MORE than a thousand people have attended the post-work free gigs that have been organised across the borough - with some fans travelling from as far as France for a piece of the action.

As previously reported by the Journal, an innovative two-year project was launched in September that aimed to boost the local music scene and early night-time economy in the borough's main hubs of Wigan, Leigh, Atherton, and Tyldesley.

With a noticeable drop-off in after-work spending across the borough, Wigan Council successfully bid for government funding to launch the 'Early Doors Club' pilot in an attempt to reverse these trends and boost local business.

READ > More than £1k of 'counterfeit cigarettes' seized from shop

Leigh Journal: A variety of free gigs have been rotating across the borough in recent monthsA variety of free gigs have been rotating across the borough in recent months (Image: The Snug)
With the early evening gigs rotating from The Snug in Atherton to The Coffee Stop on Railway Road, and then onto St George's Church in Tyldesley and Hideout Cafe in Wigan, there has been real success as the project approaches the six month mark.

"The response has been amazing for the project so far", Ben Morgan, events manager at the Snug tells me.

"We've had more than 1000 attendees and people from all over the UK and beyond buying a ticket - with a couple from Paris even coming along to a Tyldesley show!

"There has been a great feedback for some of the more intimate venues too, like St George's Church and the Coffee Stop, and this is what we wanted because these venues wouldn't have even been open at the time when the gigs are taking place.

"We've also been looking at feedback from local businesses and there seems to be an influx of customers moving on to other venues after the gigs have finished, which is exactly what we planned for the project."

Leigh Journal: There has been a particularly warm atmosphere at the intimate St George's Church gigsThere has been a particularly warm atmosphere at the intimate St George's Church gigs (Image: The Snug)
With a free gig taking place at one of these venues every Friday, Ben said that organisers are "really finding [their] feet" after five months of the project, and are becoming more confident with what type of gig works best at each individual venue.

As the Snug is more centred towards a live band setting, there has been a particularly electric atmosphere at the Market Street venue, which has recently been featured on the BBC One Show following its purchase by the Music Venues Trust to secure its long-term future.

With growing optimism in the Early Doors Club, organisers will continue to feed back responses to Wigan Council, who will pass this onto the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and central government.

If the pilot shows a sustained increase in early evening custom, there is a real hope that long-term funding can be agreed for the project moving forward.

Leigh Journal: Bobby Lee at an Early Doors Club event at the SnugBobby Lee at an Early Doors Club event at the Snug (Image: The Snug)
Ben added: "The pilot ends in March 2025 so we're hoping that by that time we've shown enough results that proves it is sustainable and viable in the long term.

"It's all about supporting local business and local bands and it feels like we're really finding our feet now, so we're aiming to ramp up the project throughout the year and increase the frequency of the shows if possible."

The next Early Doors Club gig takes place at the Snug on Friday, February 2, with Mik Artistik's Ego Trip' taking to the stage. More information can be found here.