Ladies and Gentlemen, it is marvellous to have this chance of returning after two years to Burnley and seeing so many familiar faces, including one or two Councillors – one of whom has been on my Young Muslim Leadership programme - so I am thrilled to see that helped to rub off a little bit. I am very proud indeed of that programme.
Having just had the opportunity to meet several groups of business people, I was delighted to come across two businesses that my Prince’s Trust started ten to fifteen years ago which are now doing incredibly well. I am thrilled. That has given me, I promise you, enormous encouragement.
I don’t know if you have noticed, but I’ve done my utmost to wear as much “claret” as I possibly can just to show solidarity with your Football Club! I’ve made a mistake, I think, in not being here tomorrow for the match, but I shall watch with great interest. I do think it is wonderful what Burnley has achieved in entering the Premier League. It is marvellous. I think it has given a new boost to the whole area. I had the most enjoyable visit to the Club this morning and saw some of the results of the work that my charities have been doing in the last two years. Seeing the work of my Prince’s Trust there was so rewarding – it is marvellous to see the effect that can be made on young people in giving them self confidence and self esteem, because that really is one of the most important things. You can’t really do much in life if you don’t acquire that in some way, and so I think it needs nurturing and encouraging.
What I found particularly interesting to hear, and, indeed, I hear the same point made in many places I visit, is how these courses my charities run have actually helped people overcome their preconceived notion about other groups of people. For instance, we heard the young today talk about the fact that, through having an Army team leader on their course, they suddenly realised the armed forces weren’t exactly what they thought they were. The same point applies to the Police or others talking about how they thought working in a business would be ruthless, but, in fact, they discovered there were actually very human people involved in business. Hence I have been enormously impressed by all the incredibly hard work carried out by my charities.
I just wanted to pay tribute today to Dame Julia Cleverdon, whom I’ve known for a very long time, and to whom I am hugely grateful, together with David Feldman, as they do so much up here to help encourage the co-ordinated work of my charities, together of course with Burnley Borough Council. I did also want to say how grateful I am to Steve Rumbelow for hosting this gathering here today, and the chance I have had to meet and, indeed, thank so many of the people who are so critical to this town’s future from the private, the public and indeed the community sector.
I am also hugely grateful to all these Ambassadors I have, like Allan Leighton, who grilled me when I joined his meeting earlier this morning. It is wonderful that he has been prepared to devote so much time over the past two years, as have other Ambassadors. I cannot thank them enough for all their efforts. Also business leaders like Andrew White of Aircelle are clearly doing very good work – I met several apprentices at the college from Aircelle. I would also like to thank Alec Cassie, another great Ambassador who, again, makes an enormous difference supporting the community and the young people here.
I am going to see some more people later on who are doing wonderful work in Burnley . Earlier today, I talked to the people from Sainsbury’s who have done fantastic work with the Breakfast Clubs in different schools. I am rather hoping we can expand the club to all the other schools which need Breakfast Clubs but we shall see. The fact that companies like Sainsbury’s are prepared to do this makes a fantastic difference and I heard that from teachers and the schools themselves.
Later this afternoon, I am going to see some work being done at another school , next to which an integrated health centre will be built, and I will also visit a community centre where I know huge amounts of effort have been made by local people there to bring opportunities for young and others.
If I may say so, one of the things I persist in emphasizing is the importance of the Weavers’ Triangle. It really does help to define Burnley. In all my experience, for what it is worth, heritage-led regeneration is hugely valuable in the long term. It creates the kind of atmosphere and surrounding that people vote with on their feet for. I can tell you that with my Regeneration Trust we brought back Anchor Mills in Paisley – a huge great mill building that had been derelict for 25 years. Every time I passed it, I could hardly bear to see it sliding into dereliction. Finally, we managed to convert it into residential accommodation and, I am told, they sold the top apartments for £400,000. This has happened in all these cases where we have been able to bring mill buildings and others back to life and had an associated new development which was in sympathy with them.
One final example is that, in 2008, I went to see some work done by my Foundation for the Built Environment in Cottingley, on the edge of Bradford . We’d helped in the village there, –and, when I went back, there was a programme that had been run for teenagers in the new community centre.. The programme that had been organised was to go round looking at all the buildings in the local area and ask the teenagers which buildings they liked and which ones they did not. These were teenagers from quite a difficult background and all the buildings they didn’t like were from the 1960s. All the ones they did like were the old Town Hall and Church and so on. All I am saying is: please don’t forget the value of the Weavers’ Triangle as I am absolutely convinced that in the future, in the long term, it could be the real making of Burnley.
I have taken an interest in this town because, apart from the fact that Lancashire is a wonderful place and the Lancashire people are so marvellous, I believe in investing in the future. We can’t do it without bringing in all sorts of sympathetic people whom I hope can share that vision of the future. It really could make a difference. Thank you all for your efforts and involvement and I look forward to continuing to take an interest in Burnley .