The Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, pictured, has thrown his full weight behind the plans, announced by Blackburn with Darwen Council, to bid for City Status to mark Her Majesty The Queen's Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
The Council believes the town’s unique strengths and spirit, especially how its diverse communities work together showing real grit and determination to see Blackburn progress, places it in a powerful position to be successful.
Bishop Julian, who last year was elevated to the House of Lords as one of the Lords Spiritual, said today: “I welcome the news Blackburn with Darwen Council is bidding for City Status. They have my wholehearted support. Securing City Status would be good news for residents of the town of course and for the whole County of Lancashire.
“It is already the home to the County’s Anglican Cathedral which brings many benefits to the area. Blackburn with Darwen has also built a reputation for excellent interfaith work over many years. Being bestowed this honour by Her Majesty The Queen would also reflect the rich heritage of the town in relation to worship and community cohesion; as well as its rich cultural and industrial heritage.
“It would also point to an exciting future based upon that strong foundation; including ongoing investment in modern businesses; building further on recent town centre revitalisation work including the magnificent Cathedral Quarter (currently home to the nationally significant ‘Knife Angel’ sculpture) and continued cohesion work through schools and colleges and the many places of worship.”
The application will take in lessons from previous bid applications, highlighting the town's economic and cultural strengths and historical links to royalty, both past and present.
Residents, community groups, business representatives and voluntary organisations will be invited to get involved to help create a compelling story which accurately reflects why the town deserves the honour.
Councils are invited to enter the competition on behalf of their towns and the Government has made sure the process is simple and uncostly.
The decision will be made by Her Majesty, on ministerial advice.
The decision to take part comes following the news that its neighbouring town, Darwen was successful in its bid for £25m in Town Deal funding.
The local economy is already bouncing back strongly from the impact of the pandemic and it is believed the honorary ‘City’ title will provide a further stimulus to Blackburn’s recovery.
Council Leader Mohammed Khan, who was awarded a CBE by Her Majesty last year for his services to the borough, said: “We are incredibly proud that we are able to submit a bid on behalf of the town and be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“This bid for City Status is an opportunity for us to showcase everything that we already know is great about Blackburn. The potential for increased tourism, media, economic impact, skills, and jobs while being able to highlight the array of cultural assets and projects the town delivers is incredibly exciting.
“Many people already mistake Blackburn for a city given its economic strength and connectivity in terms of transport links and its vast and unique cultural offers. These include the National Festival of Making and strong sense of historic identity plus, of course, the fact we have a Cathedral.
“Blackburn’s entry will focus on all of this, with its strong, diverse communities and businesses being the thread that runs through it all; what makes us really stand out from anywhere else.”
Cllr Quesir Mahmood, Joint Deputy Council Leader, who will be leading the application, added: “A successful bid is something that would enormously benefit the whole town and demonstrate our very clear ambition. We more than meet the criteria and we can put in a really strong entry. I often get stopped and asked why we aren’t already a city, we are the perfect example of a small city. We are thinking big for Blackburn.
“It’s our people, the strong voluntary and business communities along with the place itself which creates the unique blend we know and love. That’s why homegrown entrepreneurial start-ups to international businesses such as Euro Garages choose to invest and be located here.”
Blackburn Business Improvement District Manager, Catherine Price, welcomed the news and said: “We are absolutely delighted the Council has agreed to enter this prestigious competition on behalf of the town.
“It demonstrates the commitment as ambitious place leaders and the forward-thinking we collectively have for the place. Our businesses and local communities have pulled together and responded magnificently to the traumatic events of the last years and that spirit will be reflected in the bid.”
And Blackburn Mayor Cllr Derek Hardman also encouraged everyone to get behind the town’s bid. He said: “I do think this is a genuine opportunity for us to actually build on the incredible work that has already been ongoing in the town.
“It’s also timely as King George’s Hall (pictured) celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, which of course had its foundation stone laid by King George V in 1913. Work on the Hall was then interrupted by the First World War, before it finally opened in 1921.
“This honour would really help to put us on the map regionally, nationally and internationally and I would encourage everyone to get behind our town’s bid.”
Wide coverage of the announcement by the Council that they will be leading a bid for city status for the town followed the announcement in the local, regional and national press.
Bishop Julian, is extensively quoted in the Council website story (linked to above) and in the Lancashire Telegraph; Lancashire Post; BBC News and the Lancs Live websites (click links) amongst others.
The coverage has also featured as a key story in the national Church of England Media Digest as well. You can subscribe to the Media Digest here.
Ronnie Semley, November 2021