Focus Group Backs Blackburn City Bid

Local people got the opportunity to voice their opinions on Blackburn’s attempt to become a city in an event held last week.

The focus group arranged by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council alongside local charity One Voice Blackburn took place in Bangor St Community Centre.

One Voice Blackburn is supporting the #BackingBlackburn campaign launched by the council in a bid to land city status as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations next year.

Over a dozen invited guests took part in the 90 minute long workshop to gather the public’s views on the strengths of Blackburn, alongside what makes Blackburn unique.

While many of those who took part cited the importance of heritage they indicated that the way the town transformed itself from its past is also a major success story.

“I could have lived anywhere but chose to stay here because the people and the location are great. I can be anywhere in an hour via the motorway or the train station,” said Phil Boulding.

 “Blackburn has an outstanding college, university centre and the two best state schools in the country,” said Sundas Bakhat.

“We have the success of the business community including the Issa Brothers, Graham and Brown and many others,” said Polish-born Agnieszka Kwiecien. “Blackburn is a great place and a great place to start a business.”

All the attendees agreed that it was the right time for the application to become a city, and many felt that the town acted and behaved like a city.

“I visit many other cities around the country and I feel that Blackburn can stand toe to toe with many of them,” said Shen Mulla.

Tinta Ali, who was born on the Ivory Coast and now lives in Blackburn, said: “I’ve practically come from another world as an outsider here and I’ve found Blackburn is a place of tolerance, resilience and diversity. It has remained cool and calm and there’s a sense of peace between different communities. It’s the people who make this a city – you can be together, friendly and have a family feel to be a city.”

The focus group participants were also quick to point out some key landmark factors in making the bid as strong as possible.

“This is the only town that I can think of that has a cathedral,” continued Sundas Bakhat. “We also have a 100 year old venue in King George’s Hall which was opened by the King himself, and a football stadium fit for the Premier League.”

The focus group also recommended the wonderful diversity of Blackburn be noted, and the fact that many people are now flocking to the town for their excellent culinary delights, as well as education, the local welcome and the breadth of volunteer organisations.

The Queen is due to confer city status on one or more towns next year to mark her 70 years on the throne. The application will be submitted this month, with the decision announced around May 2022.

Cllr Quesir Mahmood, who is leading on the bid and business engagement, who also attended the workshop said: “The reaction and positivity for Blackburn to become a city really shone through at that event.

“There were so many different faces, ages and races around the table, all with their unique perspectives on why Blackburn is special. But what came out loud and clear was that we are a place that cares and collaborates.”

“Our diverse people and the spirit that lies within are our strengths. I speak to people who travel to different cities and around the world but come back to Blackburn because they get the support here and feel the place and its people can’t do enough for you. Blackburn is full of opportunities and the door is always open. Over 50% of houses sold here are to people coming from outside to move here for work and opportunity which is testimony to Blackburn and its aspiration.”

“Blackburn is truly a city of its own making which lies at the heart of Lancashire with culture at its core.”