22 July 2009
Wigan Pier

WIGAN Pier should be transformed into an iconic cultural landmark centred around Northern Soul, a Wigan MP believes.
Ian McCartney wants to see the space, which has lain empty since the Way We Were museum closed in December 2007, become a vibrant Northern Soul quarter celebrating the arts, crafts and music of Wigan.
Wigan Council is considering an approach from the Makerfield MP, who believes a new project could capitalise on the publicity generated by a forthcoming film about Wigan Casino.

Writer Mick Martin has adapted his script for the hugely popular stage play Once Upon A Time In Wigan for the silver screen.
Producers Freedom Films are currently working to attract talent and finance to the project, which is backed by Mr McCartney as well as Wigan MP Neil Turner, Leigh MP Andy Burnham, Lord Peter Smith and Wigan Council.
Mr McCartney believes new life needs to be breathed into the floundering Wigan Pier project, which promised a multi-faceted leisure, culture and residential development until the recession stalled progress.
He said: "It seemed to me that Wigan Pier was supposed to be a range of quarters including arts and leisure and all we've got is the housing so far, and all the arts and leisure we used to have are gone.
"Everything's gone - it's an artistic desert surrounded by water. It was supposed to be an oasis for Wigan's artistic talent."
Mr McCartney believes Wigan can learn from the example set by The Lowry in Salford.
Not only is the centre home to the country's largest collection of LS Lowry paintings, but it also houses an exhibition space, two theatres and complimentary services such as bars and cafes.
Wigan's Northern Soul quarter become a similar cultural and historical centre "engaging people at all different types of levels," if the public and private investment could be found to support it.
The important thing, Mr McCartney said, is that all aspects of Wigan's culture are celebrated.
He said: "Wigan Pier started off and was very successful for a period of time as a centre for historical interest.
"But historical interest in Wigan isn't just about the pits or about our sporting prowess - Wigan is a lot more talented than that, Wigan's got a lot of talent past and present and future hopefully.
"So you are looking for something that people will be inspired to come to.
"It should be an iconic space, a space for people to come to Wigan and live and enjoy and a space for people from Wigan to enjoy.
"You can still enjoy walking through it along the canal now but it was supposed to be much more than that, much much more.
"It's not about the way we were it's about the way we are."
Wigan Council have welcomed the idea.
Martin Kimber, the Metro's Director of Planning and Regeneration said: "Wigan is rightly proud of it's Northern Soul heritage which is already celebrated in the Grand Arcade and soon in the re-vamped History Shop.
"We have not had any approach yet, but regeneration officers would be delighted to hear from potential partners who want to assist us with the development of the cultural quarter around the Pier and who have ideas about investing something complimentary to the projects at the Grand Arcade and History Shop which would further celebrate our musical legacy."



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