The Fire Within Festival ignites The Galleries

The Fire Within Festival ignites The Galleries

The Fire Within HQ 031

Simulations of the event in The Galleries.

A shopping centre in Greater Manchester is to be transformed into a vibrant hub of culture as part of a ground-breaking event reimagining public space.

The upper floor of The Galleries shopping centre in Wigan town centre will be completely transformed as part of Wigan Council’s launch of #TheFireWithin - a new manifesto outlining the borough’s focus on arts and culture over the next five years.

On Saturday 11th May, 11am-4pm, the manifesto will be physically brought to life with a free, experiential event in The Galleries including a range of visual exhibitions and displays. A two-hour slot of performances will also take place from 12pm.

The council, which owns The Galleries, is hosting the event as part of its plans to revitalise the shopping centre, connect new audiences to culture, showcase talent from across the borough, create exciting and diverse uses for Wigan town centre and attract new funding opportunities.

After commissioning three experts with more than 40 years’ experience in the field, Wigan Council engaged with a number of community organisations to create a borough-wide cultural strategy with a key aim to make the arts accessible and attractive to everybody and to encourage cultural investment in the borough.

The strategy was then turned into a visual piece of art with the help of internationally renowned artists and Standish residents, Al Holmes and Al Taylor, and was coined #TheFireWithin.

Speaking of the work, chief executive of the council, Alison McKenzie-Folan said: “Although we already have a significant cultural offer in Wigan Borough, we wanted to create something more inclusive that would inspire residents and visitors alike to engage with arts and culture in our thriving town.

“This needed to be more than a council document and we were very aware that this work could not be solely council-led. Our experts worked really closely with cultural organisations from across the borough to pull together the strategy and the themes within it.

“Al and Al, along with council teams, have since engaged with a range of artists and performers to really bring #TheFireWithin to life.

“The manifesto is written for the people, by the people and we’re really confident that the festival will celebrate that approach.”

#TheFireWithin outlines five themes that the council and its partners will explore over the next five years as part of their commitment to positioning the borough as a culturally leading district in the North West. They are:

  • Wigan’s future artists: 2019
  • Digital: 2020
  • Health and happiness: 2021
  • Every community needs a stage: 2022
  • A new heritage: 2023

Each theme will be explored through a range of mediums including art, music, dance, fashion and theatre and activity will be borough-wide.

Community groups, arts organisations, leaders in the cultural field and residents, will be encouraged to take ownership of the manifesto themes in order to inspire artists to work in Wigan Borough and encourage further investment in cultural activity.

#TheFireWithin Festival will be the start of this work. It will bring the five themes together, celebrating the borough’s rich history and exploring its future. It is hoped to be an annual event.

Six vacant units of The Galleries shopping centre are currently in the process of being transformed in time for the launch. The former Peacocks unit, now known as ‘#TheFireWithin HQ’, will be a central spot for film screenings and a range of performances including dances from local group WigLe dance, music from a 50-piece orchestra, poetry performances and much more.

Next door, the former Bonmarche unit will be known as ‘Heritage ICONS. It will celebrate five of the borough’s icons that are included in the manifesto including Kathleen Mary Drew Baker, Theodore Major and Sir John Scott.

The Museum of Wigan Life’s priceless Egyptian gold mask will also be on display and, as a nod to George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier, there will be several slag heaps included in the exhibition.

A variety of Wigan-based and inspired artists will also have their interactive work on display.

Alison continued: “#TheFireWithin Festival is in line with our wider economic vision and the event itself is a perfect example of how we can reimagine public space and utilise it in a completely different way to inspire conversation and bring people together to enjoy an experience. It’s also testament to our commitment to Wigan town centre and new future for The Galleries.

“We understand the importance that this work will have on residents’ health and wellbeing an on strengthening our attractiveness to employers and visitors. We are committed to inspiring the future generation and look forward to the event on 11th May – we encourage everybody to come down and see for themselves!”

It is hoped that after the launch event, the exhibition and displays will remain on show for visitors to enjoy throughout the summer.

Speaking of the manifesto and pending launch event, Al and Al said: “The arts are the face of a place. Wherever you travel you discover a place through the culture it makes.

“To be invited to design Wigan’s new cultural Manifesto is a great honour. We have discovered so many wonderful local stories we want to share with the world and shine a new light on our great borough.

“There is an alignment of exciting talent in our borough.

“We have met so many amazing people as we created The Fire Within. Everyone voiced their opinion to make this exciting manifesto. Everyone is proud of our extraordinary heritage and we are all coming together to create new work and opportunities here.

“We have worked with so many talented local people to launch our manifesto in this new festival which will be a ground-breaking transformation of public space. The festival launch will be a life changing experience and will inspire new dreams for our future.”

Only 100 hard copies of the manifesto will be printed. Each one will be numbered and signed by Al and Al.

To view the manifesto online, please visit www.thefirewithin.org.uk. To keep updated with the event, please follow Wigan Council on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Posted on Wednesday 1st May 2019
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