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Blackburn is Open with Wayne Hemingway

Blackburn is Open with Wayne Hemingway

I was very lucky that my friend Verity who runs Layla Faye invited me along to the Creative Hive launch, part of Blackburn is Open, an initiative aimed at regenerating the town centre areas of Blackburn in East Lancashire.

I was keen to attend this event as I am very passionate about regeneration and about Lancashire in general, an added bonus was that Wayne Hemingway was the keynote speaker and he made some phenomenally good points and raised some interesting questions too.

I have always been of the opinion that if a town can be full of independent shops then you are heading in the right direction as money taken in local shops tends to be spent locally again so it becomes a supportive cycle. However Wayne Hemingway said “People come to town centres to see things happening” and Wayne Hemingway refuses to use the term “High Street” because there is more to the town centre than just retail and he is right! When the shops close at 5pm-ish, the town goes quiet, there should be classes, demonstrations, discussions and more keeping people busy and happy and engaged.

The talk involved a few examples of towns that had made successful change and regenerated from grass roots sustainable initiatives “Visit Margate to see what your kind of people (creatives) have done there” it was reiterated time and again that change starts with us, me and you and should then be supported by our councils, the change is something we make, it is not something we are given. As an example Mr Hemingway said “You’ve got to make some decisions for the long term to see change, why not set up a live and work space in the heart of the town centre where property is cheap and huge, others will follow” this is where a new town centre community begins. This was followed up with “What is making a difference is where creative colonies take control of a town and drive it forward” a comment I would support wholeheartedly.

If you are not convinced by the cuddly community, creative efforts and grass roots changes that the creative community can bring then think on this, it was the opening thought for the evening but I’m going to leave you with it…..

“One of the major assets of this country is the creative industry worth £71billion”

Astonishing, don’t you think?