Gerrard Winstanley may not quite be a household name, but his place in radical history still merits a day-long festival in his hometown of Wigan. Back in the 17th Century, Winstanley, a textile trader who fell victim to abuses of power by parliament and the King, got together a bunch of like-minded people to give a voice to the poor, and those who did not own any land, a movement that became known as the Diggers. The second Wigan Diggers’ Festival, which takes place on Saturday 8 September, celebrates community spirit and the power of ordinary people, following the example set by the Diggers centuries before. The Diggers believed that the land should be available to everyone to dig and sow so everyone, rich or poor, could live and eat by working the land. They put their ideas into practice by taking over common land that belonged to no one, and was not in use, and farming it for the benefit of those who worked the soil. The idea spread, to the consternation of rich landowners and the corrupt government. Today, Wigan’s Diggers Festival celebrates the influential life, ideas and actions of Gerrard Winstanley through live music, poetry, film, tree planting, a ‘digging reenactment’ and, not least, beer; specially commissioned Diggers 1649 Ale and Gerrard Winstanley Ale will be available on tap.

Sat 8 Sep, Wigan Diggers’ Festival, The Wiend, 4-12 The Wiend, Wigan, WN1 1PF. Tel: 01942 886645/07724 139278, 9am-8pm, FREE,

Sat 8 Sep
Natalie Bradbury
Published on:
Fri 7 Sep 2012