BLACKBURN MP Kate Hollern writes her fortnightly column for the Lancashire Telegraph

HAVING had the pleasure to make Blackburn my home of almost 50 years, enjoying the unique pleasure of serving as a councillor, then as council leader and now in my sixth year as Blackburn’s voice in Westminster, I have had the opportunity to see more than most the incredible potential that is packed into our town.

Ours is a vibrant and welcoming community, the largest urban centre in East Lancashire and we have so much more to offer. Our place in the national story of this country is undeniable and I know there’s a place for us as we look to the future.

Some may recall that Blackburn has been here before, we’ve made previous attempts to get city status. And I know there will be those who disagree with the bid for city status, indeed some will no doubt say so in response to this article. But the persistence of our bids, if anything, is a testament to the unrelenting belief local leaders have in the people and places that make Blackburn what it is.

Blackburn’s cultural infrastructure is a rich mix of the spaces – our stadium, cathedral, and ‘city’ centre – where ‘who we are’ is reaffirmed, experienced, and reproduced. Blackburn Rovers, who are one of the oldest established professional football clubs in England and are forever etched into footballing history, reflect our winning can-do spirit.

In times past there has been a strong association with having a cathedral and recognition as a city, while that tradition no longer formally exists, it is still a marker of the heritage that is at the heart of our community. Blackburn Cathedral, headquarters of the Blackburn Church of England Diocese, which ties us to several flashpoints in our national story going as far back as the year 596, has since become a place where our keen civic pride and engagement is being lived out.

My last column celebrated the heart-warming solidarity shown against knife and violent crime as we gathered at the Cathedral.

Our redeveloped Mall, part of Blackburn’s receipt of the High Street of the Year award, marks out our strong entrepreneurial spirit as a community and reflects – along with spaces like our new Cathedral Square and, Blackburn College and University Centre campus – our rich diversity.

I’ve long known Blackburn to be a proud and ambitious place. Blackburn with Darwen Council have led the march to promote and defend our autonomy, sense of local identity and pride in place. It has been 23 years since we became a unitary authority, stepping away from Lancashire County Council.

A few times through the last 20 months, Blackburn has been dragged into the spotlight because of just how devastating the Covid-19 pandemic has been to people in our community. Our community is a resilient one. Yes, we have our challenges: I’ve raised on several occasions the deprivation that some of our communities suffer. But nevertheless, our community is an ambitious and aspirational one. City status can be a springboard for the ambitions that we’ve been hard at work to bring to life.

I am fully behind the city bid and am #BackingBlackburn.