Former Cinema to become a multicultural  ‘Hub on the High Street’

The Exchange launches a 5 year business plan and fundraising strategy

to bring communities together

Flags from across the globe, representing the diversity of races and religions, cultures and communities in Blackburn with Darwen will decorate The Exchange at a special event to launch a business plan for the £9.3 million redevelopment of the former cinema by the charity, Re:Source.

The free celebration which takes place on Saturday 20 November will be a marketplace of groups showcasing food, music, traditions and culture from around the world. The party called LIFT OFF! will be funded by Near Neighbours, a programme administered by Church Urban Fund, the Church of England’s social action charity,

Key stakeholders and VIPs will be there to mark the launch of a business plan which has been introduced and endorsed by Lord Shuttleworth, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for Lancashire. The 40 page illustrated report sets out the phased path to transform the building into a community hub and arts space providing shared facilities for people of all races and religions from charities, agencies and public bodies to work together.

Manager, Caer Butler explains: ‘Historically, The Exchange has always been a place where people come together and the business plan sets out how we are creating a hub on the high street  which will provides great spaces for celebration and collaboration. Organisations that support the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our area recognise the potential of The Exchange as a cohesive space where we can work together. The main hall upstairs is a fantastic arts space to use cultural activities to bring health and wellbeing, economic benefits and social change in the heart of our town centre. By combining resources we can break down barriers, build bridges and have a greater impact in our community.

As a festival venue, over the last few years, time and time again we’ve demonstrated how the huge events and exhibition space upstairs in the former cotton trading hall attracts organisers and audiences to all kinds of activities. We want to offer the whole building out to the community and work is also already underway downstairs in the former shop and hairdressers to make improvements to Mee Maws Café. This will become a multiculturally accessible community space. Covid recovery funding from All Churches Trust, Hope Beyond and other donations have enabled improvements to the kitchen area and the provision of new toilets, window blinds and storage.

Caer explains:

‘A number of smaller charities such as ARC, refugee charity and the wish centre have come forward to use the former coffee shop. Grant funding from All Churches is making the building fully accessible to all cultures and a place where users can also gain valuable work experience to gain permanent employment.’

‘Through our consultation, community engagements and stakeholder conversations funded by the Architectural Heritage Fund, we have found that quite a few smaller charities need help with various aspects of their own projects.  The plan for MeeMaws is to use it for our own community projects such as Relish English, on one week day and to provide a day a week free of charge to four other charities to offer a safe venue to support vulnerable people. The organisations are potentially Lancashire Women who work with vulnerable women on health and well being projects,  Night Safe, supporting homeless young adults; ARC project, teaching English to refugees and supporting them; The wish centre supporting those escaping domestic abuse and Relish English,  teaching conversation English to mainly Muslim women and the Eastern European community. MeeMaws offers opportunities to create experience for future employment and raise the profiles of each charity whilst raising revenue through their volunteers running the coffee shop one day a week.’

LIFT OFF! takes place at The Exchange on Saturday 20 November, 12am – 4pm when the business plan will be launched at 12.30pm with a new film produced by former BBC Inside Out producer and investigative journalist, Laurence Inwood