To outsiders Blackburn, Lancashire, pronounced locally as ‘black bairn, lankish ere’ might be better known for the adventures of its football team rather than for its place in history as one of the greatest weaving capitals in the world.

Weaving transformed what was a small market town into a bustling industrial heartland.

Today, as Blackburn continues moving forward, it hasn’t turned its back on its making heritage and is home to some 4,000 manufacturing businesses.

From expertise in hosting world-class sport, events and cultural festivals to opportunities to accelerate regeneration and rejuvenation plans and deliver business benefits post Brexit, Blackburn’s bid for City Status has already generated overwhelming support from businesses, celebrities and the public alike.

There are hundreds of thousands of reasons why Blackburn should be a city in 2022.

So here are 22 significant reasons, in no particular order, why so many are ‘BACKING BLACKBURN’.

Asian Image:

1. Cathedral City

Home to Lancashire’s only 20th-century Cathedral – one of the newest in England and the Grade I listed Pleasington Priory, sits harmoniously close to mosques and temples, adjacent to the impressive £34million Cathedral Quarter complex – a bustling hive of activity.

Historically, city status was granted to places with diocesan cathedrals, and Blackburn is the centre of a diocese, created in 1926.

It covers the whole of Lancashire making it the one of the largest in England.

Blackburn Cathedral is a busy and vibrant place of worship, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and hosting large services, civic events, theological lectures and concerts.

We are a Cathedral town – one of the newest in England. The cities of the future will also be melting pots of different faiths and races, which breeds innovation and collaboration. Blackburn already has those essential elements, and we’re perfectly placed and already are playing a part in a global world.

Asian Image: Cathedral Reflection (Credit: Andrea Robinson)Cathedral Reflection (Credit: Andrea Robinson)

2. A place to innovate

The town’s entrepreneurial spirit is evidenced with over 4,000 businesses here and listed as a top place to start a business. With a Fab Lab science centre offering 3D printing and commercial prototyping, a new wave of ambition, world-class schools and a cohort of entrepreneurs leading the way, enterprise is something that truly sets us apart. A place that invented world-pioneering Formula One engines, interactive whiteboards, the world’s first western movie and the creation of the humble aerosol – innovation is in our DNA.

By the middle of the 19th Century, Blackburn had developed into a hotbed of inventing, making and manufacturing, a reputation that has remained to this day. Examples include Gordon Woolley’s Setco Company brought the first commercially available aerosol to the UK market in 1948 and later introduced the first paint aerosol. Brian Mercer was a prolific inventor and industrialist, and in 1958 he invented a revolutionary process for the manufacture of plastic nets that became known as Netlon, which is now used every day in sectors including food, sport, automotive, construction and engineering internationally. Engineer Keith Duckworth also helped transform motorsport by introducing the Cosworth Double Four Valve engine in 1967, which powered Graham Hill and Jim Clarke’s Lotus cars to victory. The local man Jack Walker also made a significant impact on the town. Following his father’s death, Walker took over the family sheet metal business, and Walkersteel was built to be a major force in the steel industry. Walker built the company to become the largest steel stockholder in Britain, employing 3,400 people at 50 sites. 1989 saw him sell the business to the British Steel Corporation for a reported £330 million; the highest price ever paid for a private company at the time. He also bought Blackburn Rovers and led the team to win the premier league in 1995. With our state-of-the-art centre, Fab Lab, we’re now inspiring the next generation of inventors.

Asian Image: Jack Walker Memorial (Credits: Mark Bolton)Jack Walker Memorial (Credits: Mark Bolton)

3. Integration

Many of us are from families who made Blackburn our home in the last sixty years, arriving from the Commonwealth to build new lives, which is why over 50 different languages and dialects are spoken. We’ve weaved together a cohesive and prosperous community where everyone is treated fairly. Faith and culture are understood and respected. It’s a place where people connect and form friendships that span every generation and characteristic. We have the potential, the passion; the ‘anything is possible’ spirit.

4. We have diversity for dinner

Blackburn is one of the most multicultural places arguably in the world, with over a third of its population identifying as Asian or Asian British. Over 50 different languages and dialects are spoken here.

You can find restaurants serving national dishes from almost every country on the planet, which means you never have to go to the same place twice.

Visitors travel from all over the country to dine at several of Blackburn’s renowned Whalley Range restaurants.

5. Business and economy

Home to over 4000 businesses and listed as 22nd in the top 40 list of places to start up a business and one of the major employment centres in the North West, enterprise and innovation are in Blackburn’s blood.

Blackburn is in the top 10 in the UK for having the highest proportion of private-sector jobs. Recent research analysing average wages compared to mortgage repayments found that Blackburn is one of the best places in the UK to make a living.

At the other end of the spectrum, in 1908, John Noel Nichols invented Vimtonic, which he delivered to cafes and temperance bars. Vimto is now a global drink, sold in 73 countries

It’s a place where talent is nurtured, and anyone can come to and put their ideas into production. This entrepreneurial and innovative mind-set makes our town a great place for new starting a new business. Between 2017 to 2021, our businesses achieved a higher level of growth (14%) compared to the rest of Lancashire (3.9%), the regional North West average (3.9%) and the national English average (4.2%). Our town also outpaces the Lancashire, North West and English averages.

Also rubbing shoulders with high-growth creative and services businesses are international corporates and locally grown companies known the world over. EG Group, which operates internationally is one of the UK’s most successful businesses; Graham & Brown is at the international forefront of wallpaper innovation; manufacturer GAP moved to Blackburn in 2015 to expand its composite building products business; while BAE Systems, a prominent local employer continues to invest in its aerospace facility in Samlesbury, where the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has also created a £25 million innovation facility.

Asian Image: Canal at Eanam Wharf (Credit: Mark Bolton)Canal at Eanam Wharf (Credit: Mark Bolton)

6. Distinctive features

Throughout history, our people have shaped the world. Inventor James Hargreaves revolutionised how textiles are transformed into clothing; Alfred Wainwright’s writings and drawings brought our National Parks and mountains to the public imagination; while Barbara Castle, Blackburn’s Member of Parliament for 34 years, pioneered the role of strong women in public life. As a trailblazing woman in politics, she would ensure that “equal pay” was indeed enshrined in UK law, introduced speed limits, seat belts and the breathalyser to combat drink driving, and authorised the construction of the Humber Bridge. Jack Straw, who followed Barbara Castle as Blackburn’s MP, also played a pivotal role in society, holding positions in government, including two of the traditional Great Offices of State, as Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001 and Foreign Secretary from 2001 to 2006 under Tony Blair. From 2007 to 2010, he served as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and the Secretary of State for Justice under Gordon Brown. He’s one of only three individuals to have served in Cabinet continuously during the Labour governments from 1997 to 2010, the others being Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling.

The Blackburn spirit, appetite, hard work, humility and love shines through in them all.

Asian Image: Barbara Castle and Blackburn College (Credit: Aneesa Sidat)Barbara Castle and Blackburn College (Credit: Aneesa Sidat)

7. Famous faces and Literary figures

Some of the world's most influential literary figures were born in Blackburn, Alfred Wainwright and Josephine Cox are just a few big names that were born here.

As it does from the poet William Billington and opera singer Kathleen Ferrier – who had a voice that captivated the world.  She was described at the time of her death, from cancer aged 41 as “the second most famous woman in the world after the Queen”.

 Samaritans’ founder Chad Varah, architect and city maker Derek Walker, Golden Globe winner Ian McShane, World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty, cult comedians Steven Pemberton and Tez Ilyas and the entrepreneurial Issa Brothers.

The Beatles are the biggest selling musicians of all time and it is Blackburn that they based their hit song ‘A Day in the Life’ recorded for Sgt Pepper, five months before the album was released. It all reportedly relates to the line 'I read the news today, oh boy'. In the same paper with the details of the car crash, John Lennon saw on an adjoining page, an article about the results of a survey by Blackburn's Council which concluded there were over 4,000 potholes on the streets. Hey, there’s worse things to be famous for!

Our citizens are also helping other people make an impact. As a town, we’re now providing places where new ideas are developed to help drive social and economic prosperity. Prism Contemporary, the Bureau and the Making Rooms are a hive of creative activity spawning new ideas. Mainly community movements, they help originate new and creative partnerships that engage audiences on a local, national and international level.

8. Transport

Blackburn has the transport provision and connections expected of a first-class city. It has fast, frequent and direct accessibility to the rest of Lancashire, North-West, London, the UK and to international destinations.

Blackburn is just 35 minutes from one of Britain's busiest airports - Manchester.

Blackburn also has one of the busiest railway stations in Lancashire with around 4 million passenger trips each year.

Up to 59 trains per day connect Blackburn to London. Manchester can be reached in around an hour and Liverpool in an hour and a half.

Blackburn’s central location and large catchment gives it the edge when attracting investment from retailers and businesses, allowing it to continue to expand and thrive as a location of national significance.

Asian Image: Blackburn Train Station (Credit: Lee Jorgensen)Blackburn Train Station (Credit: Lee Jorgensen)

9. An energetic and youthful population of 117,000, 58,000 jobs and 4,000 businesses

Like any successful city, Blackburn is a place, which is thriving and growing all the time. Blackburn with Darwen has a population of 150,000, with 117,000 people living in Blackburn of which 100,000 live within the urban core.

Over 40% of Blackburn’s population is under 30 years of age, and it has been estimated that Blackburn has one of the highest proportions of under 20 year olds of any major town in the UK and Europe.

There are 58,000 jobs and 3,980 businesses located in Blackburn, making it one of the major employment centres in North-West England.

Manufacturing, the public sector and financial services are prominent employment sectors in Blackburn. Major companies include BAE Systems, Graham and Brown and Precision Polymer Engineering, which has won a Queen's Award for Enterprise on a number of occasions.

The youthful energy contributes to a wide range of new businesses continuing to invest in Blackburn, including tech innovators, Sales Geek; Assystems, who are significantly contributing to the UK’s future Nuclear energy capacity, and capability; and the ever expanding multibillion-pound, Euro Garages, whose international headquarters are in the town. 

10. A university town with a £13 million campus

Thousands of students study on the Blackburn campus and the university has a diverse student base – attracting international students here.

The campus includes state-of-the-art teaching spaces, two huge libraries, plenty of social spaces to relax in and numerous cafés and restaurants.

There are also dedicated prayer facilities, free Wi-Fi across campus, on-site leisure facilities including a gym and pool and on-site salon and spa.

Asian Image: The Mall (Credit: Stuart Quinn)The Mall (Credit: Stuart Quinn)

11. Home to the National Festival of Making, British Textile Biennial and home of successful sporting teams

Blackburn has the capacity to host major national and international events.

Home to the UK’s National Festival of Making, geographically, Blackburn lies at the heart of Lancashire. 25,000 visitors from across the country flock to Blackburn each year to attend the annual National of Making.

Home to concerts in the park and this year, ahead of the Queen’s Jubilee a three-day festival will be held at Blackburn Rovers followed by Darwen Live attracting international acts.

Community spirit is very much alive and thriving in Blackburn. The town has a vibrant and active third sector, with over 500 charities and community groups, comprising hundreds of charities, social enterprises and voluntary and community groups, whose work is supported by thousands of volunteers.

12. A 'genuine city of the 21st century' Modernising the face of Blackburn

Over the centuries Blackburn has seen its industry change, its homes modernised and town centre completely regenerated – looking very different to the Blackburn it once was 20 years ago. It was awarded the Town Centre of the Year Award and has been crowned Britain in Bloom champions countless times!

The place promises to deliver 7000 new homes, 5000 new jobs and over 46 hectares of employment development land by 2037.

This would accommodate Blackburn’s growing population and will allow the area to continue to thrive economically.

With a history of being at the forefront of innovation, Blackburn continues to be involved in pioneering technology, with companies including BAE Systems leading cutting-edge developments from their respective headquarters based on the outskirts of Blackburn.

Blackburn will continue to provide the quantity and quality of facilities that the residents, businesses and visitors of a forward-thinking city would expect - a city steeped in history and a city building for the future.

Today it remains a centre for public law and administration in the town, as home to Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, the Headquarters of the East Division of Lancashire Police and the county, family and Magistrates' courts.

Asian Image: Cathedral Quarter (Credit: Lee Jorgensen)Cathedral Quarter (Credit: Lee Jorgensen)

13. A place to call home

There's the perfect property for everyone here! From grand mansion houses to traditional stone cottages and contemporary apartments, Blackburn’s architecture is wide ranging and you're sure to find the right property for your style and needs wherever you're looking. With 7,000 new homes planned there’s something for everyone.

14. Popular attractions for all 

Both residents and tourists can enjoy the many visitor attractions, which Blackburn has to offer, both within the centre and in the more tranquil parts of the borough.

  • Blackburn Cathedral - A 20th-century cathedral, which was awarded Grade II, listed status in 1951 and is the centre of the Church of England's largest diocese.
  • Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery - Founded in 1874, has recently worked in partnership with the V&A to support a national programme of design education with a number of secondary school students from across Blackburn

As one of the first purpose-built free museums to open outside of London in 1874, Blackburn’s Grade II listed Museum and Art Gallery, designated as a world heritage site, houses a rich and fascinating collection covering fine art, decorative art, Egyptology, coins, manuscripts, natural history, social history and South Asia. The collections were born from the proceeds of the town’s industry and the generosity of its industrialists. T. B. Lewis left his outstanding collection of Japanese woodblock prints to the museum when he died. It’s one of the largest collections of such prints outside London. A version of Hokusai’s The Wave and a significant proportion of Hiroshige’s famous series 60-Odd Provinces and 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road. The museum is also home to the world’s largest collection of beetles. Perhaps the best-known painting at Blackburn is Frederic Leighton’s ‘Mother and Child’, or ‘Cherries’ as it is more affectionately known, referring to the sweet child feeding her mother ruby red cherries. James Sharples is a lesser-known but exceptionally important and much-treasured painting; a smith turned self-taught artist. His painting ‘The Forge’ is one of the few in art history, which depicts the Victorian workplace fuelling the Industrial Revolution and is even rarer for having been painted by a smith.

  • King Georges Hall is one of the finest concert halls in the North West, hosting a wide range of shows, entertainment and concerts. This year it celebrates its 100th anniversary.
  • Libraries that range from small community-focused libraries through to large town centre premises, which deliver a wide spectrum of services from health and wellbeing, through to skills and activities focused on young people and vulnerable groups.
  • Blackburn Ice Arena is an Olympic size venue with seating for over three thousand spectators. It is open to the public for lesson and skating 7 days a week and is also home to Blackburn Hawks Ice Hockey team.

Asian Image: Blackburn Cathedral (Credit: Aneesa Sidat)Blackburn Cathedral (Credit: Aneesa Sidat)

15. A globally connected community

A changing population, especially in the urban centre, Blackburn is bringing a new youthful, diverse and globally connected community into the county.

In turn, this globally connected community is opening up opportunities for growth and innovation in the creative economy and wider cultural sector. Opportunities for market development – from South America to South East Asia – and new trajectories for cultural production are helping to renew the identity of Blackburn, Lancashire as a place of innovation and making, and developing opportunities for our cultural organisations to grow alongside these new audiences and to create employment.

16. A culture of making

Even before the Industrial Revolution, Blackburn’s status as a fertile place that made the most of its natural assets was established through its culture of producing.

Its innovative approach to horticulture were nationally renowned and has long provided the rest of the country with fruit, vegetables, prizewinning livestock, chicken and dairy. By the middle of the 19th Century, Blackburn, Lancashire had developed into a hotbed of making and manufacturing, a reputation that has remained to this day.

Now, Lancashire’s connection to the act and process of making is celebrated in a growing number of events, most importantly the National Festival of Making in Blackburn. It is a tradition carried on by the county’s world-class advanced manufacturers, such as BAE Systems, neighbouring Darwen Terracotta, who recently collaborated with artist, Grayson Perry, to create his tiled artwork, ‘A House For Essex’ for the ‘Structures in Ceramics Exhibition’ at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery; by designer makers and crafts people, artists and producers, such as internationally- renowned and commercially successful sculptor, Charles Hadcock, based at Roach Bridge Mill in Salmesbury, who are putting the concept of ‘making’ at the heart of their strategies and programmes.

 Indeed, it is through craft, design and making that the cultural life continues to thrive – from the innovation and resourcefulness of its festivals, to the specialisms of its university and educational establishments.

Asian Image: Blackburn College (Credit: Stuart Quinn)Blackburn College (Credit: Stuart Quinn)

17. World-class education

Meanwhile, Blackburn’s university Centre and college settings are increasing their footprints and impact beyond teaching and research, playing ever-stronger roles in local communities through knowledge exchange with industry, commissioning of events and festivals, and providing professional support for entrepreneurs and cultural professionals.

Individually, higher education institutions manage theatres and art galleries that cater for the wider community. They also manage programmes of support for artists and deliver cross-department crossover projects, which bring culture together with technology and other specialisms across a broad spectrum.

Our educational settings, of course, are also vital providers of cultural and creative talent, infusing the local economy with highly skilled and entrepreneurial people. With the ongoing expansion and diversification of the university, and a continuing shift toward stronger industry partnerships and closer alignment to civic and place-making agendas, their role in supporting the growth and innovation of the wider global cultural sector will become even more important.

18. A place steeped in history

It has history going way back. There's evidence to show that there were settlements in recorded in the Domesday Book as Blacheborne in 1086. By the time of John Speed's map of 1610, the spelling of the town becomes Blackburn. Blackburn is a former mill town, where textiles have been produced since the middle of the 13th Century. Flemish weavers settled in the area during the 14th Century and developed the woollen cottage industry. Darwen Street is the oldest place of settlement in town. Made a Conservation area in 1994 its Blackburn’s earliest historic centre and includes the course of a Roman road that historically ran northwards between Manchester and Ribchester.

Its industrial history dates back to the middle 1600s when the first textile manufacture was introduced – the weaving of a check cloth composed of linen and cotton. The period from 1780 to 1880 was one of constant strife between the cotton workers and the mill owners and yet Blackburn was a boomtown. In that era, its population grew from its village status to a town of a 100,000 inhabitants.

In 1826, Blackburn was at the centre of anti-powerloom ‘Luddite’ riots when a mob arrived in the town after attacking powerlooms in Accrington. Proceeding to Bannister Eccles' Jubilee Factory on Jubilee Street, the mob destroyed 212 powerlooms in the space of 35 minutes. It notably gives context to the Lancashire renowned expression: ‘There’s trouble int ’th’mill’

Hidden at the back of Railway Road between the Adelphi pub and the former Newspaper House building lies the ancient ‘All Hallows Spring’, which is believed to have been the site of a Roman Temple and was then a place of medieval ‘pilgrimage and healing’. It led to a nearby Anglo-Saxon Church nearby recorded in 598AD, which became the Parish Church and then the Cathedral.

Blackburn has been associated with many improvements in the manufacture of cotton, among which was the invention (1767) of the "spinning jenny" which was invented by James Hargreaves, who worked in Blackburn and died in 1770.

Asian Image: Daisyfield Mill (Credit: Elouise Pemberton)Daisyfield Mill (Credit: Elouise Pemberton)

19. Museum of mystery

We have an Egyptian mummy and are home to the World’s largest beetle collection!

The rich collections now housed at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery were born from the proceeds of the town’s industry and the generosity of its industrialists. Perhaps the best-known painting at Blackburn is Frederic Leighton’s 'Mother and Child', or ‘Cherries’ as it is more affectionately known, referring to the sweet child feeding her mother ruby red cherries. A lesser-known but exceptionally important and much treasured painting is by James Sharples, a smith turned self-taught artist. His painting 'The Forge' is one of the few in art history, which depicts the Victorian workplace fuelling the Industrial Revolution and is even rarer for having been painted by a smith. The atmospherically dark canvas is only illuminated by the roaring forge fire, which glows orange on the faces of the blacksmiths. The Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery has collections of Christian icons, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and local history, as well as those of the former Lewis Textile Museum

20. Royal connections

The Queen Victoria statue on the Boulevard erected in 1905 was originally planned for Corporation Park, opened in 1857. James Hargreaves, founder of a prominent Blackburn wholesale tobacconists and confectioners, raised the cash for the statue commemorating Britain’s longest reigning monarch by public subscription after her death in 1901.

Queens Park was laid out in 1885. Fast-forward a century, in 1967, a relay team of boys from Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School ran to Windsor Castle, to deliver a birthday message to the Queen. 14 teenagers made the 215 mile run with Peter Mitchell, who was deputy head and captain of the cross-country team at the time, to arrive at the King Henry VIII gate and hand over the Royal greeting.

In 2006 the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital opened – which serves the whole of Pennine Lancashire.

21. Oodles of countryside and parkland

Public green spaces, stunning countryside and the West Pennine Moors surround Blackburn as a semi-rural haven. Over 40% of Blackburn’s borough is countryside and has approximately 1,000 acres of public green spaces, including Corporation Park, Witton Country Park, Queens Park, Roe Lee Park, Pleasington Playing Fields and Billinge Woods.

Witton Country Park at 480 acres is one of the largest urban open spaces in the country. The land was purchased by the municipal authorities in 1946 and was the ancestral home of the Feilden family. It is larger than all the town's other parks and playing fields put together. With a full-size athletic track, recently redeveloped, it is home to the Blackburn Harriers which produced three finalists London Olympics – hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon, pole-vaulter Holy Bleasdale, and modern pentathlon silver medallist Sam Murray.

Asian Image: Corporation Park (Credit: Aneesa Sidat)Corporation Park (Credit: Aneesa Sidat)

22. Finally, last but not least Football

If you're a football history fan, then Blackburn has it all. It is the was the birthplace of the beautiful game as a founding member of the Football League.

We are very proud of home town club Blackburn Rovers FC: Did we mention?, founder members of the Football League, six times winners of the FA Cup, Premier League Champions in 1995 – the only town team to ever win it -  League Cup Winners in 2002 and qualifiers for Europe on seven occasions. Football is much more than a tradition in Lancashire.

Asian Image: