A NEW campaign to reinvent Blackburn with Darwen’s history of skill and hard work for the 21st century is launched today.

It aims to rebrand the borough as the place to live, work, invest and innovate, while building on its Victorian heritage as the cradle of the cotton industry.


The campaign aims to build on recent regeneration of Blackburn town centre, its young population, improved transport links, and recent investment in commerce and industry.

Rather than concentrating on its days of Victorian wealth and greatness or lamenting its late 20th century problems of decline and deprivation, it aims to create a new story of a borough of the future.

Blackburn-born and bred international businessman Mo Isap will spearhead the drive to turn the borough into “the place to be” in the modern world for its own residents and businesses, and a new generation of investors, workers and new people.

He also wants to turn the town with its new £34 million Cathedral Quarter, Premiership-winning and Football League founder Blackburn Rovers, Witton Country Park and historic Victorian town centre into a tourist destination.

Using the town and the borough football club’s historic motto of ‘Arte et Labore’ (by skill and hard work) the campaign aims to capture the imagination, inventiveness, cultural diversity and energy of one of the UK’s youngest populations.

Mr Isap, chair of the Blackburn with Darwen Local Strategic Partnership (LSP), said: “It is the place that brings people, investment and jobs.

“It happened in the Victorian era when people from across the North West and elsewhere, including Ireland, came to Blackburn in the late 20th century, when people from South Asia came to work in the textile industry, and now it is happening again.

“The place brand of Blackburn with Darwen needs to be in everything we do so people know about the borough and what it offers in the modern world.

“We have some of the finest firms in the country, a diverse but strong and welcoming community, and the beautiful East Lancashire countryside surrounding us.

“This is a place to stay and make your life, to return to after a period away at university or college, and to come to with your investment and ideas.

“A place for the modern world.”

The initiative behind the new ‘Blackburn and Darwen story’ will be unveiled this morning at a breakfast event for business leaders, the public and voluntary sector organisations at the new One Cathedral Square office block in the new Cathedral Quarter development.

It is the culmination of 18 months’ work to understand and challenge stereotypical perceptions of the borough, celebrate the area’s strengths and assets and raise the profile of the place to encourage people to live and work there, boosting opportunity and success.

It builds on the LSP’s Plan for Prosperity 2014-20, which identified image and marketing as a key priority and will see the unveiling of a new ‘watermark’ branding to be incorporated in public, private and voluntary sector advertising, marketing and documentation.

The glossy brochure outlining the borough’s potential being released at the event, to be attended by 200 of its movers and shakers, opens with the pitch: “Blackburn is a town with industry, inventiveness, skill and hard work through it’s history and shaping its future.

“This was one of the first industrial towns in the world.”

It goes on to set out how this legacy, along with the global-class companies and Victorian charm of its partner town Darwen, can be used as the springboard to a cutting-edge modern, hi-tech, high-quality role in the forefront of 21st century Lancashire, North West and UK.

Speakers include Ian Brown, from world-leading interior design company Graham and Brown, Wayne Wild, of Darwen-based engineering firm WEC, heritage expert Harriet Roberts, of Blackburn’s BID project, and Joycelyn Neve, of the Seafood Pub Company.

Mr Isap said: “We have emotional connections with place and this influences business and investment decisions.

“The Blackburn with Darwen brand will help reinstate our place as the land of opportunity, of community, of leisure and prosperity.”

The dean of Blackburn, the Rev Christopher Armstrong, welcomed the initiative, saying: “This is what the church is all about, building a sense of place and community.

Cllr Phil Riley said: “From a local authority perspective, we’re tremendously excited about the potential of this initiative and fully supportive of it.

“This is all about the place where we live and we’re delighted that it’s being led by our local strategic partnership, and in particular our colleagues in the business community. As a council, we will be doing our best to ensure that all aspects of our work across the place is aligned behind this new approach and story.

“We need to ensure our voice is heard, we need to influence and impress people, most of whom will never have been here, and we need to compete like never before. This new approach puts us on the front foot and I hope everybody will get behind this approach and show their support.”

Khalid Saifulla, chairman of the borough’s Hive network, said: “The business community of Blackburn with Darwen, with the full support of our public sector colleagues, is driving the changes needed to build a prosperous borough.

“We realised that we needed to identify the assets and strengths that are fundamental to defining what we are all about – what makes this place and its people special and what makes it different.

“At a time of limited resources, changing perceptions about a location and creating a positive brand image can’t just be about traditional marketing.

“There needs to be a new model of place leadership and place promotion where the private sector is empowered to take on a significant role, as this work benefits us as well as the place.”

Wayne Wilde, commercial director and shareholder of Darwen-based WEC Group, one of the largest engineering and fabrication businesses in the UK with an award-winning welding and engineering training academy, said: “We are a place that has industry, inventiveness, skill and hard work woven through our history and this is helping shape the jobs and economy of tomorrow.

“We were one of the first industrialised towns in the world.

“James Hargreaves, who lived here, invented the spinning jenny, which was a major development in the industrialisation of weaving, and this was an early example of the innovation and enterprise that has been a feature of the place ever since.

“It’s not by accident that the motto for the town is ‘by skill and hard work’ and this is a metaphor for the ‘new Blackburn and Darwen’ as we look to galvanise the talent, energy and insight of our young people.”

He added: “A particular concern for our company was the shortage of skilled engineers – in 2006, we formed the WEC Welding and Engineering Academy.

“This gives our people the opportunity to gain the relevant skills for a successful career in engineering.

“In 2015, one of our apprentices scooped a gold medal in construction metalwork in the World Skills UK competition and will represent Great Britain at the World Skills final in Abu Dhabi in 2017.

“Training and development is at the heart of our business, and we will continue to help produce the engineers of tomorrow, which will not only benefit our business, but the whole local economy.”