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Festival to celebrate Blackburn’s Past

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The changing face of Blackburn through the ages, represented by the four phases of the iconic market clock tower, feature as the logo of Blackburn Heritage Festival. It takes place from 11-14 September and launches its publicity this week.

This large scale celebration of Blackburn’s past will be part of this year’s national Heritage Open Days event taking place the same weekend across the UK and organisers are using the opportunity to put Blackburn on the map. With planning well under way there’s an appeal for local people with connections to the oldest buildings, companies and organisations in the town to get involved.

Blackburn Heritage Festival organiser, Harriet Roberts said, ‘One thing that unites Blackburn people is a pride in our past. You only have to look at Facebook to see the passion around old photos and in conversations about memories about bygone Blackburn. As the landscape of the town changes before our eyes, we’re not just celebrating cotton town, Blackburn and the great industrial era. This is a people’s history festival of our memories, trades and talents with something for everyone – whatever era you grew up in!’

Harriet who works with the Blackburn BID team explains, ‘Until last year, nobody in Blackburn really got involved with Heritage Open Days. In 2013 I worked with a team of volunteer history enthusiasts that managed to increase the number of activities from one event at the old Blackburn Orphanage to 15 partners who staged free walks, talks, tours or exhibitions. Visitors came from as far as Cheshire and Wales because of the national publicity. It’s a marvellous opportunity to bring people into Blackburn.’

Harriet and a team of volunteers include Blackburn History Society’s Ray Smith and Eric Nolan, a well-known history enthusiast from Wilpshire, are in talks with a range of venues, societies, organisations for a programme of events and activities to top last year’s record.

Last year’s small scale festival included guided tours of Blackburn Cemetery, an exhibition about the Blackburn Giant, studio tours of BBC Radio Lancashire and visits to the Mayor’s Parlour. Ainsworth’s Jewellers on Darwen Street, one of the oldest family businesses in the town created an exhibition area in their upstairs showroom and Hobkirk’s created a museum of sewing machines through the ages.’

Harriet explains, ‘I’m delighted that this year we will have Thwaites Empire Theatre running backstage tours and an exhibition celebrating the old theatres which will take place in the town. Blackburn Cathedral will be offering tours of the bell tower this time. We have had interest from other new partners including the Quakers, the Spiritualist Church, Kings Court and Blackburn College. Blackburn Mall are planning a two day ‘Fashion through the Ages’ event with a celebrity guest.’

The whole town centre will be animated, which will include additional vintage themed activities to attract visitors of all ages to the town. These include a traditional, wooden helter skelter and carousel on King William Street. The fairground will include a ‘Carnival of Curiosities’ Victorian style entertainment marquee of vintage traders including an apothecary themed temperance bar outside the Town Hall. There will be an outdoor market, clog dancing displays and live music on Church Street and a display of vintage vehicles on Northgate outside Liz ‘n’ Lil’s.

To get involved contact the organisers through the website www.blackburnheritage.com

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