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 or contact The Boo on 01706 220241.

by Catherine Smyth Media

Fantastic Fun Family Flowerpot Festival … returns

FANTASTIC flowerpot sculptures are set to adorn businesses, houses and streets around Bacup and beyond.

The zany celebration brings out the creative side in young and old and also encourages people to explore their neighbourhoods to see the spectacular displays which will be on show from summer to September.

Chairman of Bacup Pride Pat Smith said: “This is the third year that Bacup Pride has organised the festival and we are very grateful to our funders Reaps Moss Community Fund and also Newground for the use of premises. The grants enable free making workshops to be offered and we have a plentiful supply of plant pots for anyone who wants to make a sculpture.”

The first workshop was held at the Doals Centre in Weir and was a huge success. Now a whole series of workshops have been announced at the annexe across from Stubbylee Hall in Stubbylee Park.

The free making sessions will be on Thursdays June 13, 20 and 27 from 10am to 12 noon and also on Sundays June 16 and 23 from 1.30pm-4pm.

Making a sculpture is easier than you think and at all the making sessions there are helpers on hand who can assist with the creation.

Pat said: “The idea of having a flowerpot festival came about after visiting Settle and happening across their event. It was amazing to go round following the trail admiring all the different sculptures and seeing parts of Settle I never knew existed.

“We brought the idea back to Bacup and people loved getting involved in making and creating. We also saw lots of people and youth groups touring their town to check out the sculptures. Last year we had a rock star hanging off a house on New Line and then in the town centre a bride and groom were in the window of Icing on the Cake in Pioneer Buildings.

“On St James Street there were a series of sea creatures in the window of Beauty Culture and there was a lost little sheep in the gardens of Trinity Baptist Church on Market Street. The imagination people put into their flowerpot creations never ceases to amaze me and this year will be no exception.

“Please join in, please have a go and make sure you put your sculpture on display and fill in the form so we can include it in the trail.”

All the information on the making workshops will be on the Facebook page Bacup Flowerpot Festival.

Bacup Pride will be having a stall at Bacup and Stacksteads Centenary Carnival on Sunday June 30 in Moorlands Park where people can find out more about the event and the organisation. For an application form please email or call Pat on 07751 380 392.

by Catherine Smyth Media

Coffee Cafe Culture Comes to Bacup

Wendy and Stephen Middleton in 1832 Barista

SEEING the improvements that have been made in Bacup led to Stephen and Wendy Middleton to invest in bringing ‘coffee culture’ to the town.

They both have links with the town and decided to open 1832 Barista on St James Street because of the investment that has been made in new shop fronts and pavements as part of Rossendale Council’s £2M Townscape Heritage Initiative. Visitors to the coffee shop, which also offers a take-away service, are impressed with the changes to the former greengrocer’s shop and even though it only opened at the start of May, it has already built up regular customers.

Joiner Stephen said: “We spent eight weeks working 12 hours every day, including weekends, to renovate the inside. We took the walls back to the original stones and that revealed that the building used to be a gable end.

“We used old scaffolding boards to create the tables, a bar, shelves and worktops and when we removed the floor we discovered the old tiles around the door so preserved them. The finished interior looks exactly like I planned it to be.”

The busy barista on Bacup Community Weekend

They found a pre-decimal half-penny while renovating and decided to preserve it in the wall while it was being pointed.

Wendy used to work for an estate agent but was looking for a job that got her away from the desk. She said: “I like meeting people and everyone has been so welcoming and friendly since we opened. The reception we have had has been amazing and people are now using the Barista as a place to meet and chat. Many of the local traders have also been in to support us.

“We felt like people were passing Bacup by and we knew people who would travel down the Valley just to pick up a good coffee, now they can come to us. You can see the way Rawtenstall has been regenerated and I think the same thing will happen to Bacup; we wanted to be a part of that.

“There is a coffee culture in this country and as a family of coffee drinkers we wanted to bring that to Bacup.”

Stephen and Wendy said they hoped that because they had shown confidence in the town by opening a new business, it would encourage others to also invest in the town.

They called is 1832 because their deeds say that was when the building was constructed.

Acting Chairman of Bacup Townscape Heritage Initiative Councillor Jackie Oakes said: “I am delighted to see that Bacup has welcomed yet another fantastic new business. The town has been transformed in recent years thanks to the THI funding that Rossendale Council was able to secure; it has really made a vast improvement to the look of the town making it an attractive place for prospective businesses to invest in.

“The council also has a Bacup 2040 vision for the town and has made a bid to the Future High Street Fund to hopefully see that become a reality.”

by Catherine Smyth Media

Charities Benefit as Salon Celebrates Golden Anniversary

THREE charities will benefit from a celebration to mark the golden anniversary of a Rawtenstall business.

Antony and Patricia Hair Salon first opened on Newchurch Road on October 17 1969 and Director Tony Winder is still steering the ship and overseeing developments which now include nautical-themed Bosun’s Barbers and a children’s salon Noah’s Ark to complement the ladies’ salon.

The salon relocated to Bank Street in 1972 and has been a key business on the high street ever since training hundreds of apprentices and stylists who now run their own successful salons.

Tony said: “On Saturday August 31, I will be inviting people to The Whitaker, in Rawtenstall, where there will be food and entertainment and attendees will be asked to make a donation and support fundraising that will benefit three worthy causes. I have selected Civic Pride Rossendale because of the amazing job they do to keep the Valley clean and tidy.

“Money will also be raised for the Manchester and District branch of Motor Neurone Disease Association because a former trainee of mine in the late ’70s John Edmondson was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. He ran a successful salon in Monton, Manchester. The third charity to benefit will be Tor View Specialist Learning Community because of the links the salon has had since we opened our special autism room ‘The Lifeboat’ in the children’s salon.”

Former staff and current colleagues, loyal and lapsed clients, friends and family will receive special invitations and all guests are asked to make a donation into a charity fund. The event is limited to 125 guests and the charities will be involved with organising fundraisers on the night.

Local artistes will be providing entertainment. This includes, the Lomax Brothers, singer Charlotte May Tomlinson and friend Joe Teoli.

Chairman of the Friends of Tor View Vanessa Prater has been a client of the salon since before the specialist Noah’s Ark Children’s Salon opened. She said: “I have four children and one has complex special needs and since Noah’s Ark opened I have been a real advocate. Staff are all well trained and it is a relaxed, child-friendly and welcoming place making it a much nicer experience for the whole family.

“We are bidding to get a sports hall at the school, as we are the only secondary school in the Valley without one.”

Tony used to be president of Rossendale Valley Motorbike Show and when the organisation disbanded Civic Pride Rossendale was one of the beneficiaries from the left over funds. Chairman Chris Blomerley said: “Tony has always been a great supporter of us and we are delighted that Civic Pride Rossendale has been invited to be a part of the celebration of Antony and Patricia’s 50 very successful years in business.”

The organisation is always busy and has just taken delivery of a grant-funded commercial greenhouse to offer opportunities to volunteers of all abilities to be able to help the organisation. For further information contact Charlotte or Haidee on 01706 217129 or visit the Antony and Patricia Facebook page.

by Catherine Smyth Media

Leisure Plans for Weir Farm

IN just three months, a village’s newest residents have created a disabled-friendly holiday let and next month they will take delivery of five alpacas.

Paul and Tina Wise are originally from Essex and moved to Berkshire in 2011 to provide accommodation for their son Aaron, who is profoundly deaf and was relocating to a specialist school. They have now opened Doals Farm Leisure in Weir, Bacup, which is home to ‘The Den’ a self-contained holiday let, will soon offer alpaca trekking and there are plans for a small caravan and camping site.

Aaron, 21, is now studying Physics at the University of Liverpool where their daughter Maria, 23, is just completing a five-year Veterinary course. As their children are planning to stay in the North, Paul, 53 and Tina, 52, and Paul’s mum Betty, 82, began looking for property within a 40-mile radius of Liverpool.

They first spotted Doals Farm off Burnley Road, after Paul was made redundant in 2017. He had been working in IT for the same company for 33 years since leaving school. At that time the property was under offer and disappeared from the market.

Their search took them 40 to 50 properties all over Lancashire, North Yorkshire, North Wales and Cheshire, while they were still looking to sell their own six-bed home in Lambourn. Paul completed a course and has now set up as a domestic electician then last year, a week before they found a buyer for the Berkshire home, they spotted the farm was back on the market.

Paul said: “It was as if someone was looking after us. The previous sale on this had fallen through so we put in an offer.”

They all moved in November and started work on the holiday let three months ago. Paul said: “We are members of the Camping and Caravan Club and we looking into having an area as a certified site.

“We have been members of the Essex County Scouts Caving Team for 30 years and they go on trips in Derbyshire and Yorkshire so now those trips are on our doorstep.

“We have joined Weir Pride and along with Ayesha Gavin of Ayesha Communications, another Weir resident, we ran a Deaf Awareness and British Sign Language workshop at the Doals Centre.”

Tina said: “The community here is fantastic and we have made more friends in the short time we have been living in Weir than the six years we lived in Lambourn. “I am amazed by how much we have in common with the residents in this area we have really fitted in. Thank you to everyone for making us very welcome.”

The couple plan to set up a puppetry group in Weir Baptist Church and a signing choir.

For more information contact Doals Farm Leisure h, like the Facebook page Doals Farm Leisure or email

by Catherine Smyth Media

Business is Booming for Bacup Accountant

ACCOUNTANT Nikki Belshaw has seen her client base grow 10 fold since taking the plunge and opening her own business.

When she completed work experience as a student at the former St Hilda’s RC High School in Burnley, she went into an accountancy department where her task was to input invoices.

Nikki, from Weir, Bacup, said: “I told my mum and granddad how much I enjoyed the work and they suggested that I do it as a job. Another relative was already working as an accountant in a company; I never imagined working for myself.”

Belshaw Bookkeeping Services opened its accountancy practice in Bacup in May 2017 initially in the back room of a former shop on Burnley Road. Nikki said: “At that time I was the only employee and I had seven clients, now there are four of us and we have more than 70 clients from all over the North West and even one in Devon.”

At one stage there were three people working out of what is now Nikki’s office, so when the landlord offered her chance to expand into the former shop, it made perfect sense. The finishing touches have just been made to the premises with a new sign hanging outside and the business name in frosted glass on the windows.

Nikki has a thirst for knowledge, so although she left school at 16 and went into work in the accountant department of car dealership Ford, in Burnley, she also studied at Burnley College completing her Oxford Cambridge RSA Level 1 Bookkeeping and Level 2 Accountancy.

When she worked for Glengarth Construction in Waterfoot, she went to Accrington and Rossendale College and added the Association of Accounting Technicians qualification. At Neales Waste Management in Blackburn she opted to study at Manchester Metropolitan University and passed her industry qualification – a CIMA. While working at Domino’s Pizza covering six outlets she was responsible for the payroll of 356 staff and of course she also studied. This time she gained Level 1 and 2 qualifications from the International Association of Bookkeepers.

Since becoming self-employed and then opening the business, Nikki has also become a forensic accountant and so examines financial divorce settlements and also works on fraud. In 2017 she was runner-up in an international competition to find the Payroll Professional of the Year and attended a glittering presentation at the House of Commons. She has also been nominated in the Rossendale Business Awards and Inspiring Woman Award.

Nikki, 31, is married to Jonny and has two children Hayden, nine, and Charlie, five. She said: “When I met Jonny and he said I really should be working for myself I decided that I wanted to have my own business by the time I was 30. I did it with six months to go.

“I now employ a receptionist, an apprentice and have a part-time member of staff. I take on work experience because I want to give a young person the opportunity to learn because I was given work experience when I was at school.”

To find out more visit, call Nikki on 01706 873325 or email

by Catherine Smyth Media