For me, Burnley has always been a remarkably special town – ever since I first visited it over twenty five years ago. The town’s historic, industrial buildings tell an important part of this country’s history, but have been a wasted asset that I have felt could be transformed into new uses to benefit the regeneration of the area. After the disturbances in Burnley in 2001 and the many difficulties the town has faced, I determined that I should try – in partnership with Burnley Borough Council and others - to help forge a new future for the town. I wanted particularly to see if there was any way in which my charities could help.
This is why, in 2008, I asked twelve of them to work in partnership with the people of Burnley, the Council, Lancashire County Council and the North West Regional Development Authority. I asked them particularly to explore ways to support the regeneration of the Weavers’ Triangle (the former industrial hub of the town), to help young people raise their achievement and aspirations, to build the entrepreneurial success of Burnley businesses and to work in partnership to strengthen this community.
The result has been hugely encouraging. My charities, working in partnership with the public sector, the University, the police, the Army and local companies, are now running an extraordinarily wide variety of initiatives to tackle the challenges faced by this town. Their work ranges from supporting “breakfast clubs” in primary schools, running “business classes” in secondary schools, mentoring young people in trouble, running Master Classes for existing businesses, as well as starting new ones with help from my Prince’s Trust and my School of Traditional Arts. Encouraging local businesses to become involved in volunteering time and talent in areas of community need, and backing great community entrepreneurs such as Fran Monk and Amanda Chapman, has also made a real difference. These partnerships with the public sector are beginning to have an effect on the lives of countless people and helping to build the future of Burnley.
Particular effort is being made to help young people in Burnley, especially those who are not in education or employment and risk turning to crime. The innovative work of my Prince’s Trust with disaffected youths in Burnley, and indeed across the country, provides us with ample evidence that if you give young people self-confidence and self esteem, and start to equip them with life and work skills, you can turn around their lives.
The growing success of the project in Burnley is important because I believe this model of collaboration can be replicated in other deprived areas of the country and I look forward to working with my charities in similar towns.
The message from Burnley, I think, is an inspirational one. When charities, businesses, local authorities and service and volunteer organisations all work together with local people to tackle social problems and regenerate their community and the local environment, the results can be truly remarkable.