Lancashire Life - - PLACES TO VISIT -

Plans are afoot to en­sure this his­toric Rossendale com­mu­nity is a vi­brant place to live, work and visit

Don’t be fooled by Rawten­stall. This Rossendale town, once the cra­dle of the In­dus­trial Revolution, may have suf­fered in re­cent years.

But to­day, it is a thriv­ing place that is try­ing hard to rein­vent it­self. With arts, town cen­tre re­gen­er­a­tion and shops, some of which that wouldn’t look out of place in cen­tral Manch­ester, it is a com­mu­nity that is going places.

One cat­a­lyst for the turnaround came when friends Carl Bell and Jackie and Ju­lian Wil­liams put their faith in the then fal­ter­ing Whi­taker Mu­seum. Once the home of a Vic­to­rian in­dus­tri­al­ist and then a mu­seum ear­marked for clo­sure, they saved it in 2013 and rein­vig­o­rated it with an ex­cit­ing pro­gramme of cul­ture, mu­sic and com­mu­nity events.

They also made it a great place to eat, drink and so­cialise. ‘When we took it on there were about 7,000 vis­i­tors a year,’ said Carl.

‘It just wasn’t be­ing used as it should be. Even those who felt pas­sion­ately about it still weren’t com­ing as much as was needed to keep it going. But we just couldn’t

re­sist it. It used to be a bit of a joke when I used to visit with my fam­ily be­cause it was never open. I was al­ways in­trigued by it and when we first got the keys it was pretty ter­ri­fy­ing.

‘We had access to this fab­u­lous col­lec­tion and we kept think­ing some­one was going to come and kick us out.

‘It’s been a lot of work but now we get 40,000 peo­ple through our doors and we’d like to think we play a pos­i­tive role in the lo­cal com­mu­nity.’

With the sup­port of Rossendale Coun­cil, they now hope to bring even more of the site back into use with a Her­itage Lot­tery bid of al­most £2 mil­lion to ren­o­vate a barn, sta­bles and yard next door. It will pro­vide fur­ther ex­hi­bi­tion space al­low­ing more artists and cre­atives to show their work as well as room for more of the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion to be dis­played. There will be train­ing space and ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­i­ties for the com­mu­nity to use, a small cafe and events area.

Carl Bell and Jackie Wil­liams have over­seen the re­vival of the Whi­taker

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