In the news: Group go on fact-finding mission to London to improve Darwen's market

Twenty Darwen residents travelled to London on Saturday to explore the capital's markets and develop ideas to future-proof the town's market. Darwen reporter Laura O'Neill joined them to find out more about how they were being inspired.

Repost from Lancashire Telegraph:

"You need to go and feel the buzz of the place.

“It’s not something you could do remotely," according to Councillor Brian Taylor as he studied stalls in Spitalfields and Boxpark in Shoreditch.

The Sunnyhurst ward councillor was very keen to find out just how some of London's successful markets work so he could take the know-how back down the M6 to his home town.

Along with a group of 20 Darwen residents, aged 17-80 from all sorts of backgrounds, including councillors, students and pensioners, he was keen to be inspired about the next phase of Darwen's market developments.

He said: “It went really well, it was definitely worth the time and trouble of going down there.

“It really firmed up my thoughts about short term contracts for stalls.

“They would give people the chance to dip their toe in without having to fully commit.

“Maybe some kind of pop up arrangement with different themes every week.

“Then people will start coming to Darwen on a Saturday, for example, just to see what’s on and that’s how we will increase the footfall."

Last year, it was announced that the town’s Three-Day Market would be demolished and the space redeveloped.

Now ideas are being developed under the platform of Heart of Darwen.

Project co-ordinator Liam Dargan, 22, who studied at DACA before heading to London to study at Kingston School of Art and now works as a graphic designer, is spear-heading the move.

He said: “The idea behind Heart of Darwen is that it will be a central platform for the community to express their opinions and ideas about the Three-Day Market’s replacement.

“We gathered feedback through the website, workshops, flyers and social media, and this went on to inform the proposal that the council recently announced.”

Since then, Heart of Darwen has shifted its focus onto future-proofing the Town Centre and coming up with ideas to improvement the market and outdoor space.

The trip to London, to provide inspiration, consisted of a tour of markets in the area beginning with Old Spitalfields Market.

The group then made their way to Boxpark, a pop-up mall made from shipping containers before taking part in the the Manufactory event.

As well as people from the local community, the event was also attended by industry experts.

Home chef and mentor from We Find Food, Maria Grieco said: “I really enjoyed it, I though it was really interesting.

“It was great to see such a variety of people involved from such a range of backgrounds.

“We travel to London a lot so I am aware of the markets but it was nice to see the different concepts."

The event also saw the group got together for a workshop, where they reflected on what they had learnt, discovered and been inspired by throughout the day.

Ms Grieco added: “My favourite bit of the day was sitting with the architect and urban designer and discussing the plans.

“It was interested to hear what they thought the space was capable of.

“I did feel that all the markets were nice, but they are tourist attractions.

“I would not be able to do my shopping there."

Mr Dargan said: “I thought the day went fantastically.

“We achieved what I hoped we would.

“Everyone gained tonnes of inspiration about how our market and the new space could be used in the future.

"I’m now really excited to see how we make these things happen.”

Cllr Taylor said he would like to see us push forward and get some Heritage money for Darwen's market.

“Then we can get the six-day market deep cleaned and have the canopies removed then we can really open up the building," he said.

Councillor Phil Riley, executive member for regeneration at Blackburn with Darwen, also went along for the day.

He said: “I thought it was a good day.

“We had a group of people willing to give up a day of their time to do it.

“I thought the shipping containers were interesting, they were a good example of how to make the most of the space available.

“At the end the group said they wanted to stay involved which is great to hear.”

Town partnership board member Samantha Taylor said: “It was a really eye opening experience to what a thriving market could be like.

“I look forward to sharing some of the ideas and feedback with our community."

Another feedback workshop is scheduled to take place in Darwen.

This session will allow those who were unable to attend the trip to be involved.

The outcome of both workshops will then be collated and turned into a printed manifesto

The booklet will serve as a physical representation of what the people of Darwen want for the future of the town.

Mr Dargan added: "The manifesto will serve as a letter that will be from the community, to say “this is how we want Darwen to thrive in the future”.

It is a future he is very confident in.

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