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What the locals really think of Accrington

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 August 2018

Accrington Market Hall Sculptures

Accrington Market Hall Sculptures


The town has shown a lot of bottle to bounce back from a national mocking. Now, its football team and its high street are on the up

Ian Smith of Revival Vintage ClothingIan Smith of Revival Vintage Clothing

Accrington and its football team once featured in an 1980s advertisement for milk – the punchline implying that not many people had heard of it. It’s not a joke that would work so well today though, as the town is building a reputation for independent traders that are bang on trend. And the football team aren’t doing too badly either.

David and Kathleen Paintin are fans of Accrington Stanley. Vintage pictures of the club can be seen inside their establishment, The Black Horse Food Emporium, which in another life as a pub had links with the early days of the club. Fascinating as its history might be, it is the local Lancashire produce that attracts foodies from all over the county from ladies who lunch to those who want to stock up on the award-winning sausages, local breads and bespoke food hampers.

‘We don’t have a drinks licence but we made sure, when we modernised the premises, that we incorporated the original bar,’ says Kathleen, whose daughter-in-law Natalie, makes the gorgeous cakes that adorn the length of it.

If you are counting calories, then award-winning master butcher David’s special low calorie sausages might suit you. ‘They are part of our gourmet range,’ says David, who also owns Ye Old Sausage Shop, where he is helped by young relative, Jessica Leliuga, the first woman to be given a place on Team GB in the 2018 World Butchers’ Challenge.

There is more history attached to the business run by Ann Howarth, a dab hand when it comes to sewing prom and bridal dresses. Balcony Brides and Sewing Studio is situated in the Victorian splendour of Accrington Market Hall.

‘I think my studio once formed part of the Accrington Gentlemen’s Reading Rooms but, if their ghosts linger, they don’t seem too worried about undressed ladies being measured up,’ laughs Ann who also sells some ready-made wedding dresses.

‘Most of my work is altering or making wedding dresses from scratch: fashions change but the Meghan effect is just beginning to filter through,’ explains Ann, who is also known for her bespoke prom dresses.‘Choosing a prom dress can be almost as stressful as choosing a wedding dress, so I try to make it enjoyable. We sit down, look at various styles and discover what suits the client best but every gown is unique and, importantly, top secret.’

Ian Smith owns Revival, one of the region’s best known vintage clothes shops – he might even have some of those Victorian gentlemen’s clothes among his thousands of items. ‘It’s possible. I have items from almost every decade from Victorian times up to the 1970s – demob suits to dresses and knitwear, as well as accessories. In fact, some people get a shock when they come in and see something that they wore in their youth, now classed as vintage,’ says Ian, who sold his clothes on the Kings Road in London, before returning home to Lancashire.

Accrington Market HallAccrington Market Hall

‘Vintage clothing is on trend. People want it for festivals, themed parties or even weddings and of course, just because they want to wear a beautiful piece from another era,’ says Ian, who has well known clients such as Wayne Hemingway, the Lancashire-born design guru. He also provides garments for films such as ‘Northern Soul’.

Warner Street Antiques and Collectables is owned by George Taylor and partner, Lisa Ferguson. They stock everything from taxidermy to retro cookers and rare satsuma ware to jewellery; as well as a vast amount of curios.

George has recently acquired a Victorian pianola, complete with original music rolls; an item which George jokingly refers to as ‘an alternative exercise machine’ as it takes strong legs to operate!

Anthony Mabbutt is an authority on vinyl records. He opened Linyl Vinyl, when almost every room in his home was filled with 8,000 records – the only empty place was the bathroom.

Artist Zara Maisie pictured in front of her solo exhibition in Accrington LibraryArtist Zara Maisie pictured in front of her solo exhibition in Accrington Library

‘My wife, Jane, suggested I open a shop so, happy to oblige, I found one in the Victorian Arcade,’ laughs Anthony whose stock includes rare pieces, as well as more affordable items.

‘I think we have something for everyone. There is something pretty special and tactile about vinyl and yes, I do think the sound quality is better. That’s why it’s back with a vengeance. Almost every day, someone tells me how much they regretted throwing away their vinyl in favour of the shiny cd.

‘We’re regularly asked to source an LP that was in the charts when someone was born or got married and we can present it in a bespoke frame because the artwork surrounding vinyl records was often outstanding.’

Zara Maisie hasn’t created artwork for albums but she is a rising star on the Lancashire art scene. Surprisingly, her former career as a forensic scientist has helped her.

‘I did it for ten years and obviously, I had to have excellent observation skills with an eye for detail and they’re skills that are pretty useful when I’m observing the subjects, usually nature, or pets, that I’m painting,’ says Zara, who works in a variety of mediums and who is currently exhibiting a selection of her work at Accrington Library.

‘I always have a camera with me and, even though I have two young children, I never miss an opportunity to capture something which inspires me and which I can then paint in my studio.

‘I always painted to relax, as being a forensic scientist, especially when on criminal cases, it could be pretty stressful and helped me to unwind. It was my dream to paint full time and so I took the plunge and I’m glad I did: it’s lovely to know that people want to collect and display my work.’

If Accrington features in an advertisement for milk again, it’s going to be compared to Gold Top!

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