I really hope Burnley’s award as ‘The Most Enterprising Area in the UK’ gets a bit of national attention. It has been a long hard struggle for the town, its businesses, its politicians and people to fight against an image founded largely on cloth caps, derelict mills, tiny terraced houses, race riots and the BNP.
All of those were real – many of the houses still are – but there is another side to Burnley which is finally getting a bit of recognition. This government award is a part of that.
The town, and Britain’s other successful entry – The Premier League – now go on to the European Enterprise Promotion Awards in Lithuania in November.
There are all sorts of reasons for this success. The fact of businesses coming together as Burnley Bondholders to put in the time, effort and money needed to change perceptions. The support and commitment of the council. The fact of persuading the powers that be to re-open the rail link to Manchester. The transformation of the old mills into work and living space. The transformation of an abandoned tyre site into an aerospace supply village. I suspect Prince Charles’ support for the area will have had an impact. Likewise Dave Fishwick of ‘Bank of Dave’ fame, who set up his own little bank in Burnley to help people turned away by the big boys. And also, based at the football ground, a genuine world first, the University College of Football Business, now being developed at Wembley Stadium as well.
As a supporter of the Bondholder scheme, and a member of the UCFB board, I have been asked to the event in the town tonight to celebrate this big step forward. The scenery en route will be as stunning as ever, the buzz around the place good, and then to cap it all, a League Cup derby tie against Preston North End. Not so grim up north.