Category: Blackburn

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.

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 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 Mall Has A Lot To Weigh Up

There seem to be a lot of places where you can buy a meal in and around Blackburn Mall these days. Some sell good quality food, but the fast food outlets are also there.lard%20lad

They always seem to want to shove another culture on us, mainly the American way of life we see right across the broadcast media. They advertise themselves with cardboard cut-outs and star-spangled signs. Their unfortunate staff often have to wear baseball caps with a hole at the back where pony tails can be tucked through. These staff also have to say banal things to you like: ‘You got it’, or ‘Have a nice day’. What these fast food places don’t want you to know is how bad the American way of life can be for some people’s health.

I used to work in Blackburn town centre for the local council. My colleagues and I used to be continuously blitzed with interfering lifestyle propaganda. Posters were emblazoned on walls, even in the toilets, telling us to give up smoking, give up drinking at certain times, walk to work and even go on organised walks at dinnertime.

But we never received any emails or leaflets telling us to stop eating junk food. So it was all right to put at risk the jobs of workers in the brewery and nearby pubs and clubs by giving up drinking, even in moderation. But those fast food eateries and takeaways were never discouraged.

Sadly, nobody can deny Blackburn is one of the most deprived towns in the country. And this makes it a good example of where more of these fast food places seem to be opening up. No doubt our council is grateful to these new tenants taking up valuable space in our shopping Mall and people do have the right to be treated like adults and eat what they want – unless they are children of course. Here it seems to be open season on dragging them in by any means possible, with billions of pounds and dollars of advertising budgets. You don’t have to look so far to see what good value this advertising has yielded.

But our local politicians’ Westminster colleagues on the Parliamentary Health Select Committee are calling for fast food outlets to be banned from hospitals. They are also calling on local councils to get powers to limit the proliferation of fast food outlets in certain areas. Looks like their pleas may have fallen on deaf ears in Blackburn.

For the record, my favourite place for a good wholesome meal is underneath the Mall, in the Market and it’s called The Carvery. Amongst other nice food, they make a really good beef stew and dumplings and sell tasty fruit pies.

Daisyfield Mill’s Wartime Secrets Surface

Recently released Ministry of Defence files reveal surprising information about the role Daisyfield Mill played during the Second World War.

Daisyfield Mill's part in Hitler's downfall

Daisyfield Mill’s part in Hitler’s downfall

It appears the former Granada TV studio and base of LE Training – codenamed ‘Plantation’ – was used as a secret torpedo manufacturing plant. This was under its guise as a flour mill.

The decision to manufacture torpedoes in Blackburn came about for a number of reasons. Seaports such as Liverpool and Glasgow were far too dangerous places to base munitions factories, due to heavy German bombing. Blackburn remained relatively free of air attacks throughout the duration of hostilities. Even the building of a dummy ROF, near the real plant, hardly tempted Germany’s Luftwaffe.

Daisyfield Mill was chosen due to its ideal location in between the railway and Leeds-Liverpool canal. Materials would be delivered here by train and then finished torpedoes would be floated down the canal to Liverpool, disguised as barges.

Due to the top secret nature of activities in the mill, very few signs remain of the role ‘Operation Plantation’ played in this country’s defence and subsequent victory. There are four stone pillars at the entrances to the mill. These are reputed to be four torpedoes encased in concrete which went missing during the war.

But the sharp-eyed historian only has to cross the canal to find tell-tale signs of what really happened in those troubled times. Woolwich Street, appropriately named, can still be found. But Ordnance Street and Artillery Street are well hidden – like the wartime secrets of Daisyfield Mill.

The Bureau of Blackburn

Blackburn Town Centre’s oldest building is the Grade 2 listed church of St John the Evangelist.  Built in 1788, you can see a potted history of Blackburn’s 19th century movers and shakers by looking around its graveyard.  But those people who welded Blackburn’s culture from the past are about to be wedded to our culture of the present and future. Bureau

A new arts centre is gradually taking shape in the old church.  To be known as ‘The Bureau, Centre For The Arts’.  It was the brainchild of Claire Tymon from ‘Blackburn Is Open’, the town’s regenerative agency, set up to put unused space in the town centre back into use.  This followed the Citizen’s Advice Bureau moving from St John’s across to the library.  It was CAB’s connection with St John’s church which brought about this idea for the arts centre’s new name.  St John’s itself is a fascinating concept of Blackburn’s past and present.  You are immediately reminded this was a church when your attention is captured by sun shining through its beautiful stained glass windows.  Another legacy of former ecclesiastical days is its excellent acoustic quality.

The Bureau is setting up as a Community Interest Company, and Alex Martindale is one of the directors.  He said the Bureau will be split up into rooms.  These will be hired out to artists, exhibitions will be held and a corridor gallery will be created.  The centre is allowed to hold twelve events a year where alcohol can be consumed on the premises.  This will mean one-off monthly events will be organised.  Plans are also afoot to host a beer festival in the building.  This will showcase local brewers, including Three B’s and Hopstar.

Alex expects funding for the arts centre to come from the Arts Council of England, Council and Lottery grants.  There has also been interest from commercial organisations to pay to use space and equipment.  The building is also available for hire.  Work on the centre is progressing slowly, due to it being a new venture.  But Alex says its board of directors want everything planned properly and carried out correctly.

Activities are already taking place on a regular basis.  Blackburn Printfest will be holding a two day celebration of exhibitions, workshops, performances and print fairs. This takes place on 15th & 16th May.  Art Space is a monthly meet up for creatives, held every third Thursday.  Drink & Draw hold classes every second Thursday.  They have a full screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with live models in costume, to sketch alongside.  There is a dress code for this event – Drag!  This takes place on Thursday 9th April between 6:30-9:30pm and costs £5.

Alex says he wants the Bureau to become a fully-fledged arts centre, with studios and regular events taking place.  Information can be found by emailing them:  or by visiting their website:

What the Dickens: Blackburn’s old Cotton Exchange?

So many happy days of my childhood were spent watching films in the old cinema on King William Street.  I even remember the last film I saw there before it closed as a picture place in 2005.  For the record it was ‘Lord of the Rings’.  Sadly there has been no wizard round the corner to save this magnificent Grade 2 listed building from growing dereliction.

The Last Picture Show?

The Last Picture Show?

The Cotton Exchange and Newsroom opened in 1865.  As its name suggests, it was built to serve the town’s cotton traders and manufacturers.  It was meant to be two wings and a central tower, but only one wing and the tower was completed.  On the bright side, in 1869 one of Britain’s greatest writers, Charles Dickens, gave his last public reading performance in the Exchange.

In 1918 it became a full-time cinema, known as the Exchange Picture Hall.  At one point it had a seating capacity of 1,500.  But various alterations, changes of owners and names of the venue, more than halved this capacity.  By the time it closed, due to the opening of the new Vue multiplex cinema, it had been split into five screen rooms, the largest seating less than 300.

Since the closure, a restaurant, dodgy bar and now a barber’s has used the lower part of the building.  Sadly it has remained empty upstairs.  Unfortunately it is coming up to ten years of idleness for the majority of this building.  So it’s about time some use was found to bring it back to life and stop the onset of further dereliction.

Blackburn town centre has many empty premises, so retail use can be ruled out.  So can office use, due to the scale of development required.  But the building has been used for leisure purposes for over 100 years and this looks the likeliest future outcome.  All sorts of rumours have been banded around about it becoming a nightclub or a scaled down theatre.  But one of the larger pub chains taking over is probably the most realistic venture.  But not in Blackburn in the current economic climate.

At the moment the best we can do is keep the discussions going about the old Cotton Exchange, not letting people forget about it.  It has been ten years since the curtain went down on the silver screen.  Hopefully this beautiful building may still one day resume its place as one of Blackburn’s most visited venues.

Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery


Works of art outside the museum too

Works of art outside the museum too

Working in Blackburn town centre has its advantages. Loads of shops, good transport links, plenty of food and drink outlets and a few remaining good pubs. There are also plenty of things to do. One of which is being able to learn about Blackburn’s culture by going for a look around the museum and art gallery.

When I was young it was both our library and museum, on Library Street itself. But when the old Coop Emporium became Blackburn’s excellent central library, our museum and art gallery copped for all of their building. They even had an unusual occurrence of seeing the name of their road changed to its more appropriate one we now know as Museum Street.

I used to find it rather unnerving as a child seeing how eyes of faces in paintings seemed to follow you around the gallery. Fortunately those people in the paintings were all as dead as the stuffed animals and my childhood favourite exhibit – the mummy. She was one lady who really did give my friends and I the creeps.

Many people consider Blackburn Museum to be our town centre’s finest building. I particularly like the carvings decorating its walls on Museum Street and Richmond Terrace. But not everything is as it seems. You only really see two sides of this story. The museum’s right hand front side is obscured by a back alley. Even worse, when you look at the building from Exchange Street, you are met with a flat blank wall. Just down the terrace you have another even bigger square of blankness. This belongs to Blackburn’s masonic hall, where going back to square one is supposed to be part of their rituals anyway.

Ideally it would be nice one day to see the back end of our museum have an exterior of a similar character in keeping with its other outside walls. Maybe a way of helping to pay for future renovations would be to use this blank wall to help pay for its keep. From Exchange Street, you have a really good view of this wall, apart from it being partly obscured by a couple of trees.

Perhaps a good way of raising money would be to use the wall as a billboard for advertising. Many people pass this way through the town centre every day. On Saturday afternoons there is a steady stream of cars inching their way on to the Shopping Mall car park. No doubt many motorists and their passengers, over the years, have had plenty of time to take in all the views of Richmond Terrace. The museum might as well take advantage of this captive audience.

But what could be more fitting than Blackburn’s museum and art gallery advertising itself? They have the strategic location, they have a large flat surface and they have plenty of space for a billboard.

River Blakewater – Blackburn’s Hidden Artery

Our two old and new bus station building sites in the town centre have one thing in common.  They both have the River Blakewater flowing underneath them.  This has brought out a few talking points about Blackburn’s hidden river.  The main issue is should it be open or should it remain covered as it flows through the town centre? 

Strangely enough, the Blakewater is a mysterious watercourse to many people.  It seems to be out of sight to most of us throughout its journey from a trickle at Guide to its confluence with the River Darwen at Witton Park.  Also not many Blackburners even realise a river flows through the town centre, or indeed other areas of the town.

Interestingly enough, this river – the Black Burn – which our town is named after, actually has three names.  It starts off from its source, up Guide, as the Knuzden Brook.  It skims round Shadsworth, down to Intack, where for a short stretch it is known as Abbott Clough.  But Whitebirk is where its familiar River Blakewater name comes into use.

Here is Blackburn’s other, albeit less well known, aqueduct.  Our river flows underneath the Leeds Liverpool canal on its way through Greenbank, Cob Wall, Bastwell and Brookhouse, before going underground on Brookhouse Lane itself.  From here to where it emerges on Bridge Street could be classed as one of Britain’s widest bridges.

I can remember the river flowing open to Blakewater Street, near the lowest point of what is now Barbara Castle Way.  My great aunt lived on nearby Anvil Street.  Sadly the river at the time was polluted and was used as a dumping ground by all and sundry.  Unfortunately this should prove to be a warning to those harbouring the romantic idea of opening up the river as it flows through the town centre.  Even after all the culverting and drainage work on the river, it still floods in some places.  Darwen Street traders will endorse this.

But the one place it doesn’t flood is where it has been covered over in the town centre.  Perhaps some plan could be thought up to enhance the use of the river as a tourist attraction.  A branch of the canal, incorporating the river, from Whitebirk to Witton is not as far-fetched as some of the original canal ideas.

But after exploring Liverpool’s fascinating Williamson Tunnels, maybe something could be done to try and link up the underground river and its tributaries with our town’s Victorian sewers.  Maybe then the council could organise boat trips down Blackburn’s own Tunnel of Love.

Roving Mick Joins Foster Campaign

Dave and Edith

Dave and Edith

Following my photographic debut as an ageing male model in the Adoption campaign, I’m now adorning the pages of Blackburn with Darwen’s Fostering recruitment drive literature.

I’ve been given a different name in this campaign – I’m called Dave and my fellow model is a different lady (called Edith – not her real name), than the one who was with me in the Adoption posters. This has brought a great deal of micky-taking and hilarity in my direction. I’ve been accused of adopting women, while encouraging people to adopt and foster children.

But it’s all good fun for a really important cause. More foster carers are urgently needed in our area to provide a temporary or permanent home to children who can’t live with their families, for various reasons.

Fostering is a professional role with extensive training and ongoing support. Blackburn with Darwen Council provides a generous weekly allowance plus expenses. You will be helping local children and can be sure of regular placements, especially if you’re considering fostering as an alternative to traditional employment.

Foster carers can be from any race, culture, religion or linguistic background and can be gay, straight, single, married, widowed, divorced, disabled, employed or unemployed.

There are many different types of fostering, from providing short breaks for children with disabilities to longer term placements for children from small babies to teens.

Want more information? Check out details below:


Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

Fostering Service

Floor 2, Duke Street

Blackburn, BB2 1DH

Call Freephone: 0800 328 6919 for an informal chat or


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