New historic home for arts hub

Published Tuesday 5 March 2024 at 11:41

The borough’s Bureau Centre for the Arts is making the move to a permanent new home in the heart of Blackburn.

It will be settling in to the former Lewis Textile Museum on Exchange Street next to Blackburn Town Hall, and directors have big plans for the future.

After the Grade II listed property became vacant last year, the Council identified an opportunity to bring the Bureau Centre for the Arts back into the town centre. Over the last few months, the Council has undertaken a programme of repairs and alterations to the Grade II Listed building to make it ready for their relocation. 

It will bring the famous arts centre back to the heart of the town centre following the devastating fire which destroyed their former home at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in 2019.

They have been temporarily based since then at the former Thwaites Visitor Centre on Penny Street, Blackburn.

The move to a more central location will help The Bureau Centre for the Arts be as accessible to as many people as possible.

All forms of the arts are catered for at the Bureau, which gives opportunities to people of all abilities and levels of experience to get involved, from complete beginners to professional artists. Events and activities include Shared Sounds early year’s music and art projects, Blackburn Festival of Light Street Band, the Obscura dark room for budding photographers and general spaces for people to create.

The Bureau’s new home next to the Making Rooms and round the corner from Blackburn Museum will make it easier for the three organisations to work more closely together and strengthen the town’s growing cultural offer. 

The Lewis Textile Museum was opened in 1934  and was bequeathed to the people  of Blackburn by a local cotton industrialist, Thomas Boys Lewis. It closed in 2006 and a new gallery with its collection of looms and textile machinery was moved to Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery.

The Bureau has already planned its first exhibition for the new space, which is a partnership project with The Bureau as lead partner and core partners the Council and Community CVS.

Called ‘Chip In Creative Community Exhibition’, it will be held at The Bureau at The Lewis, from March  13th to 23rd. It celebrates the talent and hard work of local young volunteers and the people they work with.

Chip In is a volunteering project in Blackburn and Darwen with mentoring at its heart.

Through the project, young people age 16 – 30 are supported into volunteering opportunities across Blackburn with Darwen’s arts, culture, sport, heritage and environment organisations. The exhibition is an opportunity to pause and celebrate the achievements of the collaboration between local partners and the young people involved in the programme – Something for the community, by the community.

Cllr Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

We are really pleased that we have been able to have a productive partnership with The Bureau and that we have been able to help fund this move to the historic Lewis Textile Museum.

This is part of a wider cultural plan for Blackburn Town Centre to bring the creative organisations and businesses in the area together to create a real cultural quarter in the town.

We were also really keen to bring the Lewis Textile Museum back into cultural use due to its strong heritage and history in the town and the Bureau Centre for the Arts is a fantastic fit to carry on this proud history. I can’t wait to see the Bureau move in fully and make the space a real arts hub for the whole borough.”

Cath Ford, a director at Bureau Centre for the Arts, said:

We are thrilled to be relocating to the former Lewis Textile Museum, a special place for generations of local people and a building at the heart of the town’s cultural heritage.

The Bureau is a place for all people to create and experience art in its many forms, express themselves and connect with others, and we look forward to starting the next chapter in The Bureau’s story in this beautiful building. Thank you to Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council for their support to make this move a reality.”

For more information on the Bureau and all it has to offer, including the Chip In Creative Community Exhibition, go to:



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