Burnley has taken control of its own destiny and the only way is up / Burnley Brand Manager Rachel Bayley
Burnley is famous for many things; it’s football team, it’s economic clout as a main cotton producer during the Industrial Revolution and it’s warm and friendly residents.
However, like many places that were built upon an industry that has since passed, Burnley unfortunately experienced some economic and social challenges that meant it’s perception as a place to work, study and live took a hit.
Many talented people thought they had to leave the borough to build a successful education, career or family life and this perception stayed amongst some, albeit not all. What many didn’t realise, however, was the abundance of incredible businesses in the borough, the higher and further education facilities here, the hard-working talent pool and of course, the beautiful setting, which has come into its own with a renewed sense of appreciation during and following the pandemic.
The ingredients have always been there, but perception is important (as long as it matches reality on the ground), so in 2008 Burnley Council appointed a place brand consultancy to carry out market research and extensive stakeholder engagement. When people were asked what they thought of Burnley, some of the answers included “small and grim”, “smog and chimneys”, “empty and boring” and “a dinosaur – it’s not moved on.”
Others said they didn’t know anything about Burnley. Alongside negative opinion, no opinion was also a problem. With Burnley “punching below its weight” (the economic clout has always remained, just under the radar), it was time to be a little less humble about our strengths and shout about them that little bit louder. And the Burnley place brand – Burnley.co.uk - was born.
Now, I’m hoping most of you reading this follow Burnley.co.uk on social media, as well as our sister brand burnley.social. And if you head over to our Burnley.co.uk YouTube channel, you’ll see dozens upon dozens of videos showcasing the best of our borough. Some of our latest videos include Education and Training and Leisure, Retail and Tourism, as well as go-getting individuals such as the founder of FUNDA Kieran Fletcher and farmer and Pendle Grill owner Vanessa Halstead. They go down a storm on our socials so please do check them out and share.
Since Burnley took control of its own destiny in 2009, perception of the borough is changing, hundreds of millions of public and private investment has been made and the Burnley Bondholder initiative is seen as the benchmark to aspire too. A place brand is (or should be) a public and private partnership that reconnects or connects organisations and people to the place in which they live and work. The place becomes the “hero”, with a clear and shared narrative.
It means the place needs to think differently, act differently and do things differently. It meant asking questions such as why is Burnley special, what is its ambition and who is it for?
But it can’t do it alone, it requires a team of public and private sector ambassadors that spread the narrative not just far and wide, but locally too. Cue the Burnley Bondholders. Head over to the Burnley.co.uk website to find out more about the initiative and send us a message if you want to find out more.
Taking control of our own destiny is working. The £23 million Pioneer Place is shooting up from the ground, scaffolding covers Newtown Mill ready for its incredible transformation, there’s millions of pounds being ploughed into Crow Wood, the council purchased Charter Walk to keep it out of the hands of an investment company with no local connection…the list goes on.
It’s been a long journey, and it’s a journey that will always continue, but look how far we’ve come Burnley.