music.


Arts at the Mill CIC has been awarded £945,621 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure we have a sustainable future, the Culture Secretary announced earlier this week. We are one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support. £257 million of investment has been announced as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England. Further rounds of funding in the cultural and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks.

Our Marketing & Communications Director, Rebecca Davenport said: "We feel lucky and extremely grateful to have been awarded this grant. We had to make the difficult decision to close our doors in March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic so this money will go a long way in covering losses incurred in the organisation due to closure. The effects of the pandemic on the Arts sector this year is devastating and we've had no other option but to meet it head on and come up with new solutions. We have worked to continue supporting artists of all divisions with our online programming "The Old Courts Live". We now broadcast live performances, workshops, tutorials, seminars, vlogs and more several times per week to continue to provide creative output and to maintain cultural engagement for all. Doing this has meant we've been able to continue offering paid work in a time when opportunities for artists have become extremely limited. In addition, we've thankfully been able to maintain employment for all our staff members with a number of them continuing to work and some, having been furloughed, using their time to volunteer for the Covid-19 Community Response Team. We are going to use the next few months to engage with our community, stakeholders and artists to further develop our strategy and plan. This will be followed by testing and developing new ways of working with a view of launching our new programme in April 2021. We can't thank DCMS and Arts Council England enough for giving us this incredible lifeline." Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery. “These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.” Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”


The Old Courts has received £194,330 National Lottery support to help address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on heritage The Old Courts has received £194,330 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help ensure a safe future for their heritage spaces and activity for communities in Wigan and beyond! Since the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown began The Old Courts has been working on ways to adapt their entertainment to a virtual environment. The Old Courts developed The Old Courts Live featuring regular music, poetry, family, workshop events and more. They also wanted to offer help within the community, so we assembled a team of fantastic volunteers to deliver a Covid-19 Community Response programme. Working with Wigan Council and Fur Clempt, they delivered food and welfare parcels to those in need as well as operating a phone line for people who are isolated or lonely and need a chat. Their telephone service is still in operation and have so far they have made/ received over 800 calls. Jonny Davenport – Artistic Director at Arts At The Mill CIC t/a The Old Courts said: “Thanks to the National Lottery and its players we can now focus on positively impacting our community, embracing heritage and place-making with infinitely less existential worries. It has been a horrendous time for us prior to this support and we are eternally grateful for the difference it will make. We’re grateful that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting us at this crucial time – it’s a lifeline to us and others who are passionate about sustaining heritage and their community.” The funding, made possible by National Lottery players, was awarded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund. £50million was made available to provide emergency funding for those most in need across the heritage sector. The UK-wide fund aimed to address both immediate emergency actions and help organisations to start thinking about recovery. Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, supporting economic regeneration and benefiting our personal wellbeing. All of these things are going to be even more important as we emerge from this current crisis. “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are pleased to be able to lend our support to organisations such as The Old Courts during this uncertain time.” Like The Old Courts, other charities and organisations across the UK that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus outbreak are being given access to a comprehensive package of support of up to £600 million of repurposed money from The National Lottery. This money is supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and span the arts, community, charity, heritage, education, environment and sports sectors. Thanks to National Lottery players, £30 million is raised every week for good causes, including heritage of local and national importance. By playing The National Lottery, people up and down the country are making an amazing contribution to the nationwide-response to combatting the impact of COVID-19 on local communities across the UK. The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund is now closed for applications. To find out more about how The National Heritage Emergency Fund is supporting the sector at this time please visit: To find out more about the National Lottery Good Causes , visit:


We spoke to actress, writer & theatre maker, Katherine McDermott who recently spent some time at The Old Courts conducting research and development on a new piece of theatre, supported by Arts Council England. We discovered how she had to adapt her work due to the Covid-19 pandemic and what she has planned next. Hello Katherine! Why don’t we start by you introducing yourself?

Hello, I'm Katherine.

What do you do? I am an actress, writer and theatre maker based in Greater Manchester and I've recently finished my research and development on a new piece of theatre which was supported by the great people of Arts Council England. Here's to public funding! It's a bit weird but combines circus, slapstick and it revolves around a fictitious town called Twyllingdale and the two main antagonists are both women on the run. It's all a bit gory and hopefully funny but strange too.

The first of your audio plays has just been released this week – can you tell us a bit about it?

It's called The Story Of The Undiscovered Suitcase and it's set during WW2 on Christmas Eve in Twyllingdale. Imogen is an auxiliary nurse meant to be caring for injured soldiers and civilians but all's not quite what it seems. This was the original title of my R&D. This episode leads into what will be the theatre play - Imogen manages to escape at the end of the audio, but where does she go? This will be the opening of the theatre play. This audio drama has been produced by Bamalam Productions who produced your COVID podcast during lockdown and are based in Wigan. What drew you to produce these stories in particular? I have a macabre sense of humour and see the funny in the dark and the dark in the funny. I've trawled through crime and punishment records in Britain, serial killers you know, just some light hearted reading to get you through your day! I've been heavily inspired by Robert Aickman and Edgar Allan Poe, League of Gentleman, silent movies - Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin are my heroes, and Laurel and Hardy, and then the natural surroundings - walking through the Goyt Valley, getting lost in Hayfield, discovering and uncovering the dark secrets of towns and cities and bringing them to life.

You used space in The Old Courts for research & development, how did you find it? The space was great - there were some great books on the shelves which I was immediately drawn to - a book on strange tales and magic,crime and punishment, so it was a great place for me to write and develop some scripts. But during these weird times, the other members of the team were unable to be in the space due to COVID rules. The record store owner (Paul at Static Records) inside The Old Courts kept me company with great tunes and chats about Brandon Flowers.

How have you had to adapt your way of working this year due to Covid-19?

We've turned the work into radio plays and done more work online. So one of the pieces I developed at the Old Courts is called "Ravaged By Time" and it's a historical ghost story that's been filmed and will be streamed online in October. The whole project had to change. We couldn't do any slapstick or circus, we couldn't be in a room together and all the sharings which we were due to perform (including one at the Old Courts and Everyman Theatre in Liverpool) were cancelled. This was deeply sad for us, but I thought, why not bring the circus to the radio! So the next audio drama is May Day which is set at a parade and at a circus in Twyllingdale. Each of us involved in the R&D has been affected professionally. Sian is the co-director of the Circus House in Manchester which had to close. Emma was in the middle of a theatre tour before it suddenly had to stop. So I think the fact we've managed to somehow make and create work in the middle of a pandemic is pretty remarkable. What do you have planned next?

For this project I'm piecing each bit into one play and then we'll hopefully perform it in a theatre. As much as zoom has helped and streaming services have allowed people to engage with the arts in different ways, nothing beats being in a theatre. During the pandemic I was selected by the BFI to be one of their Northern Voices of 2020 so I'm right in the middle of writing a short film script for them which I hope to pitch in November. Where can people find out more about your work? There's a website for the project - and I'll be updating it regularly with work. We're also on buzzsprout too - and the audio plays are also featured on the Bamalam Productions website too - Sian Berry, the director, is the co-director of Circus House in Manchester and people can look at their great work here:


Ten Songs for a Lar is a global sound-based (music, sound-art, spoken word, composition) commission project The Historic Dockyard Chatham are developing for the Kent-Medway Museum partnership. Their first work is by composer Austrian composer Stergin and Wigan poet Louise Fazackerley. The project is centred around Lares, something which is said to be one of ‘100 objects that made Kent.’ The Dockyard writes "The Guildhall Lar is a bronze figurine believed to date from around 200AD. It was found in 1888 near Quarry House, Frindsbury, UK. A Lar (or plural, Lares), including the one from The Guildhall Museum are particularly mysterious objects. They are rare archaeological finds in the UK. Lares are primarily household guardian deities from ancient Rome believed to observe, protect, and influence all that happens within the boundaries of their location (home). Statues of domestic Lares were placed at the table during family meals; their presence, cult, and blessing seem to have been required at all important family events." You can find out more about Lares in their blog post here.

The Stergin & Louise Fazackerley track, 'Unwritten' is the first to be released and was recently launched via BBC Radio Kent Upload:

‘Unwritten’ is focused on a Lar silently observing everything that happened within a home. “If only this Lar could talk. What stories would it tell? Unwritten tells the story of a Roman woman and the thoughts she had while preparing dinner for the family.

Listen here: Speaking of the project, Louise told us:

"I’d never heard of a lar before this project- it’s basically a representation of a small household god that ordinary people can ask for help. I found it interesting that no-one knew where the lar originated- it could have come from Coccium (a.k.a Wigan) and there must have been lars in the Wigan Roman households. I wrote the piece imagining a woman who doesn’t think much of her husband but if she decides to divorce him, under Roman law, she would have to leave the children with him. An interesting conundrum!" Ten artists in total were commissioned for the project (Anil Sebastian; Ariel Chan; Cyanotape; Freddie Murphy & Chiara Lee; Iain Chambers; Lunatraktors; Donna McKevitt & Jan Noble; Quiet Boy; Stergin; Yeji Yeon.)

The remaining 9 tracks will be released weekly. To find out more about the project and artists, click here.

Here's a preview of the next track:

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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