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New download: Insider’s Guide to Blackburn

Published Thursday 3 October 2019 at 12:59

Tens of thousands of people are expected to head to Blackburn over the next month for the first-ever British Textile Biennial.

Whether you’ve lived here your whole life or are visiting for the very first time, give our new Insider’s Guide a quick read now!

You’ll hear from adidas designer, Gary Aspden, the BBC’s Sewing Bee judge, Patrick Grant, and those who know the town best.

There’s top tips on everything from Blackburn’s hidden gems, best food hangouts, where’s good to head to on a night out and top tips on places to shop in the town.

There’s also a quick-reference guide to parking, a handy map and a rundown of the BTB events in the town.

Don’t forget to also follow us on social for the latest event updates:

F: @Blackburndarwencouncil

T: @Blackburndarwen

I: BwDCouncil

Full  BTB programme of events 

Gary Aspden – adidas designer and curator of the Blackburn SPEZIAL exhibition

What are the things you couldn’t live without that you find in Blackburn or Darwen?

Darwen Moors and Bold Venture Park. The views from Darwen Tower are phenomenal! There is no place on earth like it.

Any ‘hidden gems’ you like to visit?

Carlo’s Deli in the centre of Darwen – although locals wouldn’t say its hidden!

Favourite retail shop? 

My son loves to go to Remix Casuals on Blackburn Boulevard as he is a skateboarder.

Where is your go-to place(s) for food – take-out or restaurant/café/shop?

Freedom Organics in Darwen is great but they only open at lunchtime … get there early as they always sell out.

In the evening I love the Shajan – for me it is one of the best curry houses in the U.K.

Where do you like to go on a night out locally?

Sunbird Records in Darwen or the Electric Church in Blackburn.

Both support live music and local talent plus Sunbird has Eddies Pizza which are wood-fired and are as good as any pizza I know of.

What tips would you give to somebody visiting for the first time?

Definitely go to Darwen for a night out – the town is buzzing at night and there are loads of bars selling local real ales.

Councillor Phil Riley – Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Executive Member for Growth and Development

Briefly describe yourself and your links to Blackburn/Darwen:

Councillor and Blackburn resident since 1973.

What are the things you couldn’t live without that you find in Blackburn or Darwen?

Blackburn Rovers, of course! And some great food.

 Any ‘hidden gems’ you like to visit?

Thira Indian restaurant on Darwen Street and the Taiba on Randal St – it’s the first Moroccan restaurant in this part of the world.

And, the Drummers Arms – an award-winning real ale bar otaiba n the Town Hall Square.

Where is your go-to place(s) for food – take-out or restaurant/café/shop?

The Khyber café – a Blackburn institution on Whalley Range still doing good curries and the best naans in the world!

Where do you like to go on a night out locally?

 A Mano – an excellent Italian restaurant on Cathedral Square.

What tips would you give to somebody visiting for the first time?

Enjoy the growing food and drink scene in the town!

What difference do you think the British Textile Biennial Exhibition featuring the Adidas Exhibition and programme of events will make to Blackburn?

It will introduce a whole new audience to the regeneration of the town and the activities that are on offer.

Patrick Grant –  Director of five UK clothing businesses, including Blackburn’s Community Clothing, and judge on the BBC’s ‘The Great British Sewing Bee.’

Any ‘hidden gems’ you like to visit?

Prism Gallery is at the heart of Blackburn’s thriving fine art scene. Their regular exhibitions featuring local artists are always worth a visit.

I keep a bike at the factory and in the summer after work I love to cycle up into the Forest of Bowland just to the north of Blackburn for the breath-taking scenery (and the wildlife), or ride over the Grane Road and past Pickup Bank for amazing views over to Darwen Tower and across Blackburn with Darwen.

Of course, I have to mention the Community Clothing shop on King William Street selling our great quality clothes – many of them made within a few miles of the shop.

And, right next door is the Rebound Bookshop, run by the brilliant Bootstrap charity, which has an amazing selection of second hand books.

Where is your go-to place(s) for food – take-out or restaurant/café/shop?

Blackburn has loads of great food, but it’s tucked away.

I love Maroosh on Darwen Street where the kebabs come in a hot fresh naan cooked in the tandoor.

The samosas at the Manchester Sweet Centre are well worth the short walk to Whaley Range (the sweets are great too) and the chops at Kebabish Original are amazing.

The best coffee in town is Exchange Coffee on Fleming Square. It’s a beautiful shop to boot.

There’s also an almost infinite variety of delicious food to be found in Blackburn Market.

Where do you like to go on a night out locally?

King Georges Hall has great music and comedy or on a sunny summers evening Ill often take a walk up to Corporation Park and just enjoy watching the world go by.

What tips would you give to somebody visiting for the first time?

Try and catch a match at Blackburn Rugby Club or Salmesbury Cricket Club – two of the most picturesque sports grounds you will find anywhere.

And of course there’s the resurgent Blackburn Rovers banging the goals in at the mighty Ewood Park!

If you’re in the town centre, check out the amazing collection at the Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery and take a walk to see the stunning interior of Blackburn Cathedral – one of the UK’s newest Cathedrals, but one of the oldest sites of worship.

What difference do you think the British Textile Biennial and its programme of events will make to Blackburn?

I hope it will inspire everyone in the town – young and old to get creative and maybe inspire a new generation to think about some of the brilliant careers in textiles available throughout Pennine Lancashire.

Jamie Holman – artist in residence at British Textile Biennial.

Briefly describe yourself and your links to Blackburn/Darwen:

My family are from Blackburn, my mum and my grandma were born on Shaw Street, near Johnson Street.

I grew up here, went to school and college in Blackburn; before leaving in the early nineties to study art in London.

I returned to Blackburn to teach at the college in 1998 and I’ve been working as an artist and a lecturer here ever since.

What are the things you couldn’t live without that you find in Blackburn or Darwen?

Blackburn is located in the most beautiful county in the country.

We are only ever 10 minutes from the countryside, whether that’s one of our town parks, Darwen Tower, Billinge Woods or even a bus ride from the Trough of Bowland and the Ribble Valley.

Blackburn is also a short train ride from the coast so I think our location is our best asset.

Days out in the woods or at the seaside are still as important to me now as they were when I was a kid growing up here.

Any ‘hidden gems’ you like to visit?

The Museum and Art Gallery is world-class and I feel lucky to have it on the doorstep and for free.

Everyone in the town should pop in and see ‘The Forge’ by James Sharples.

It’s a stunning painting made by a working man in Blackburn during the industrial revolution.

It’s a real hidden gem.

Where is your go-to place(s) for food – take-out or restaurant/café/shop?

Cafe Northcote for a posh lunch, The Chippery is our regular spot when we have events at the PRISM Contemporary Gallery on Northgate and morning coffee from Rhode Island.

Where do you like to go on a night out locally?

Shhh Bar on Northgate is great! Also live music at the incredible Electric Church venue, where I’ve seen local favourites ‘The Illicits’ and ‘The Ruby Tuesdays.’

I also love ‘Night at the Museum’ – which puts live music events in The Museum and Art Gallery and the annual Confessional Festival and our own PRISM gallery events.

There’s more going on in Blackburn than people think!

What tips would you give to somebody visiting for the first time?

Come and see us when the British Textile Biennial or The National Festival of Making is happening.

Book a hotel, bring the family and enjoy world-class art, music and culture in the town centre for free.

There’s something happening in Blackburn, people are starting to realise and this is the best way to find out what’s going on.

What difference do you think the British Textile Biennial and its programme of events will make to Blackburn?

BTB is bringing world-class events, exhibitions and entertainment to Blackburn.

We’ve much to be proud of in terms of our history and the expertise we still have locally; both here and across Lancashire.

You can see this in the Adidas Spezial exhibition and the fact that groups of people are travelling from across the country to hear the stories the Biennial is telling; from the poets and painters of industrial revolution, to the youth culture explosion of Acid House.

This textile history is still informing the cutting edge of design and fashion, with both Gary Aspden and Patrick Grant both celebrating and investing in the towns future.

We have much to celebrate in Blackburn and should be proud of who we have been in the past, are now, and may yet become in the future.

Councillor Jamie Groves –  Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Assistant Executive Member for Growth and Development

Briefly describe yourself and your links to Blackburn/Darwen:

I’m a born-and-bred Blackburn lad – I’ve lived here all my life and I’m a massive Blackburn Rovers fan.

I’ve been proud to represent the Ewood area that I live in on the local council for the last seven years and have been part of the Growth and Development team which has delivered some fantastic regeneration in the borough over recent years.

What are the things you couldn’t live without that you find in Blackburn or Darwen?

Obviously being a massive football fan I couldn’t imagine living without Blackburn Rovers!

Football clubs are the heartbeat of any community and Rovers is no different, a great place for people across the borough, of all backgrounds, to come together.

Any ‘hidden gems’ you like to visit?

I think there are many hidden gems, but one of my favourites is the Sssh Bar on Northgate.

It’s a 1920s speakeasy bar with a lovely relaxed atmosphere and great owners/staff.

A must visit!

Where is your go-to place(s) for food – take-out or restaurant/café/shop?

 There’s plenty of great places to eat in Blackburn with Darwen, but the place I like to go regularly is A-Mano Italian restaurant near the Cathedral.

Fantastic food and great staff make for a great location for a family meal out.

 Where do you like to go on a night out locally?

 On a night out I tend to like live music venues.

Darwen is great for watching local bands and the town’s Darwen Live event in May is a must for music lovers.

Blackburn also has its fair share of venues for gigs, the Sir Charles Napier, a personal favourite, being the best for lovers of rock music.

 What tips would you give to somebody visiting for the first time?

 I’d always encourage people to attend an event at King George’s Hall.

We’ve had some big acts play recently and it’s great to see the town centre bustling with people in the bars and restaurants – it makes for a great night out.

 What difference do you think the British Textile Biennial Exhibition featuring the Adidas Exhibition and programme of events will make to Blackburn?

Having a massive brand like Adidas doing an exhibition like this in the borough is superb and hopefully will promote both Blackburn and Darwen to new visitors – further helping the fantastic work already done in ensuring this is a great place to live, work and visit.

Laurie Peake – Director of Super Slow Way – organisers of the British Textile Biennial

Briefly describe yourself and your links to Blackburn/Darwen

Seeing David Bowie (and others) perform at King Georges Hall in my formative years and now being part of a new wave of cultural events, including the National Festival of Making and now the British Textile Biennial.

Any ‘hidden gems’ you like to visit?

 The Cotton Exchange is my current favourite – a beautiful, mini-cathedral, hidden in plain sight.

It played such a key part in people’s memories as a cinema yet few knew how fabulous the building was behind the black box or what an amazing part it played in the cotton history of the town.

People are going to be astounded by its transformation for the adidas exhibition!

Where is your go-to place(s) for food – take-out or restaurant/café/shop?

You can’t beat Blackburn Market – there’s something for everyone and it’s all freshly cooked and delicious!

The only problem is what to choose – pie and peas, a kebab, a curry or a pho – I generally have at least two!

Where do you like to go on a night out locally?

I’ll definitely be going to the Electric Church and King George’s Hall to catch one or all of the amazing line-up of gigs presented by adidas to mark the 30th anniversary of Blackburn’s golden age of acid house.

What difference do you think the British Textile Biennial Exhibition featuring the Adidas Exhibition and programme of events will make to Blackburn?

I hope BTB will bring people to town who’ve never been here before and bring Blackburn residents to see exhibitions who don’t usually think of doing so, to spark conversations about the role of fashion and design in their own lives, from T-shirts to quilts to trainers.

I hope they’ll go and record stories of their own fashion and clothing choices in our Listening Booth in Jamie Holman‘s wonderful exhibition space in Church Street as we’re planning to build up a digital archive of Blackburn’s cultural heritage.

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