New chief executive named as Burnley Leisure and Culture celebrates 10 years as a charitable trust

A charitable trust that took over the running of Burnley’s leisure and cultural services from the local council is celebrating its 10th anniversary – and has a new leader who promises to build on its ‘force for good’ in the borough.
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Burnley born and bred Paul Foster became the new chief executive of Burnley Leisure and Culture this month, 10 years since the trust was formed to operate the majority of leisure facilities in the borough previously managed by Burnley Council’s sport and culture services.

His elevation to the role marks the culmination of a career that began as a casual lifeguard at the Thompson Centre 30 years ago. He then held various roles within the council-run sport and cultural services, where he was head of community and well-being when BLC formed, and he made the switch to the new organisation.

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Burnley Leisure and Culture's new chief executive, Paul FosterBurnley Leisure and Culture's new chief executive, Paul Foster
Burnley Leisure and Culture's new chief executive, Paul Foster

“The priority for me moving forward is to build on the good foundations put in place over the past 10 years,” said Paul, who was BLC’s deputy chief executive for three years before the retirement of his predecessor Gerard Vinton.

“Gerard got the trust to where it is now. My job is to carry on that good work. I want us to be seen as a force for good for Burnley residents, whether that’s from the point of view of physical activity, arts, theatre and cultural activities and everything else we do.”

Working in partnership with the council, Burnley Leisure and Culture is responsible for the operation, management and development of St Peter’s and Padiham leisure centres, Prairie Sports Village, Barden athletics track, Thompson Park boating lake, Burnley Mechanics Theatre, numerous hospitality venues and Towneley golf courses and clubhouse, along with borough-wide arts development, community health and wellbeing, sport and play development.

BLC’s not-for-profit status means that all of its surplus revenue is reinvested in its services and facilities, such as supporting the £750,000 refurbishment of its gyms and swimming pool changing areas at Padiham and those currently taking place at St Peter’s: leading on the Beat the Street and #OutdoorTown initiatives and supporting local health programmes such as Up and Active.

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The Burnley Leisure and Culture swim academy welcomes 4,200 children every year, while work in every one of the borough’s 32 primary schools touches the lives of 4,000 pupils.

The latest additions to the community support programme include the Down Town Kitchen and Café in Burnley town centre, as part of Burnley Together, and the Active Cycles pop-up shop in Charter Walk that opens on 24th April in partnership with Active Lancashire.

And as part of the lead up to Burnley’s Year of Culture in 2027, BLC has just launched the Culture Burnley Awards recognising the borough’s cultural organisations and individuals.

Nominations are open until Saturday, June 22nd and the awards night will take place at the Burnley Mechanics Theatre on Thursday, September 5th – just two months after the annual Active Burnley Awards, which celebrate health, sporting and well-being activities and achievements at all levels across the borough.

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