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Blackburn’s Napier Pub is Back On The Scene

On 17th September the official opening took place of Blackburn’s Sir Charles Napier.  It was performed by Rob Halford of Judas Priest and was the culmination of a year-long campaign to re-open the town’s only rock pub following closure in June 2015.Nap

I was given a sneak preview of life in the newly refurbished pub on the Friday night before its official re-opening.  So Sylvia, my girlfriend, and I toddled across to the Napier and had a few beers and a mingle with various regulars and guests.

Best start to the evening for me was their selection of real ales.  Appropriately for a rock pub, Robinson’s  Trooper was one of their cask ales.  Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson created this with head brewer Martyn Weeks and it has sold millions of pints in 40 different countries.  Thwaites Golden Wainwright and Hop Star’s JLS are also currently available.

We talked to lots of people in the pub.  There was a good mix of younger and older people, all really happy to see the Sir Charles Napier back open once again.  Some were rock music fans who would use the pub mainly to watch bands, whereas others saw the Napier as the pub which would help rejuvenate this side of the town centre’s nightlife and would bring in passing trade.

With Blakey’s, Blackburn Times, Molloy’s and the new Drummer’s Arms soon to be opening, the Napier could entice more punters out for a wander round the town centre both during the afternoon and later in the evening.

Although the battle to re-open the Napier has been won, the management committee will not allow complacency to set in.  They would like to eventually buy the pub, which is still owned by Thwaites, to protect its long-term future.  In the meantime they don’t intend to rest on their laurels and the hard work continues.  This includes their efforts to keep bringing new people into the pub through various events and activities.

Key to this strategy is the concert room upstairs.  Bookings have been taken from different groups and many have signed up to play gigs there.  Hopefully this will continue into the future and help the Napier build upon the success which saw it fight a great campaign and return from the dead like a phoenix from the ashes.  The future is looking good for the Napier.

Rovers Fans Set Up Venky’s Out Camp

Blackburn Rovers fans are trying all sorts of weird and wonderful ways of persuading Indian owners, the Venky’s to sell up and leave their beloved football club.  One of their strangest ventures has been the setting up of a protest camp on land high above Rovers’ Ewood Park football ground.camp1

This protest camp is a mixture of tents, including native American style teepees.  Chief of the protest camp and spokesman for the newly formed ‘Ewood First Nations’ is Blue Owl.  He told me he is really called Fred Grimshaw and lives on the nearby Higher Croft estate.  But for now he and his tribe have devoted themselves to the growing campaign to get rid of that other tribe of renegade Indians – the Venky’s from faraway Pune.

Blue Owl said:  “Our tribe belongs to Rovers, but they do not belong to us.  This cannot be said of current so-called owners, the Venky’s.  They may have temporary possession of our sacred club, but they do not belong and like the demons they are, their possession will one day be exorcised”.

Protest tactics to be used by the Ewood First Nations will include banging drums and doing a war dance during matches.  They will also be producing smoke signals using their barbecues.  Of course Venky’s chickens will be nowhere to be found when these barbecues are put into action.  This is one signal they don’t want to send out to the rest of the nations.

These gallant braves will also be taking part in the ritual of waiting for when the sun reaches its zenith in the sky at high noon.  When this happens they will try shining sunlight from handheld mirrors into the Ewood Park stadium.  This latter tactic is also meant to symbolically reflect back the evil medicine emanating from Venky’s, as well as sending sunlight  into their eyes and dazzling them, should they ever turn up for a Rovers match.  No doubt this act will probably remain just symbolic.

Blue Owl is expecting a long campaign before Rovers return to the happy hunting ground.  Driving the Venky’s invaders from our ancient ancestral lands will take a heap of big medicine.  But, as with the endless flow of the River Darwen below the camp, separating it from Ewood Park, their determination to take back what it theirs is like that of the salmon leaping and the hooves of the thundering herd – never ending.

Royal Blackburn Hospital A&E Abuse

After recently spending some time in the Royal Blackburn Hospital, I couldn’t help but notice some of the characters who turn up at their Accident & Emergency Department.RBH

Even before entering the hospital I was forced to wait a few minutes.  Unbelievably, this was due to a thoughtless visitor blocking one of the ambulance bays by parking his car there!  Luckily, the sheepish driver was quickly found and parked his vehicle somewhere else.

Sadly, ambulances having to wait in queues at RBH isn’t unusual.  This is down to the sheer weight of numbers of people requiring the service.  Over 600 patients were seen in one 24 hour period at Blackburn’s A&E recently.  In my case, it meant a six hour wait in a bed on the corridor before my ward was able to accept me.

My bed was parked right next to the reception desk.  It was a hive of activity and as busy as I’d heard.   One bloke had a couple of coppers with him, as well as his girlfriend.  They took him to the toilet a few yards from me where he spent ages inside, to such a point where these police officers were considering breaking the door down in case he’d injured himself.

For some reason, the police disappeared later, leaving the bloke and his girlfriend to go on walks around A&E while he whinged about having to wait to be seen.  He looked as if he was high on drugs when he came in, or drunk as a skunk.  At least he was quiet later, unlike a noisy teenager who was brought in.  She kept shouting and screaming for help, despite having family and friends with her and yapping with them in between her shrieks.

It was clear many people attending A&E were under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  There were also large numbers of people there who had problems which didn’t really merit assistance from A&E.  Examples included minor falls, upset stomachs, scalds and even midge bites.

Perhaps Blackburn A&E’s biggest problem is the run-down of hospital services in other neighbouring towns.  These include those at Accrington Victoria and Burnley.  Even the situation at Chorley is having a knock-on effect on our Trust.  But maybe people should think twice before heading for A&E with minor ailments.  Thankfully, the staff coped with the situation in their usual professional way – the one we all take for granted.

Blackburn’s Adelphi : Back in Business

Blackburn town centre pub, the Adelphi, is open again after shutting down recently.


It is being run by Ste and Dianne Whittle, who used to run the Old Dog down the road in Preston.  The Whittles have taken over the pub for 3 months on a trial basis with Admiral Taverns, giving both parties a chance to see whether they are happy with the arrangement.

This pub has had a bit of a less than harmonious reputation in the past.  But its new management want everybody to feel welcome in their hostelry.  Ste has a security business, so safety for customers and staff should be no problem.  Music is a feature of the pub, with entertainment on certain days.  Singers perform on Wednesday afternoons and there is a disco on Saturday nights.  Check the Adelphi Facebook page for further upcoming events.

Grace, who was serving behind the bar, said she was enjoying working in the Adelphi.  It felt a bit like working in a local, people were so friendly.  Dianne, when asked about catering, said there were no plans to put food on for now, mainly due to all the outlets nearby.  But Admiral Taverns are committed to spending money on the pub; hopefully this will include the kitchen.

Despite its past problems, the Adelphi was always known for having good beer and there was a good selection of real ales available on my visit.  These included Moorhouse’s Blond Witch, Hobgoblin and Sharp’s Atlantic from Cornwall.

Potentially, the Adelphi could become a goldmine.  It is Blackburn’s most central pub and sits in a great location between the railway and bus stations.  There is also great potential for shoppers calling in with it being the only open pub adjacent to the transport hubs and Morrison’s superstore.

It was traditionally the meeting point for nights out round Blackburn town centre and could be once again.  There’s also the added bonus of a brand new hotel and multi-storey office block across the road.  So hopefully, it could be a rosy future for the Adelphi.

Blackburn Bus Station : Open At Last!

Blackburn’s new £5M bus station finally opened on Sunday, May 1st 2016, after several false starts and over a year behind schedule.BS Open

We now have our new modern bright bus terminus open and ready for Blackburn’s travelling public.  First impressions outside look very nice and shiny, a bit like a giant greenhouse, when the sun is shining.  There are even flower beds and concrete slabs which suffice as benches for a sit down while waiting for your bus.  These are already proving popular with smokers and should give extra work to the street sweepers.  At least the Ainsworth Street shops will be pleased, the first thing you see, when looking at the bus station windows are mirror images of their signs.

Inside the building, it is bright and clean, though feels a bit cramped and claustrophobic.  This is down to the usual Blackburn town centre custom of trying to fit everything into as small a space as possible.  Being in a river valley and having the Blakewater flowing underneath – some things never change.  We were also used to having had a large open air facility on the old Boulevard, followed by something similar with the temporary site next door on Brown Street.  But there is always going to be room for improvement with such a new facility, though maybe not too much room to play about with.

My first impression was the design theme of the bus station and the preponderance of these rounded ‘V’ shaped structures everywhere.  Its ceiling reminded me of an upturned toast rack.  There also seem to be other obstacles in your way as you make your way through the building.  These are the information monitor stands and other new facilities added to help bus users.  But having facilities to assist the bus travelling public is something we’re not used to in Blackburn.  An information desk with helpful staff, large monitors giving departure times and bus service numbers and destinations are all very welcome indeed.  One of my old pet hates was sitting in a bus shelter on the ‘Bouly’ and people coming up to me asking if I was waiting for a bus.  And then asking me which one I was catching.  No excuse now, it’s all there in easy to read real-time.

We have a strange situation with our buses these days.  When I first saw the shape of our new bus station, I thought it was going to be too small for a place as big as Blackburn.  Now, after various withdrawals of council and county council subsidies and subsequent cutbacks of services, our new bus station might end up being too big!  On the bright side, Blackburn’s new bus station has opened during an unusual run of warm sunny weather.  Remember winter and the cold weather won’t be long in coming.  Then we will really start to appreciate our new transport facility and especially its handy sliding doors, keeping the cold, the rain and the wind out.

Venky’s – Time To Go!

With the news that Paul Lambert is quitting Blackburn Rovers at the end of the season, where does this leave the club and its owners, the Venky’s?

Draining the lifeblood from Rovers

Draining the lifeblood from Rovers

Our Indian owners’ tenure at the club has created one disaster after another.  Their first action was to sack Sam Allardyce and replace him with the hated Steve Kean.  Further managerial appointments led to even more failures.  Now their latest one has created the unusual situation where a manager has sacked the football club.

Losses at Rovers have put the club in over £100M of debt.  Venky’s have absorbed these debts, but for how long will they keep bailing out the club?  Their shares in India have taken a pounding and the last thing they need is to keep pumping money into a loss-making football club halfway across the world.

Yet Venky’s have shown they have no interest in football.  So what is the point of them owning Blackburn Rovers?  Very few people in India care whether Rovers win the Premier League or go to the wall.  Sadly the way things are going at the club, the latter option is becoming more than just a possibility.

Nobody is really sure why Paul Lambert decided to quit Rovers, apart from the man himself and Venky’s.  Our owners’ indecision is thought to be one of the main reasons.  This may be coupled with what Lambert experienced during his tenure at Aston Villa and the probability of a similar outcome waiting round the corner at Blackburn Rovers.

There also remains the question as to what Venky’s hope to achieve from destroying Blackburn Rovers.  Fortunately for them, our club is just a small component of their business empire.  But the way we are haemorrhaging money to the tune of several millions a year, even Venky’s, with their billions, have to realise this situation can’t go on forever.  Rovers are not a bottomless pit and sooner or later the tap has got to be turned off.

Unfortunately for Rovers, we seem to be dealing with a bunch of spoilt rich kids who haven’t invested their inherited wealth very wisely in our football club.  This is confounded by a culture where being seen not to lose face means everything – regardless of what stupid decisions have been made in the past.  Sadly for the Venky’s, they don’t appear to have heard of the old British saying:  ‘When you’re in a hole – stop digging’.

Blackburn’s Outer Centre Circle Bus?

Blackburn’s Outer Circle bus could become the Outer Centre Circle.  This follows a suggestion to take it into the town centre.Outer Circle1

As regular users know, this bus was set up to link the suburbs of Blackburn, without going into our town centre bus station.  But some passengers have found getting off at Daisyfield Toll Bar, where the two Whalley roads start, is only a five minute walk to the bus station.  This would be a lot quicker if the bus diverted its route there and would be worth considering as an additional service for Blackburn’s bus users.

It is an opportune time to consider extra uses for the Outer Circle, especially with it being under review by transport authorities.  Bus services have been gradually cut across town.  Where I live up Revidge, the No.9 route only starts at 9.25am and ends at 1.25pm.  Darwen Coach Services runs a limited service later, covering some of this area at 6.15pm and one more two hours later.  But for workers, shoppers and schoolchildren there is nothing in between.  It is a similar story of service cuts and reductions all over Blackburn.  Even the Outer Circle itself only runs at peak times, with a four hour gap from mid-morning to when it resumes in the afternoon..

If the Outer Circle ran the short distance from its nearest point to the town centre and the bus station, it would provide extra services to all parts of the town’s suburbs where none exist or are very limited.  It would also generate extra passengers, in both directions.  This could help make the bus run all day, rather than having a four hour gap between morning and afternoon services.  In Preston their local bus company copied our Outer Circle with their own version, called Orbit.  But they take their Orbit into the town centre to their bus station.  This has proved a popular service.

I was able to put this suggestion to our local bus provider and a council transport representative when they recently had a drop-in session in Blackburn Mall.  I spoke with a driver, an inspector and a chap from Blackburn with Darwen Council.  All of them agreed it was a good idea and certainly feasible.  Their only concern was adding an extra ten minutes to the existing Outer Circle journey.  But this extended route was certainly worth considering.

Hopefully my suggestion will be taken up and given a try.  We have a new bus station nearing completion.  At first I thought it was going to be too small.  With the subsequent cutbacks in bus serves, it might end being too big.  Why not make use of it then with the one service which brings the town’s suburbs together – our good old Outer Circle.

Rock ‘n’ Real Ale – The Fight To Re-open Blackburn’s Napier Pub

Blackburn’s nightlife has been doom and gloom over the last few years. Pubs have closed, including the town’s only rock pub – the Sir Charles Napier. It was shut down by Thwaites in June 2015. But it’s looking on course to re-open, thanks to a spirited campaign mounted by its loyal and dedicated regulars.Nap

I met Alex Martindale from the Sir Charles Napier Community Interest Company. He only found out the day after the pub closed its doors in June last year, despite being a regular and playing music there for many years. A meeting was organized which attracted a 100 strong turnout of regulars wanting to save the pub. This led to the formation of a non-profit company, made up of 60 members.

The company’s board of directors includes Alex, Nick Brown – former landlord of the Hope and Anchor in Accrington. Lisa Morton – the Treasurer, from Phoenix Rising. Hilary Carr – who will be involved in the food side of the pub and Daniel Colletta from the Chocolateer shop. Hilary and Nick will be the two managers, with Nick becoming the pub’s licensee.

Thwaites still own the building, but the new company has no tie to the brewery. Alex says they intend to make the pub a free house, putting on at least two or three lines of cask ale. They would like to sell local beers, such as Three B’s and Hop Star.

The Napier is known for being Blackburn’s home of rock music, but it will be welcoming to everybody. The pub intends to have sports teams, including darts, dominoes, pool and a pub quiz team. Karaoke and Open Mic nights are planned. Music will take place in the upstairs bar, where a stage is being built. Here, community groups will have the facilities made available and students will record sessions with groups for college coursework and make use of the pub’s equipment.

When asked about the highlights of the Save the Napier Campaign, Alex focused on the involvement of Rob Halford from Judas Priest. He gave his time for their Kickstarter video, which can be found on the Save the Napier website and Facebook page. He also mentioned the benefit gig at Blakey’s for the campaign. Sky Valley Mistress headlined and £600 was raised. A £6,000 council grant was also secured.

Low points of the campaign included dealing with the bureaucracy of trying to turn the pub into an Asset of Community Value (ACV). But the campaign managed this successfully.

Back to financial matters, the Napier committee has raised over £12,500 to invest in the pub. But this is only half of what they require. They are looking for investors, and are offering investments from £1000 3 year fixed term at 4% APR where tax relief is available. Alex is happy to discuss investment opportunities, please contact save@thenapier.co.uk or call Alex on 07710692226. The company directors are keen to meet potential investors to share and discuss business planning documents.

Alex was asked the most important question: Will the pub reopen? He said he was extremely confident it will. A momentum has built up to raise the rest of the money. He expects the pub to re-open in May – less than a year after it closed. This could be a turning point in rescuing Blackburn’s nightlife – all thanks to the regulars of the rock pub that wouldn’t roll away.

Visit the campaign website:  https://thenapier.co.uk/

Blackburn Cotton Exchange – A New Re:Source

Just over a year ago, my monthly blog was about our derelict Cotton Exchange and a call for something to be done about bringing it back into use.cinemapdf

We’re talking about one of Blackburn’s few historical and aesthetically pleasing buildings here. It was slowly heading for inevitable destruction. Many of its windows are broken, leading to pigeons and other wildlife already taking up residence in the building. No doubt rough sleepers will have found their way inside too. This could lead to fires, flooding and more destruction to the building.

But amidst all these dark clouds hanging over our old cinema, sunshine is peeping through those broken windows. Re:Source Blackburn is a charity who come from a Christian background. They bought the building last September, thanks to a loan, various donations and a grant from the council. Further funding is also being looked at.

Re:Source plans include turning the building into a business centre, with boardroom, conference and restaurant facilities. A Creativity Centre is also being considered. This could put on exhibitions, host concerts and even take the building back to one of its former uses by showing films. They expect to spend around £5M on renovations and refurbishments.

My article in January 2015 was written out of frustration over the state of our old Cotton Exchange. Little did I know plans were afoot to purchase it and bring it back to its former glory. But highlighting the issue on my website may have got some people talking about it and keeping the issue alive.

What I found out after publishing my article a year ago was how much popular feeling the old Cotton Exchange still engenders in Blackburn and beyond. Whether it was happy days in front of the silver screen, or just the sheer admiration of this beautiful structure, many of us remember having good times there.

Even in today’s present dilapidated state, many fellow Blackburners would love to see the building restored and become the hub of activity it was in days gone by. Hopefully those hopes look like they could come to fruition in the next few years.

What the Dickens: Blackburn’s old Cotton Exchange?

Blackburn’s Sleeping Policemen Give Us The Hump

Ask any bus or taxi driver what part of their job they really hate. They will tell you about their backs being done in due to driving over sleeping policemen and other road humps.

They give us the Hump

They give us the Hump

I know how they feel from personal experience; my street has a school nearby. So sleeping policemen are crashed out every few yards, including right outside my front door. They are described as traffic calming measures. But few people would describe themselves as calm after going over them on a dark night, especially while dropping off in the back seat of a taxi.

Blackburn’s worst areas for speed humps seem to be Revidge, Highercroft and Shadsworth. A bus ride up Highercroft is like going up and down a roller coaster. Things are not helped by the twists and turns the buses have to take along their route, no thanks to bad parking.

Shadworth’s assault course is more direct, travelling along Rothesay Road. But it’s not only humps which impede the flow of traffic. Speed cushions are also in use here. Those annoying twisting single file chicanes also add to a road user’s misery.

On the other side of town, Wimberley Street has a particularly difficult chicane to navigate, not helped by parked cars. Here one marvels at the skills of the bus driver in action. Sadly, some of the car parking here leaves a lot to be desired.

Pride of place for sleeping policemen must belong to the north side of Blackburn’s infamous Revidge Hump, where you pass the Golf Club. Despite warning signs, this tarmac obstacle seems to catch everybody out. You can sometimes see evidence in the road of this, where dumper trucks have shed part of their load after misjudging the hump.

Unfortunately, sleeping policemen and other traffic calming measures are there for a reason. The drivers who wouldn’t slow down are the reason why they exist in the first place. Sadly, they also add extra time to the fire engines, ambulances and wide-awake policemen’s response times.

These emergency services are often sent to save the victims of accidents caused by those unreasonable drivers whose actions merited traffic calming measures being brought in. But if the humps were taken away, you can guarantee somebody would be complaining within 24 hours about traffic going too fast down the street. Whatever happens with sleeping policemen – somebody’s going to get the hump.