Blackburn is an inspiring example of how many groups, businesses and organisations are working together to innovate, attract new investment and improve the town centre.
It’s this hard work and dedication that helped the town win the Government-run Great British High Street Awards 2016. People really got behind a creative promotional campaign in the run up to the announcement. There was a feel good factor and Blackburn with Darwen Council used the opportunity to raise the profile of the town’s ongoing regeneration which has seen, amongst other things, a multi-million pound programme of investment for a new mixed-use Cathedral Quarter, the redevelopment of the Mall shopping centre, an expansion of Blackburn College, a new bus station and a new sports and leisure centre.
The impact of the accolade was immediate and long lasting. A high profile street party celebration brought people together and the sense of pride was evident to all.
The prize fund was invested in 20 gazebos. These were used to host four street fairs throughout 2017 which brought up to 40,000 people to the area. The Blackburn Improvement District team was keen to run the events on quieter Saturday’s during the year to maximise impact and keep momentum high.
Visitors strolled leisurely through the street fairs, spent money in independent high street retailers and ate and drank in cool restaurants and coffee shops. Revenues increased and the vibe was upbeat, friendly and community-led.
Asked what lasting impact the Award win has had on Blackburn, Councillor Phil Riley, Executive Member for Regeneration at Blackburn with Darwen, said: “There is a strong feeling in Blackburn that this is a town on the up, there is a renewed sense of pride and perceptions are changing for the better. We know that the award and the efforts behind it played a significant role in building momentum. We’re all working together for a common goal and there’s been a marked change in sentiment and a renewed sense of optimism.”
Blackburn College’s Director of Business a Development and External Engagement, Nicola Clayton who is chair of Blackburn Improvement District, added: “Winning the award in 2016 was exactly what we needed, at exactly the right time. Our best piece of advice for high streets thinking of entering this year would be to collaborate. Get the right people together to bring ideas to the table that will lead to real change. And enjoy the journey, its hard work but the rewards are clear and measurable.”