It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Wigan.

Located equidistant between Liverpool and Manchester, the old mining town has stood proudly on the banks of the Douglas River, and later the Leeds Liverpool Canal, since at least the seventh century.

It’s been my family’s house since 1960.

I went to school there in the ’70s when Labor couldn’t decide what a secondary education would be like – junior high school was a brief and disastrous experiment – and also the position for my first job. My career in journalism when in the ’80s miners’ strike saw much of the north pitted against the Thatcher government.

Kay Burley, 15 years old, with her mother

Times have changed and although once steadfast with Labor – Wigan has been in the red since 1918 – support has dwindled as the population has changed.

The 2019 General Election saw Lisa Nandy return as an MP with a 6,700 majority and a 46% share, a significant drop since I included my first electoral vote in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher took power.

So now how do people in my area feel about the cost of living crisis, educational standards, high street investment and Brexit?

What effect does Brexit have on Wigan?

Warehouse works at Wigan pier on the Leeds - Liverpool canal.  Currently being redeveloped for housing and public access areas.  August 16, 2021

Almost two-thirds of my countrymen voted to leave the European Union and push half in favor of the Brexit Party in the 2019 European Elections, leaving Labor in second place.

What impact has all of the above had on the town?

I want to learn more and, over the course of the next week, hope to get the skin of people I used to know well.

Lisa Nandy told me that The Brick, Wigan’s food bank, is handing out ‘cold boxes’ because some people who rely on their kindness can’t afford to cook.

Meanwhile, a recent State of Aging report says pensioner poverty is on the rise and retired members of Unison’s union are concerned about the money worries Wigan’s elderly have to face. face to face.

Back to school

At the other end of the spectrum, more than 1,700 children in the town are eligible for free school meals during the pandemic. Breakfast clubs are still a staple in many of the town’s districts.

I’ll be broadcasting from my old school where my sister and I were eligible for free school meals when we were kids. How do the next generation of young people deal with the cost of living crisis at Beech Hill Elementary School?

Wigan has a rich and varied history on the high street and is home to some of the most famous brands – Marks and Spencer for starters.

2GFK0G9 Wigan Town Center, Lancashire, shops and shoppers along Market Place and pedestrian Standishgate
Shoppers along the Pedestrian Market and Standishgate in Wigan

Michael Marks lived in town while setting up shop. Pendlebury’s – the biggest department store in Wigan when I was a kid, then taken over by Debenhams. Unfortunately, one brand was less successful than M&S and the name disappeared from the high street.

I’ll find out what’s in there now and how Wigan market traders are coping when inflation figures are released on Wednesday. Some economists think they could be close to hitting a 40-year high – at a staggering 8.5% if their prediction turns out to be correct.

Uncle Joe’s Mintballs

Panoramic view of the Santus factory in Wigan, where Uncle Joe's Mint Balls are made.  The factory has been making this candy since 1898, Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Originally, mints were made for coal miners to help them free their chests while working underground.  Pic Dave Thompson

Then there’s Uncle Joe’s Mintballs.

Founded in the late 19th century and Wigan’s decades-long success story, the family-owned business has sold sweets around the world and even boasts a spot on grocery store shelves. sacred of Harrods.

However, times are tough, production is down to three days a week and owners tell us the business has a lot of work ahead. We will visit and see what the next few months have for Uncle Joe.

Kay Burley

However, there are still green shoots growing. Wigan Investment Group is aimed at developers looking to invest in town – wanting to work with developers and land owners. What might they have planned and how might those opportunities be challenged during the cost of living crisis?

Wigan’s success story

Away from the high street, Wigan is popular with celebrities and sports stars.

Rick Astley would never give up town; Richard Ashcroft from The Verve will have bitter sweet memories of life in the suburbs of Appley Bridge, where I lived near his family home, and actor George Formby was certainly spotted leaning against a pole lamp with a ukulele in the 1930s in Wigan.

2GFJY28 Wigan Town Center, Lancashire, Wigan Warriors Rugby Player Statue, Billy Boston in Wigan Town Center
Wigan Warriors statue of football player Billy Boston stands in the center of town

Our athletes must not bow to anyone. The Wigan Warriors football team is a powerful force to be reckoned with and always will be. My uncle Bernard played for the team as they strutted like giants across Wembley.

Not forgetting athlete Keely Hodgkinson, who won silver in the 800m at the 2020 Olympics. My sister Jacqueline and I ran for Wigan Harriers when we were so much younger!

Kay Burley (top right) and her sister Jacqueline (second from right) with the Wigan Harriers running club
Kay Burley (top right) and her sister Jacqueline (second from right) with the Wigan Harriers running club

And, a tribute also goes to Wigan Athletic, who beat Manchester City at Wembley to lift the FA Cup in 2013.

But how long before the Wiganers can afford a ticket to a football game or an arena ticket to sing with Rick Astley?

I certainly believe that living conditions were not captured by Orwell in his 1937 work The Road To Wigan Pier, where he highlighted the desperate challenges facing the working class in Lancashire, the industrial north. of England before World War II.

And make no mistake, Wigan has an affluent area of ​​homes with tennis courts and manicured lawns, where house prices start at well over a million pounds.

2CA3F8M Victorian housing in Wigan, northwest England, UK

But how do the vast majority of Wiganers feel about the next six months when the Bank of England warns that a recession is unleashed by the cost of living crisis.

We’re going to the council estate where I grew up; the school that taught me strong values ​​- and my twelve-fold table – and a man’s club labor for a local half liter and to take the temperature of part of the Northwest was proved to be common to the mood of the country.

See you from 7am this morning? Let’s hope so.

Watch Kay Burley from 7am to 10am Monday through Thursday on Sky News


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