Author: Roving Mick

Blackburn St George & The Trinity Beer Festival

Holy Trinity Church on Blackburn’s Mount Pleasant is famous for its former vicar, Chad Varah, who went on to form the Samaritans.  Trinity was an apt name for Chad as he and wife Susan had triplets while he was vicar of this church in Blackburn’s Larkhill area.

Photo courtesy of Jason Walker

 

This Grade 2 listed building no longer holds weekly church services.  Like me in my first job, it was made redundant in the early 1980’s.  But these days it hosts various activities and on this St George’s Day weekend, Trinity Church provided us with a beer festival.  Jason Walker along with James and Katy Quayle, who run the Drummer’s Arms, were amongst the many good Samaritans who helped put on this festival, along with some of the local breweries and tradesmen who supply their pub.

I was able to get to Saturday’s afternoon session.  My first pint of the day actually started off on my way there, in the Postal Order, where it was appropriately St George’s by Acorn Brewery from Barnsley.  Mighty oaks from little acorns grow and more good beer was anticipated for me today.

Off to the beer festival next, landing there around quarter to one.  Darwen’s Hop Star was my first pint in the church and guess what?  I was on their St George’s ale.  Blackburn’s Three B’s was next with Bee Proud, which was another ale related to England’s patron saint.  My next beer was Blonde Vixen from Wigan’s Wily Fox brewery and was my favourite on the day.  Porter from the Big Clock took my attention later.  It had filled up at the festival by now, a lot of people were enjoying the sunshine outside as well as those inside.

Today’s entertainment was pretty good but the show was stolen by teenage singer and guitarist, Georgia Farrar from Brighouse.  She brought this house down and gave us an excellent performance.  St Georgia’s Day would have been a good name for today after listening to her music.   Great things look destined for this talent and many people will soon have Georgia on their mind.

I really enjoyed this visit to the Trinity Beer Festival.  My only regret was not covering myself up enough with more layers of clothing.  Being a church, it felt as far away from the fires of Hell as you could probably get.  My jean jacket and Hobgoblin tee shirt left me feeling a bit cold inside this building and it certainly wasn’t Mount Pleasant in my case.  But with free entry and all real ales pegged at £2.50 a pint, there was plenty of holy water available and an enjoyable time was had by all.  Let’s just hope the next beer festival here is in July or August.

What Next For Blackburn’s Jubilee Pub?

A rare glimpse of the Jubilee’s door open

Blackburn’s Jubilee Hotel seems to be bucking the trend in our town centre for all the wrong reasons.  New pubs have recently opened and others have come back from the dead, but the Jubilee seems to be in a state of inactivity.

This Blakey Moor pub has had its ups and downs over the years.  I remember it having flagstone floors in the 1970’s, which were often stained with blood from fights which broke out in here.  This hostelry was a contender for Blackburn’s roughest pub, though similar things could be said about plenty of others at the time.

Things changed for the better when Tom and Linda Fox took over the pub in the early 1990’s.  After spending money refurbishing the place and kicking out anti-social elements, their Jubilee became a great pub.  My happiest memory of those days was when Rovers won the Premier League in 1995 and joining many fans celebrating inside and outside the pub, closing both Blakey Moor and Barton St.  Tom was a massive Rovers fan and these times were the zenith for his pub and his team.

Tom and Linda left to run the Golden Cup and their former pub has never been able to emulate those happy days.  Years of decline followed and a seedy reputation developed.  It was closed under a police order in 2008, but re-opened a year later.  Attempts have been made since those dark days to make a go of the Jubilee, but this pub seems to have continued on a downward spiral.  Now one of Thwaites’ last town centre pubs looks to be closed once again.

This is very sad, yet seems so unnecessary.  Very few pubs in Blackburn are in a better location for attracting passing trade.  Our college and its University Centre are nearby and have provided this pub with a lot of custom over the years.  There has also always been trade from many events across the road at King George’s Hall.

Unfortunately attracting trade to a pub which seems to only open sporadically doesn’t help matters.  Nearly every time I have walked past this pub lately it has been closed.  On those rare occasions when it was open they never had any real ale on sale, so it might as well have not bothered in my case.

But there is always hope around the corner.  With great news about the Adelphi and a new version of Liquid Nightclub both re-opening, perhaps we could see a return of the Jubilee.  Anything’s possible in Blackburn these days.

Potential Threat: Blackburn’s Punks Who Never Gave Up

Potential Threat formed in the very early 1980’s and used to practice in my favourite pub then – the Balaclava on Watford Street.

Bill Beattie was landlord of the Bala at the time.  He had half a dozen kids, including son Gary, who used to be a DJ and had lived in the squats of Amsterdam.  Gary had a great collection of music, some of it on his dad’s pub jukebox, with some outstanding Punk Rock.  This helped bring into the pub a lot of Blackburn’s spiky-haired and leather jacketed punk fans.

Amongst these Balaclava punks was a burgeoning group called Potential Threat.  They were a friendly bunch and let me and other punk rock fans in the pub watch them practice their incredibly fast music.  They had been through a few line-up changes already when I came across them back then.  They were Les on bass, who everybody who went boozing in Blackburn town centre seemed to know.  Woody, their drummer, was a big Rovers fan, who I used to bump into at matches.  Then there was Fos on lead guitar and girlfriend at the time, Pauline, their vocalist.  She is still fronting the group over 35 years later.

Strangely enough, this group’s first vocalist, Carl Rigby, went on to become a lecturer at Blackburn College.  I know this because he taught me Communication Studies in the early 90’s and helped me pass my only ‘A’ Level at this subject.

Like most groups, Potential Thread changed their members over the years and had dormant periods, but never actually split up.  Guitarist Andy Cowan was having a beer in the Napier one Friday afternoon.  I remarked upon Potential Threat being emblazoned across his jacket and we got talking about the group.  Andy said he had been a member of the band for over thirty years.  Along with Andy and Pauline, they currently comprise of Mick on bass and Ersy on drums.

Over the years the group has written their own material and toured with groups such as long-time Anarcho-Punks – Conflict – who, like Potential Threat, are still going to this day.  In 2014 they started rehearsing again and a year later played their first gig in over thirty years.  Unfortunately bad luck continued to blight the band, with Pauline suffering an attack of pneumonia and having to go in hospital at the end of last year.  Hopefully a new year brings new hope and Potential Threat will be back and showing everyone their own punk potential.

Venky’s Knocked Down By A Feather

Venky’s have not been seen at Blackburn Rovers games for ages.  Rumours in India say the family is suffering from some kind of bizarre disease, possibly a side-effect following DNA research into poultry production.

Rovingmick.com

The Incredible Feathered Venky

As one of the world’s leading avian research institutions, based in India, Venky’s have always boasted of having technology to even create new species of life.  One unusual challenge they recently received was to bring the extinct Dodo back to life.  They say it could be possible using 3D bio-printing.

Venky’s claim this kind of technology was right up their street.  They believe they could also solve the age old riddle of which came first: the chicken or the egg?  They say they could manage to create an egg before a Dodo in this case.  After all, they are a hatchery and their matriarch – Mrs Desai – is known as ‘Madam’, which means Mother Hen in some Indian dialects.  Her brother Balaji is even more fearsome and is known to rule their company with a rod of iron.  No doubt they can see opportunities for feathering their nests, should these experiments succeed.

Unfortunately for the Venky’s, theory and practice do not always go like a bird in the hand and their chickens may have come home to roost on this occasion.  The Rao family have spent all their life amongst chickens and this may have made them more susceptible than most people to airborne avian infections.  Reports of the Venky’s having facial disfigurements resembling a coating of feathers have been mentioned by sources in India.

There is also a theory Venky’s’ buying Blackburn Rovers may have triggered some kind of ironic scourge upon the Rao family.  In 1965 Blackburn was hit by a polio epidemic.  This led to other football clubs refusing to play Rovers and they started their season later than everybody else.  Their backlog of matches didn’t help and led to them being relegated at the end of the 1965-66 Season.  Perhaps some kind of throwback to those troubled times has come back to haunt Venky’s.  It may become known as the Rovers’ Revenge.

While Venky’s own us, there is more chance of them bringing the Dodo back to life than Blackburn Rovers.  At least we can look forward to a day when Venky’s ownership of our club, like the life of the Dodo, will also become extinct and consigned to the history books.  Nobody will ever want to see their disastrous stewardship of Blackburn Rovers occur again.  They have taken us to the brink of extinction.  But 3D bio-printing won’t be necessary and like the fabled phoenix, Rovers will one day rise again.

Banging The Drum For Blackburn Town Centre

Who is being sheared, James or the sheep?

The Drummer’s Arms may be Blackburn’s newest pub, but it didn’t take long to establish itself among the real ale drinking enthusiasts of the area.

Owners, James and Katy Quayle, who you may have seen on TV recently, following Blackburn scooping the national High Street shopping award, have a range of five real ales available.  These often include local beers Three B’s, Hopstar and Big Clock, which are all brewed within five miles of the pub.  They also sell real ciders in various flavours, such as rhubarb and strawberry.

This new micropub, right across from Blackburn’s old town hall, is a real gem and refreshing in more ways than one.  The Drummer’s staff are very friendly and so are its clientele.  There are not only real ale enthusiasts calling in, but shoppers and workers from nearby offices and workplaces are starting to frequent the pub on a regular basis.

Inside there are displays of pub memorabilia, some you don’t notice at first, such as the tables and chairs.  But once you take hold of your barrel glass, you then start to remember when you came across some of these items.  I particularly like the round copper-topped table, which took me back to my misspent youth.  Some of the memorabilia is very interesting, but it is the pub signs on the walls which really do catch the eye of most customers.

Perhaps the most memorable pub sign in the Drummer’s is one from Blackburn’s closed down Fleece on Penny Street.  What makes it stand out is an uncanny resemblance between owner James and the sheep-shearer in this sign.  It also seems to symbolise comparisons between Blackburn’s former pub scene and what is starting to happen in the town centre now, this is thanks in large part to the Sir Charles Napier and Drummer’s Arms which have both helped spark new life into our local scene.

Maybe one day the Fleece and other neighbouring pubs will re-open and continue building this resurgence of Blackburn town centre.  It would be nice if some kind of ceremony with the sign could be organised for the new Fleece, if it ever opened.  Sadly, that doesn’t seem to on the horizon for the foreseeable future, those old pubs still remain in their mothballed state.  Fortunately we do have the brand new Drummer’s Arms and can look forward to further real ale enjoyment and a bright future.

What happened to Ronaldinho?

What happened to Ronaldinho? by Mick Pickup

Answer by Mick Pickup:

Venky's tried to bring Ronaldhino to Blackburn Rovers.  But no Rovers fan took it seriously.  It was seen as 'Marquee Signing', when we needed players who wanted to put a proper shift in.  The player was well past his best and seen as yet another football mercenary, only wanting to come to the club for one last big payday. 

Venky's even hired the Flash to be his bodyguard.  Sadly he was nowhere near as fast as the Flash and the deal fell through.

What happened to Ronaldinho?

Venky’s Say Stuff Rovers

Venky’s say they are sick of Blackburn Rovers fans making their lives a misery, so have come up with a scheme which almost makes death pleasurable. 

Roving Mick

Taken by Sylvia Larkin, courtesy of Blackburn Museum

 

They have decided to take their animal products empire forward to its logical conclusion.  From their origins as an egg hatchery, they now want to get involved in the other end of this process and set up their ultimate disposal solution of man’s best friend – pet funerals.

This idea came to the Venky’s following a recent visit they made to Blackburn Museum.  What caught the family’s imagination was a stuffed greyhound on display.  It was called ‘Bed of Stone’, a champion hare courser, who won the Waterloo Cup in 1872.  It was left to the people of Blackburn by a brother of William Briggs, who was a cotton magnate and one of Blackburn’s former MP’s.

Venky’s didn’t really understand the meaning of hare coursing, but liked the idea of creating a hare restorer – especially Balaji.  It made them want to pursue this issue further.  Someone also suggested stuffing animals – like they already do with chickens – would be a brilliant business opportunity for them.  Why bury or cremate your beloved Rover when you could keep a stuffed reminder of him in your house or garden for perpetuity?

It is also rumoured Venky’s had their first ever egg-laying hen stuffed in more ways than one.  It was freeze-dried and preserved out of gratitude for the start it gave them when they set up their own hatchery.

After their disastrous tenure at Blackburn Rovers, man’s best friend is the last thing anybody thinks of when it comes to our Indian owners.  ‘Johnny No Mates’ is probably a more appropriate label for Rovers’ absentee landlords.  Their description of our club as their ‘baby’ has also gone down badly with Rovers fans.  Many say Venky’s would be facing child abuse charges if Rovers was a real baby.  Some kind of FA Social Services is needed to take our club off them and put it up for adoption.

Venky’s have not ruled out building their own pet cemetary either.  After giving up on their plans to sell Rovers’ Brockhall training ground, other uses for it are now being explored.  Now they have almost killed off their pet football team, it looks like they might just as well leave us dead and buried in our own resting place.  Blackburn Rovers will then be well and truly stuffed.

Blackburn’s 200 Year Old Canal Anniversary

October 2016 marked the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Leeds Liverpool Canal.  This stretch, between Blackburn and Whittle-Le-Woods, was the final piece of the jigsaw in Britain’s longest waterway.

A cut above the rest

A cut above the rest

Our old ‘cut’ has changed over the years, mostly for the better.  As a teenager in the 1970’s I first enjoyed walking along the towpath through Blackburn and beyond.   In my pocket was a copy of a Nicholson Waterways Guide to the North West.  Unfortunately our waterway was like an open sewer back then, as industrial decline had finished off its commercial usage.  It wasn’t unusual to see the odd dead dog or cat floating by, along with all sorts of dumped waste items.  But there was a silver lining to this cloud.  A burgeoning leisure industry was starting to open up to the public.  Pleasure boats were replacing commercial traffic.

We even had a marina back then, which we could do with now.  Moorgate Marina was owned by a chap called Joe Bolton and its clubhouse eventually became a nightclub.  There used to be lots of cabin cruisers moored at the marina back them, but narrow boats were a rarity.  This reflected the situation on the canal at the time.  Now the narrowboat is king, but plenty of cabin cruisers are still to be found on the canal.  And in a reverse of fortunes, it is the canal which has become the place to be in Blackburn.  Housing has been built along its meandering western route.  Also the towpath has been resurfaced in such a way as to enable walkers and cyclists the ability to enjoy using it as a thoroughfare.  Anglers also park themselves at the towpath and watch the world go by along with the one that got away.

The canal eventually arrived in Blackburn in 1810, but took a further six years for the ‘missing link’ to Johnson’s Hillock to be completed.  It actually joined what was the old southern section of the Lancaster Canal, but the Leeds & Liverpool eventually took over this stretch to Wigan and continued on to its finishing point at Liverpool itself.  Sadly, the canals fell into decline during the 19th and 20th centuries due to the growth of railways and road transport.  But it is ironic that things started to change following our Blackburn MP, Barbara Castle’s 1968 Transport Act.  This encouraged canals to embrace leisure purposes and became the turning point in the fortunes for many of Britain’s waterways.

Many canals which shut down have since reopened.  This was thanks to the work of enthusiasts and a change of attitude towards their leisure and environmental value from the public and powers that be.  In Blackburn and along the rest of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, our waterway continued to operate where others closed down.  200 years of ‘the cut’ helped make our town into the large industrial base it became.  Hopefully our canal will continue to serve the town and add to its amenities and rich heritage for many more years to come.

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.