Published Wednesday 3 April 2019 at 17:55
A Blackburn with Darwen community group has pledged to continue their hard work despite a blaze ripping the building where they were based, destroying everything inside.
The shocked volunteers who set up The Bureau – Centre for the Arts in Blackburn today woke up to news that firefighters were tackling the fire at their base in Victoria Street.
More than eight fire crews from across the area were called at 5:30am after a passer-by spotted smoke.
Blackburn with Darwen Council, which owns the building, is supporting the group to help find a new space for them to continue their community projects, including the annual Festival of Light.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Kerris Casey-St. Pierre said:
Words cannot describe just how absolutely devastated we all are.
The Bureau is home to an incredible mix of community groups and creative artists and has been built on four years of hard work and passion.
Today, that same passion and sense of sheer determination is stronger than ever and while we are all shocked at what has happened, we are absolutely determined to work together to continue the amazing work we do with the community.
The building may have been wrecked and many of our possessions with it, but we are already starting to look at what can be done and make plans for the upcoming events and exhibitions.
The building was our home, and while we all loved it so much, we realise that The Bureau is so much more than just a venue – it is a community and this fire will not take that away.
We would like to thank people for their huge show of support during this incredibly difficult time – we need that now more than ever before.
Built as The Church of St. John the Evangelist in 1787, the church is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in the town.
It has most recently been used as the arts centre with a cafe, art gallery, cinema and community use room, art studios, darkroom and a venue for live music and a range of community events.
Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, Councillor Mohammed Khan OBE, said:
I was extremely upset to wake up to the news early this morning that this historic church was on fire.
While this is devastating for the community and especially those who help run it, I’m just grateful nobody was hurt.
The Council owns the building and we are working closely with the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.
We’ve received early reports that suggest that the fire started in the café area. Initial assessments are that the roof structure and the interior have been significantly damaged, but thankfully the iconic bell tower appears to be less affected.
There has been a lot of excellent community work going on in the church since it was taken over by The Bureau – Centre for the Arts. Our priority will be to meet with those involved to discuss the next steps and see how we can support them.