BURNLEY’S historic canal is at the centre of a bid to boost the town’s £100m. tourism industry.
The stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool canal is seen as a key asset in the town’s tourist trade which pulls in 3.4million visitors a year, and employs almost 3,000 people.
The 200-year-old waterway draws thousands of visitors to Reedley Marina and the iconic Weavers’ Triangle including the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles on the recent Royal visit to the area.
But now, a two-year project has begun to attract thousands more tourists to the canal, which kicks off with a spectacular festival this summer.
The Burnley Canal Festival will bring the Weavers’ Triangle to life when dozens of narrowboats descend on September 7th and 8th.
The free festival will see live music at the Inn on the Wharf, arts and crafts events, and even an open-air cinema in the rejuvenated Sandygate Square.
Pleasure cruises of the canal will set sail all weekend from Reedley Marina, and the Weavers’ Triangle Visitors Centre will be giving an insight into Burnley’s proud industrial past.
The two-day event will culminate in a dazzling “boat glow” event, when scores of barges will illuminate the Straight Mile followed by a huge fireworks display.
Emma Bartlet, of the Heritage Lottery-funded Burnley Canal Communities Project, said: “There are so many exciting things happening in and around the canal.
“The idea of the project is to get more people interested, engaged and excited about the canal as a major resource for the town.
“Over these past few decades, people have realised what an amazing heritage feature the canal is and the buildings around it.
“Local people are very keen to see this heritage preserved, celebrated and refreshed.”
If the festival is a success, funding is in place for an even bigger and better event in 2013.
Jacqueline Whittaker, visitor economy manager at Burnley Council, said the Burnley Canal Festival would provide a welcome boost to the town.
She said: “Burnley’s tourism industry is worth in excess of £100m. per year.
“Economic forecasts show the sector is set to grow, and Burnley needs to ensure it positions itself to take advantage of that growth.
“Over the last few years, the visitor economy and visitor offer in Burnley has radically changed, with major investments in key attractions, including a new hotel development, a new canalside marina and a fabulous new visitor centre.
“With our events and festivals attracting tourists from far and wide, visitor numbers are set to grow and don’t forget – Burnley has some of the best visitor attractions in Lancashire. We need to shout about them.
“Life is coming back to the old buildings in the Weavers’ Triangle. In a few years’ time, the area will be totally transformed into a lively and vibrant place that will attract even more people to Burnley.”
For up to the minute information about the Burnley Canal Communities Project, its events and The Festival, follow @burnleycanal on Twitter, and Burnley Canal Communities Project on Facebook.