By British poet Atilla the Stockbroker:
On the Road: Digging Wigan‘s radical past
Monday 17 September 2012
On the road and then some this week. The weekend before last I was at the second Wigan Diggers Festival, a celebration of the life of local man Gerrard Winstanley, leader of the radical Diggers movement which sprang up in 1649 at the end of Parliament’s victory in the English Civil War.
It was held slap-bang in the middle of Wigan town centre, so the local shoppers were introduced to Winstanley and his ideas too – which is how it should be.
Glorious weather and about eight hours of thought-provoking and inspirational music and poetry, a film showing, exhibition, audio-visual presentation and – an important ingredient of any successful radical festival – a beer tent with locally brewed Gerrard Winstanley and Diggers 1649 ales. And about 2,000 happy people over the course of the day.
A big up to all the organisers and praise to just a few of my excellent fellow performers – Laura Taylor for some absolutely spot- n radical verse and Alun Parry and John Kettle, formerly of local heroes The Tansads, for some stirring songs.
I rounded things off with an exceedingly loud version of my new Sun readers’ anthem Prince Harry’s Knob, a thoroughly Tressell-inspired tale of self-delusion, which certainly seemed to go down a treat.
A few days later and I was in Peterborough for the We Love Words Festival.
It is held in honour of celebrated local radical rural poet John Clare, who has been hailed as “the greatest labouring-class poet England has ever produced.”
He was a noted opponent of the enclosure Acts of the early 19th century.
Then my wife Robina and I flew over to Guernsey for probably my most eagerly awaited gig of the year so far, a performance alongside the world’s best dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and punky reggae heroes Ruts DC at the Guernsey Literary Festival.
I hadn’t seen Linton for about 15 years and it was lovely to catch up with the great man and listen to his poetry again – mesmerising words imbued with that reggae rhythm he has made his own.
People were nodding along to his work and this was a spoken word performance! Linton’s supremely intelligent analysis of race and class in modern Britain is as relevant today as when he started writing in the mid-’70s.
A fine end to a wonderful week.
And, yes, I never forget how lucky I am to earn my living doing what I love.
A hundred years have passed since the publication of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Conditions have improved for some but the system of exploitation Robert Tressell described is as entrenched as ever. TREVOR HOPPER takes a look at the man and his work: here.
- English 17th century revolutionary Gerrard Winstanley (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Poetry My Soul (fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com)
- The Worst Poet in the World (theparisreview.org)