Blackburn town centre’s nightlife is starting to go places. Hopefully it will bring people here from other places. But this hasn’t been an overnight improvement. Various factors have led to this resurgence in its fortunes.
A low water mark had been reached just over a year ago and there was talk at the time of even more pub closures. Fortunately we were saved from boring nights in front of the telly or expensive trips out of town by things starting to happen in our own town centre.
The turning point seemed to be when two major events happened in 2016. These proved to be a catalyst for starting the ball rolling in this resurgence of Blackburn’s town centre pub scene. Yet both were so very different in how things panned out.
Thwaites’ decision to close their Sir Charles Napier pub angered many regulars of Blackburn’s only rock pub. They were determined this pub wasn’t going to die and a spirited campaign was organised. This gained support from Judas Priest lead singer, Rob Halford, and rock concerts with groups giving their services for free. There were also those tee shirts and the Napier being awarded an asset of community value.
A year-long struggle eventually led to a famous victory for this gallant band of Napier regulars. And it also put across the message that things can be done if enough people are prepared to try. Almost a prophetic overture to what was going to happen in the rest of our town centre.
Around the same time as the Napier came back from the dead, a brand new pub was born. The Drummer’s Arms was a result of James and Katy Quayle noticing a demand for real ale in Blackburn while working during events in the museum and at the Bureau of Blackburn. The Drummer’s Arms opened and was joined by its nextdoor neighbour, Tiki Monkey, which is bringing a taste of Hawaii to our town centre.
Another major player in this town centre revival came back from temporary closure. The Adelphi reopened after various issues were resolved by its management. It has gone on to re-establish itself as one of the town centre’s well known hostelries. Things have been helped in its location by all these new developments on the former Boulevard site and an emergence of a new Cathedral Quarter. This has attracted new high quality restaurants to the area, something which Blackburn needed badly.
Since these exciting new developments, Blackburn’s town centre boozer bandwagon has kept on rolling. New pubs have opened, including the Bees Knees and Shh! Bar. There is also another reopening in the pipeline with Blakey Moor’s Jubilee becoming the Lemon Tree. Plus, The Squire, which was formerly Molloy’s, has been secured. If this had closed down, it would have been a crucial loss to Blackburn town centre’s pub scene.
What has also been crucial in helping bring about this revival of Blackburn’s town centre pub scene and nightlife are those people who decided to do something about changing things for the better. These have included Richey Pull and his ‘Closed Pubs of Blackburn’ Facebook page. Alex Martindale and his tenacity in the Save the Napier campaign. The Quayle family for opening the Drummer’s Arms and soon to be Lemon Tree. And of course, Blackburn Nightlife Project for never giving up on our town centre and helping to promote all the new developments.
Things have not been entirely plain sailing. We have still had some pub closures, just like everywhere else across the country. But it’s been a case of two steps forward and one step back in Blackburn. In these difficult economic times, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.