A HISTORIC town centre street got a fiesta feel yesterday to celebrate its continuing transition back to its Victorian roots.

A Samba band and dancers led the way as Blackburn's Northgate became 'Morphgate' for the day to highlight moves to make it a key element of a new heritage and leisure quarter.

The celebration, which is planned to become an annual event, was the idea of Martin Booth-Morton and Michael Mohan, owners of the street's Shh! Bar Speakeasy-style cafe and cocktail venue.

It saw stalls, a visit from Lancashire Hawks and Owls and a pop-up exhibition by Blackburn photographer Derren Lee-Poole inspired by the work of the town's celebrated Edwardian film-makers Mitchell and Kenyon.

Northgate is part of the£3.8million part-National Lottery-financed Blakey Moor Townscape Heritage Project to create a food, drink and leisure quarter around King George’s Hall and Blackburn College's Victoria building.

Properties in Northgate are being renovated to bring back the historic character of their frontages.

Mr Booth-Morton said: "We came up with this idea to make sure Northgate does not get overlooked by people.

"It is great that this important street is being restored to its former Victorian glory."

Michael Parker, 55, from Shadsworth's Lancashire Hawks and Owls which had come with 11 birds, took 20-year-old European Eagle Owl Jammu up the street to stretch his wings.

Hesaid: "I am Blackburn born and bred.

"It's good to see Northgate being returned to the way it was."

Cllr Jim Shorrock, Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, led the fiesta procession with Burnley's Suco Samba Band and dancers from Blackburn's Bureau Centre for the Arts from the Town Hall to Northgate.

He told the small crowd which had assembled: "Today Northgate becomes 'Morphgate' to celebrate the important revitalisation of this street and the surrounding are as a quarter for leisure, eating and drinking. I hope this will be the first of many such annual events."

The day included a live music stage opposite the SSh! Bar, other performing artists and street food stalls.

Clare Turner, Blackburn with Darwen Council's town centre manager, said: "This is great way to make people aware of what we are doing in Northgate. It's about reviving the town's heritage in modern setting."

Blackburn Business Improvement District manager Catherine Price said: "I think this is fantastic."