BLACKBURN'S 'Festival of Making' has been highlighted in a national report on improving social cohesion.

It recommends the use of cultural and artistic events to bring different communities together.

The report 'Beyond Us and Them: Policy and Practice for Strengthening Social Cohesion in Local Areas' is published by Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network and the University of Kent.

It confirmed research showing that local authorities such as Blackburn with Darwen which invest in cohesion managed to foster higher levels of volunteering and neighbourliness and maintain higher levels of local trust than elsewhere during the coronavirus pandemic.

The borough's 'Our Community, Our Future' programme', one of five schemes partly funded by the government's Integrated Communities Strategy, is praised for successfully building cross-community links.

The report also highlights the importance of artistic and cultural programmes in this process.

It says: "Since 2017 Blackburn town centre has hosted the two-day Festival of Making event.

"Event activities celebrate the borough’s creative and industrial heritage and give all sections of the community a platform to share their skills.

"Activities appeal to a broad range of people - different ages, genders, cultures, faiths - and the event is thought of as something for everyone in the borough, as well as attracting visitors from further afield.

"In social integration consultations, residents have repeatedly requested more events like the Festival of Making and praised how it brings people from different backgrounds together."

It praises the council's Learning English Together scheme for involving participants in social mixing activities to practise their developing English language skills and its switch to online activities during the pandemic.

It hails the borough's speed in setting up a community help hub at the beginning of the first lockdown.

The report recommends: "Government needs to build on the Integrated Communities Strategy and embed principles of social cohesion into relevant national policy agendas working in partnership with local government to support a locally tailored approach and strengthen the role of local government as a co-producer, convener and enabler."

Cllr Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “We have an excellent track record.To have a number of our social integration projects included in this national policy paper is very pleasing."