Oldham Wakes Uncovered

‘Disappearing Britain’, 20/11/2006, 2100 hours, C5

For the purpose of this post, the title has nothing to do with a lost version of Sky One/LWT’s Ibiza Uncovered type programmes.

For the first time on a national television station, the joys of the Oldham Wakes were revealed on Channel Five’s ‘Disappearing Britain’.

The programme, a three part series, explores parts of Britain that have gone the way of the dinosaurs and Quatro, such as Oldham being a cotton town and the mining industry.  In the first programme, shown yesterday, Sarah Lancashire rekindled her memories of Oldham, with some background on her family and vox pop interviews with fellow Oldhamers. 

The actress (late of ‘Coronation Street’ as Raquel Wolstenhulme, and ‘Where the Heart Is’) also visited Blackpool, the seaside resort favoured by Lancastrian mill workers – which no doubt led to the Fylde Coast town becoming the UK’s favourite seaside resort.  Sarah saw Blackpool in her August 2006 visit as a shadow of its former self, with the beaches devoid of deckchairs and holidaymakers.

Using archive footage and vox pop interviews to back her story up, the programme explored the history of the Wakes Week in a concise way, plus the mills and changes in holiday habits.  She was also augmented by Stalybridge’s very own town crier Barry McQueen.

For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of the Wakes Weeks, this was a good programme and a good introduction.  Being a resident north of Birmingham, I found most of this as familiar ground.  Apart from that, it was good to see the North West of England given fair representation on national television.  It was good seeing Heron and Durban mills, and the sadly derelict Hartford mill on the telly.  It was also good to see our sub standard Pacer units departing from Oldham Mumps – a world away from Waterloo’s 8 car units.

Next week’s programme will feature Ricky Tomlinson, with his film on the mining industry.  This will be shown at the same time next Monday.

I’ll know when we’ve arrived, if we see televised coverage of the Whit Friday band contests. 🙂

S.V., 22 November 2006.

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