The closure of working men's clubs across East Lancashire marks the end of an era (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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The closure of working men's clubs across East Lancashire marks the end of an era
CHEAP alcohol, changing demographics, the smoking ban and a lack of business expertise could be causing an ‘irreversible’ decline of working men’s clubs in East Lancs, according to owners and industry representatives.
But existing members said they were determined to do all they can to keep open their ‘much loved’ clubs.
Their fears were highlighted as the 103-year-old Orchard Club, Whalley New Road, Blackburn, announced a fundraiser to boost business to avert closure.
Bernard West, a Blackburn musician who regularly visits the club, said: “It’s very sad so many clubs face uncertain futures and can’t easily adapt to changing society because it marks the end of an archetypal northern working class pasttime.”
Around 60 clubs in Blackburn, Ribble Valley and Rossendale and 26 in Burnley and Pendle are affiliated to the industry’s largest body, the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union, which represents 1900 establishments in England. But this is a 50 per cent decrease since the 1970s and a fall of more than 500 since the smoking ban was introduced in 2007.
Alan Kennedy, treasurer of Burnley Miner’s Club, said: “It’s hard for us to attract younger people because they prefer to drink at home or go out later into town and a lot of working men’s clubs can’t afford to stay open later or put on entertainment to try and attract the younger crowds. Our regulars are dwindling even on big event nights.”
Chris Leigh, club secretary of Stanhill Working Men’s Club, Blackburn, has seen around seven clubs close within a two mile radius in the last two years.
He said: “The smoking ban affected us because we don’t have room to have an outside smoking space but luckily we are still financially viable.”
The Orchard Club event is on August 31 at 8pm.
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