Will Bolton's bid for city status make a difference?

PUBLISHED: 11:26 10 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:20 20 February 2013

Will Bolton's bid for city status make a difference?

Will Bolton's bid for city status make a difference?

Will Bolton's bid for city status will help businesses and local people? Amanda Griffiths finds out Photography by Kirsty Thompson

Theres a lot of people out there who already think Bolton is a city. And, with a premier league football team, a thriving university and a population of 260,000 they could be forgiven for getting it wrong.

The truth is that Bolton is still a town. But what a town.

Ten years ago Boltonians lost out in their bid for city status to Preston, when the Queen awarded city status to four communities as part of her jubilee.

But during those ten years life has certainly not stood still. Bolton has
seen much redevelopment and investment, and with the announcement Her Majesty will once again be handing out the title of city as part of her 2012 jubilee celebrations, council officials are hopeful their new bid will be successful.

People ask me why city status is so important, says Keith Davies, Boltons director of regeneration and development. Its the business community that summed it up best when they said it would provide more opportunities, especially in terms of investment. It would encourage the sort of developments that places like Preston have seen, as well as civic pride.

Keith, who also worked on the Liverpool for European Capital of Culture bid, says previous attempts, although unsuccessful, have given them a good platform to build on. Bids have to be in by May 27 and Bolton faces a local fight against Blackpool and Stockport.

A lot has changed in Bolton however, since they were last turned down.
Weve got a university now that we didnt have last time and were really well known regionally for some of our events, things like the food and drink festival that brings in 75,000 people a year, says Keith.

Other projects, such as Bolton One, an iconic health, research and leisure complex, and a new transport interchange are underway.

Bolton One represents a 33 million investment in partnership with the university and the NHS. With a 25m, eight lane swimming pool due to open in 2012 hopes are high that it will provide the town with an Olympic link.

We dont underestimate the importance of having a premier league football club that has also played European football, beaming the Bolton name across a wide stage, says Keith.

The home game against West Ham was branded the One Bolton Match Day. One Bolton is designed to celebrate the diversity we have here. Its important because its not very often the premier league will allow that kind of branding at televised matches.

And of course theres lots of celebrities out there banging the drum for their home town.

The thing that makes a Bolton celebrity is that they say they are from Bolton, he adds. When did you hear Amir Khan introduced as anything but Boltons Amir Khan? Its the same with Peter Kay. Radio presenters Vernon Kay and Sara Cox are always talking about their lives here.

One of the more infamous sons of Bolton will feature later this month as the Fakes and Forgeries exhibition opens at Bolton Museum.

Running until the beginning of July, the exhibition includes work from forger Shaun Greenhalgh who was jailed in 2007 forging everything from LS Lowry and Thomas Moran paintings to Roman silverware and, most famously, the Amarna Princess, an Egyptian statue which fooled the experts.

It was discovered to be a forgery after suspicion fell upon another piece Shauns father George was trying to sell, says Stephanie Crossley, assistant director for cultural services at Bolton Council.

We bought it for nearly 440,000 with money from the Heritage Lottery, National Art Collection Fund and the Friends of Bolton Museum.

Thankfully we were able to recover all the money and made sure it went back to the relevant parties, especially the Friends, who are all local people.

We were constantly being asked if the Princess would ever be coming back to Bolton. Because its seized crown property well never have it back permanently but when the chance to have it back as part of this exhibition came up we jumped at it.

The exhibition includes a number of Shauns other forgeries as well as those by other forgers. The amazing thing is it shows Shauns versatility - from forging a LS Lowry painting to a piece of Roman silverware to carving an Egyptian sculpture all good enough to fool the experts.

It also puts it in context, because although they were very clever they were not alone. They might have been a bit better at it than some and certainly more prolific because of the range of things Shaun could do, but this sort of thing does happen all the time.

We are hopeful that having the Amarna Princess back will bring
people into the museum who are curious and who might just come back again in the future.

Culture vultures

Bolton Museum and Art Gallery provides an important insight into the founding and development of this Lancashire town.

The striking building, on Le Mans Crescent, holds fascinating displays and important archives while the art gallery includes works by the internationally-famous painter Thomas Moran, who was born here and whose work is said to hang in the Oval Office in Americas White House.There are also works by the likes of Blake and Turner as well as local exhibitions and lectures.

Bolton is also well served for theatres. The Octagon is one of the regions most intimate and exciting venues and has been producing nationally-renowned work for more than 40 years. There are also excellent amateur companies at Boltons Little Theatre and its namesake in nearby Farnworth as well as a varied programme of events at The Albert Halls.

If you have a passion for historic homes there is Hall i th Wood, a 15th century half-timbered manor house, and Smithills Hall, a Grade I listed house. Bolton Council have also just announced that another historic building in the town is being restored. Specialist historic building developer, Linford Developing Heritage, has ambitious plans to turn Little Bolton Town Hall, a Grade II listed building on St Georges Street, into a high quality restaurant.

Workers have moved in to peel away modern additions and help reveal the buildings original structure and uncover any secrets. Plans for the building can then be finalised by the Manchester architects, with planning and listed building consent applications as well, as an application for grant assistance towards the redevelopment, submitted in May. If approved, work is likely to start in earnest in the summer.

Around and about

Bolton is a bustling place but there are also active communities surrounding the town. With the coming of Bolton Wanderers Football Club and the vast retail park just off the M61 to the north of Bolton, Horwich attracts millions of shoppers to the area every year.

There are also several parks and open spaces outside the town centre to explore. Places like Moss Bank Park in Smithills, Moses Gate Country Park near Farnworth and the countryside walks at Rivington attract visitors, including hundreds of motorcyclists, in their droves.

Bromley Cross and Egerton, which are close to beautiful countryside, are popular property spots as well as Harwood and Heaton. Other popular locations to set up home are Barrow Bridge, Astley Bridge and the pretty village of Belmont. Many of these places have rural walks nearby and are part of busy, thriving communities.

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