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Willard Wigan remembers Northern Soul nightspot with former DJs and punters

By Robert Cox | Wednesfield | What's On | Published:

Microscopic artist Willard Wigan revealed the role of music in his unbelievably tiny sculptures while attending a reunion of soul enthusiasts in the city where he was raised.

Mr Wigan has become world famous for his minuscule pieces created in the eye of a needle or on the head of a pin.

The 60-year-old grew up in the Wednesfield area of Wolverhampton and as a teenager would attend the Catacombs club in Temple Street.

The tiny venue had a short life from 1967 to 1974 during which time it was at the centre of the British Northern Soul scene.

Former DJs and punters gathered at Quality Hotel, Tettenhall Road, to reminisce about the club.

Recalling his experiences, Mr Wigan, said: "My memories are of going through what felt like dark tunnels, it was so intimate, and finally getting through to the dance floor.

"I just remember there being amazing dancers and the whole atmosphere of the place - it was fantastic.

"Northern Soul just brings back memories of sunshine and the summer. That kind of music was just very happy and memorable.

"Northern Soul has never left me. I remember once I had a dream that I had gone to heaven and Jesus was dancing to Northern Soul."

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"The Catacombs was just an amazing, mysterious place."

Mr Wigan, who in 2012 sculpted a crown on top of a pin’s head for the Queen, said his interest in music went well beyond Northern Soul and that he was fan of artists including Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.

He added: "Music calms the soul. At school I didn't have a good time because of the way I was treated because of the autism problem that I had.

"So music was an escapism for me - music doesn't drop bombs on people.

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"If I listen to a good track, say Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, it relaxes me.

"I listen to it before I do my work, so when I go to it I feel really relaxed."

In line with his love for music Mr Wigan has most recently been commissioned to create a 'Giants of Jazz' collection featuring musicians including Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich and Bessie Smith.

And next month 25 pieces from his collection will go on display at Birmingham's Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.

It will feature some of his most popular sculptures including Evolution (from ape to man),The Last Supper and Golden Voyage - a motorbike carved from specs of gold inside a hollowed out human hair which earned him a Guinness World Record.

He told the Express & Star that remarkably the exhibition, which opens on August 4, will feature a piece even smaller than Golden Voyage - but would not be drawn on details.

He said: "There is a piece I am going to bring in that nobody will believe.

"I broke the world record for the motorbike inside a human hair but what I am working on is something even smaller.

"It is going to be smaller than a human blood cell and I'll be doing it by hand. It is going to be a shock for people."

Robert Cox

By Robert Cox
Senior Reporter - @rcox_star

Senior Reporter covering news in Wolverhampton.

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