At The End of The Road to Wigan Pier – learning about local pride in my hometown with (northern) soul Page
Overview of Voyage D'etudes
Laura Havlin is an arts and culture journalist based in London. She gained a Philosophy degree from The University of Manchester and a Masters in Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire before migrating south to London where she is now an arts writer and editor. She is a contributor to A Magazine Curated By, AnOther Magazine, Dazed & Confused, Interview Magazine Russia, and Port Magazine, and is the UK Contributing Editor of LA-based Afterzine.
Maybe George Orwell set the ball rolling when he painted an unrelentingly bleak picture of the industrial town in his 1937 politically-charged exploration of mining towns The Road to Wigan Pier, reporting to the world not only the ugliness of the area – “…the dreadful environs of Wigan”– but also of the people – “In Wigan various people gave me the opinion that it is best to ‘get shut of’ your teeth as early in life as possible” – but Wigan has, for a long time, come loaded with pre-conceptions and stereotypes.
The town often finds itself at the punch-line in jokes or as a case study of grim northern-ness. At the time of my trip, The Wigan Observer had just published an article titled ‘TV show’s image of town branded ‘unfair’, in which council bosses are quoted outraged that Wigan was depicted as an economic failure. London it isn’t, and I’m certainly in no way well enough informed to comment on the complexities of the economics of the town, but what it does go to demonstrate is the innate defence mechanism anyone from Wigan seems to develop when it’s criticised from the outside. I too find myself reeling off the cultural highlights of the place of my birth on occasion to people whose only familiarity with the Wigan has been the derogatory jokes about ‘pie eaters’ or lazily thought-out television segments.
What Wigan has, that many other provincial towns don’t have is – for want of a better term – vibe. The birthplace of Northern Soul got soul, and, it wants to remind you of it constantly. On a recent trip back to my hometown, where my parents still live, I took in the local history that’s pasted on the walls, posted up on road signs and decorating the shopping centre.