World-leading wallpaper manufacturer Graham & Brown boss backs Blackburn’s bid for city status

Published Thursday 9 December 2021 at 14:30

Blackburn has submitted its bid for City Status.

The bid has had an incredible response and backing from all walks of life – and what has shone through are some incredible stories and passion for the town.

Following a campaign backed by Blackburn’s communities, businesses and young people, Blackburn has officially submitted its bid to become a city through the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The borough is historically a cradle of innovation. This has been highlighted in the town’s bid – from pioneering the first ever western movie to inventing the first interactive white board – it is also it a world leader in providing something practically every home in Britain still has – wallpaper.

This year the company are celebrating their 75th anniversary, thanks to Andrew Graham’s enterprising grandfather Harold Graham and Henry Brown founding the company in 1946.

Their innovative minds took advantage of a severe shortage of paper following the second world war. Henry and Harold cleverly procured a large supply of metallic paper, an eight-colour surface printer and a new embossing machine, with which the two men began a wallpaper revolution.

Not only was this revolutionary produce actually invented in neighbouring Darwen by Charles and Harold potter in 1839 but its world-leading manufacturers Graham & Brown still thrives today in Blackburn.

Employing around 500 people globally – the business hasn’t outgrown its Blackburn roots where it manufactures its products – with 50% of the company’s sales being exported. And Andrew says they won’t be going anywhere soon.

Chief Executive Andrew Graham, who is from Blackburn, was awarded an MBE in 2016 for his services to manufacturing and voluntary service to young people in Lancashire.

He said:

Today, we still design and manufacture all of our products here in Blackburn and we’re passionate about celebrating our part of the world. I can’t imagine us ever moving away from Blackburn. It’s people, its transport links, it’s a place that welcomes everyone.

Digital innovation

Still very much a family business with its roots in Blackburn, today the company is a global brand and has associations with household name designers from Julien Macdonald to Kelly Hoppen.

The advent of the internet has seen the company grow to build new e-commerce systems using digital and social media platforms to increase their global reach and popularity.

Our company has a global aspiration to be the best and one of the best businesses in our sector in the world. People sometimes shy away from big goals because they’re afraid of failure so I absolutely applaud this bold yet achievable move for Blackburn to become a city.

Blackburn has all the hallmarks of a city. It is a can-do place.

I think it’s right to have ambition and a forward-thinking outlook. I have no doubt that becoming a city would further help put Blackburn on the map and increase investor confidence that would have mutual benefits across the spectrum.

He added:

Aside from myself, the Graham & Brown families have always lived in this part of the world; as have a lot of the people who have worked here and continue to do so. We are part of the community and we take the opportunities to give something back because the very people that you’re helping are the people that are working with you.

Building a bright young future with Blackburn’s Youth Zone

Having a social conscious, and desire to build something from scratch, Andrew became founder and vice chair of Youth Zone. He is a keen supporter of Blackburn Rugby Club where his dad was a former president and where Andrew proudly played for 20 years.

He added:

The Youth Zone was a particular project that needed a founding sponsor, a local business person that would connect the dots around the town so because we had been here for several decades with a good reputation, so I got asked to do the job of founding it and bringing it alive.

We managed to overcome huge obstacles to get it off the ground where we now have thousands of young people coming through the doors, some are underprivileged, a lot are ordinary young people but all, from a very young age are trying to find their place in the world. The Youth Zone gives them that spark, opportunities to break down boundaries and barriers and a safe space to collaborate and try new things.

Blackburn is a place to do business

Blackburn has got a lot of entrepreneurial people in it with great businesses and a lot of great young people so I like championing Blackburn. Wayne Hemingway bringing the National Festival of Making to Blackburn has done so much to really help change Blackburn’s image and how people view the town.

Blackburn really is a great place to build a business and a family and that’s why I’m backing Blackburn all the way.

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