Bid to Unlock the Past

Alongside the physical building restoration, we are seeking funding for a community heritage and engagement project to work with volunteers to collect, collate, catalogue and celebrate the history of The Exchange, Blackburn.

Leading the groundwork research for the bid is volunteer archivist, Harriet Roberts (pictured) who has delivered similar projects for Child Action Northwest based on the archives of Blackburn Orphanage and Blackburn Empire, working with Melanie Warren. Harriet is the producer of a touring heritage engagement tool, Time Machine for Heritage Open Days at the National Trust. She was the organiser of Blackburn Heritage Festival in 2015 and 2016 which attracted 25,000 people to the town centre where she was manager of Blackburn Business Improvement District.

The untapped potential of a people’s history of The Exchange is fantastic. The survival of The Exchange building is linked with generations of stories of rescue, reincarnation and recreation. The foundations are intrinsically linked with the history of Blackburn and the strong themes of cotton and cinema, but it’s also a place that has been used for so many other types of businesses and community events on its journey. According to Mary Painter at Blackburn Library’s Local History department, a comprehensive collating, chronological narrative and sharing of the people behind the place has never been attempted before.

Harriet Roberts

In the meantime, we are publishing snippets we come across in an online scrapbook of memories which are being discovered everyday, many brought forward by the community. The quality of the archives available and potential stories will support our quest for funding.

To contact Harriet about the project or if you have a story, please email