One Year On, Two Awards, The Hub of the Community – Anna’s Cafe Bar

A RURAL village bar that has become the heart of a remote community celebrated its first anniversary by picking up a second business award.

In June 2018 when Anna Preece opened Anna’s Cafe Bar on Burnley Road, Weir, Bacup, she looked up and down the busy main road wondering if anyone would visit… and they did. By lunchtime the café was packed and after just eight weeks the business had already achieved the target Anna had set for six months.

The success continued and in November Anna’s was the ‘Invest in Rossendale’ award winner at Rossendale Business Awards, and now at the Rossendale Lifestyle Awards it picked up ‘Bar of the Year’.

Anna, 44, used to be a full-time mum, make soup and bake bread to sell locally and was a part-time copywriter. Now, along with her husband Dave, she is partner in the business, which has offered full and part-time employment to many in a village where there are few job opportunities.

She said: “At the Lifestyle Awards Councillor Sean Serridge was announcing the winner and as he used to live in the village until recently and visits here, I thought to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if he presented the award to us.’ Then he did. It was such a strong category with so many great bars as finalists I didn’t think we would win it.”

Initially, Anna and Dave were looking to rent the premises, which used to be a shop, and had started the planning process only for the owners to announce they were selling to a third party. Anna said: “I was gutted, but then that fell through and we were offered the building and were able to raise the money to buy it. We got the deeds in February and the first thing I did was come in and start knocking walls down.”

Anna and Dave have two children Poppy, 15, and Huey, 12, and Anna said it has been important for them to understand that hard work reaps its own rewards. She said: “Before we opened I was worried about how it would go, but I sort of knew it was going to work. I always knew what I wanted to do with the building and had a vision, but this has become so much bigger.

“We are now a hub for the community to meet, socialise, get to know their neighbours and hold parties. We have also had a visitor come all the way from Leeds – how many cafes did he pass on his way just to come here?”

Meeting a real need in the remote village by providing a warm and welcoming place, has ensured Anna’s is packed every weekend and tables need to be booked in advance. Now Anna is considering an Anna’s 2 and possibly an Anna’s 3 in other areas, replicating the successful template of the Weir business.

She said: “These awards are as much for my team as they are absolutely key to Anna’s being as successful as it is. We knew we had high quality products, we only use high quality ingredients and everything is home-made, but the excellent service, welcome and making people feel comfortable is just as important as we want them to come back.”

Anna’s also gives back and has donated nearly £1,300 vouchers to charities and community groups since it opened.

by Catherine Smyth Media

Nine Days of Heritage Activities Across Rossendale

FROM Asian comedy, to a traditional carnival procession, dialect song and dance to a comedy night – the nine-day Rossendale Heritage Festival has something for everyone.

When it was realised that a number of heritage events were happening across Rossendale at the same time, organisers got together to see how they could work in unison to promote all the attractions and boost visitor numbers.

The result will be a hectic nine day festival starting on Saturday June 29 at 11am with an interactive storytelling session at Haslingden Library all about Ramadan. Eight days later it will conclude on Sunday July 7 at 6pm when the Larks of Dean Quire will sing historic Hymns at Goodshaw Chapel at the annual sermon.

Marketing and publicity officer at The Boo, in Waterfoot, Michelle Darwin said: “We have been working in partnership with all different venues all across Rossendale. We have Smash Bengali at The Whitaker in Rawtenstall at 6pm on Saturday June 29, he is a British Bengali YouTuber Hashu who fuses his two cultures in his own unique style of comedy.

“As part of the heritage festival there will also be two parades. The first being on Sunday June 30 to mark the Centenary of Bacup and Stacksteads Carnival which started with a Peace Procession in 1919, to celebrate the signing of the Armistice. Then on the penultimate day of the festival, Waterfoot Wakes procession will be held celebrating the traditional Wakes Holidays when mills would close and the workers would enjoy a week off work.”

The Wakes celebrations will be held in venues across Waterfoot from June 4-7 and include a ceilidh and a meal and comedy night, when the audience will dine at the Old Library Café, before attending a comedy night at The Boo to watch a preview of two Edinburgh Fringe acts. Two acoustic nights will be held – at Anna’s Café Bar in Weir on Monday July 1 and at The Whitaker on Wednesday July 3.

Also on the final weekend of the heritage festival a two-day Dialect-I-Fest celebration will be held at The Whitaker in Rawtenstall with stages inside the hall and in the park hosting live acts, music, song, dance and brass bands. Rosso has been asked to switch one of its service buses for a liveried bus for the duration of the festival.

At Bacup Natural History Society Museum an exhibition to mark 100 years of the town’s carnival opens this Saturday June 15 and will be on throughout the Heritage Festival until Sunday July 7. A Heritage Lottery Grant awarded to Community Assets Standing Tall, a charity seeking to have historical assets listed to ensure their preservation, has brought the festival together and helped to fund workshops.

Programmes listing all the events for the festival have been distributed across Rossendale and for more information log on to https://www.horseandbamboo.org/ or contact The Boo on 01706 220241.

by Catherine Smyth Media

Valley packed with events for first Rossendale Heritage Festival

2018 Bacup and Stacksteads Carnival – photo: Liz Henson Photography

A HUGE summer heritage festival will see 10 days of activities and events held across Rossendale for all cultures and ages.

The first Rossendale Heritage Festival will run from Friday June 28 to Sunday July 7 beginning with an event at The Boo Theatre in Waterfoot and concluding with the annual festival service at historic Goodshaw Chapel.

Activities will begin in earnest on Saturday June 29 when South Asian heritage and arts group Apna Rossendale will be holding an event in Haslingden. That first weekend will round off with the traditional Bacup and Stacksteads Carnival, which this year is celebrating the centenary of the Peace Procession of 1919, the forerunner of the present day event.

A Heritage Lottery Fund grant has been obtained by Bacup Natural History Society to help youth groups and schools recreate parade entries from 100 years ago. Artist in residence at The Boo Alastair Price is the parade and outreach co-ordinator for Waterfoot Wakes, a two-day festival that will be held on July 6 and 7 at the end of the festival.

He said: “When we held the first Waterfoot Wakes last year we realised that there seemed to be a lot of events happening in Rossendale over a short period of time in the early summer. We thought a heritage festival would be a great way of bringing all kinds of different events together under one umbrella. It will mean all of the activities will be better promoted and we will make sure people get to know more about what is going on.”

Cacophony Arkestra lead the Waterfoot Wakes 2018

Rossendale Heritage Festival is being backed by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant secured by CAST – Community Assets Standing Tall – a charity set up to identify and preserve assets that the community values.

A small group has been formed of representatives from the different events and information for a programme is currently being compiled. Alastair will be running a series of workshops to help participants make parade entries for the carnival and also the Waterfoot Wakes procession and these visual representations will be based around assets that CAST has identified. At the same time as Waterfoot Wakes, Rawtenstall Annual Fair will be happening with events all weekend at The Whitaker in Rawtenstall.

Fair organiser Sid Calderbank is Chairman of The Lancashire Society and is co-ordinating a large group of performers who will be taking to the stage to keep traditional Lancashire dialect songs and poetry alive for present generations.

Alastair is also a member of Cacophony Arkestra – a musical carnival procession entry that will be appearing in both parades. He said: “The festival will be a cultural celebration and will be an opportunity to bring together people of all ages and communities. We have a living heritage and it is about making that accessible to a modern day audience.”

Organisers are keen to hear of heritage related events and meetings that are happening over duration of the festival so they can be publicised in the programme. For more information contact Esther Ferry-Kennington at the Horse and Bamboo Theatre on 01706 220241 or email esther@horseandbamboo.org

Nowt Poncy and VIC join forces

A SAUCE manufacturer and a veterans’ charity have joined forces.

The Nowt Poncy Food Company was founded in Water, Rossendale, in 2016 and now has five successful sauces, which sell UK-wide. Co-founders Jools and Karen Abel wanted to make sure their business gave something back and as Jools’ father was in the Royal Navy and Karen’s father completed his National Service they chose to link up with Veterans In Communities. The Haslingden-based veterans’ charity works all over East Lancashire and also parts of Greater Manchester.

Karen, a former headteacher, and Jools, a time-served mechanical engineer who spent time in the photographic equipment repair industry, now work full-time building their business and brand. Karen said: “We have lived in Rossendale for 30 years and we have read about VIC and the work the charity does in the newspapers.

“When we first started the business we said that once we take on staff we wanted to employ veterans. We would like to be able to offer veterans a chance and also help them to resettle in Civvy Street. As veterans they will be used to following specific methodology and so they will have the skills that we are looking for.

“The training they have had will be something they can bring to our business and we are very committed to the idea of giving back.”

Nowt Poncy is currently seeking to relocate its manufacturing base from Hyndburn to Rossendale and is looking for commercial kitchens that are maybe underused and could offer to rent their premises.

All the company’s sauces are based on authentic recipes including an Italian tomato and basil, a New Orleans based Creole and a North Indian curry. They also supply seven types of pasta. The company’s products are available in 70 retailers across the UK, predominantly in the North. Nowt Poncy has also just begun supplying an outlet in London. Locally, they sell sauces in Rowan’s Butcher’s in Waterfoot, Riley’s Butchers in Crawshawbooth, Simply Vegetarian in Rawtenstall and the town’s market.

Jools said: “To start with we will be providing VIC with a small percentage from all the sauces we sell. We are also offering to support social events that VIC arranges when they are providing catering and we will provide contributions towards emergency food parcels for veterans.”

The VIC Centre in Bury Road is open during the holiday period when other charities close, and when it ‘opens all hours’ food is always provided for those who drop in to enjoy the banter.

Operations Manager Bob Elliott said: “We are very grateful to Nowt Poncy for the generous offer of support for VIC. This is a partnership which we hope will be able to grow and develop over the years to the benefit of both organisations and hopefully will also lead to job opportunities for veterans who have left the armed forces and are transitioning to civilian life.”

To find out more about Nowt Poncy visit www.nowtponcy.co.uk

By Catherine Smyth Media