The Rossendale Valley was well represented at the Lancashire Tourism Awards at Stanley House Hotel & Spa.
The Whitaker Museum & Art Gallery was the big winner of the evening, with the Rawtenstall, Rossendale, Lancashire named Cultural Venue/Organization of the Year.
There was also recognition for the Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom, Bury, Greater Manchester with outgoing owner Glen Duckett – who also runs social inclusion business Eat Grow Thrive – crowned Unsung Hero of the Year. year, recognizing the work of individuals or groups throughout the pandemic.
The Whitaker’s delighted general manager, Carl Bell, said: ‘We were faced with the conservatories and [Lowther Pavilion] Lytham St Annes and a few other big boys, so we’re very, very happy to have him.
Following its £2.2m lottery-funded facelift, the venue – which announced a merger with Rossendale Leisure Trust (RLT) last February – now boasts expanded exhibition space and new facilities for visitors.
The art gallery will open two new exhibitions on Thursday, February 10 – “Everything is Green” by Ruth Murray and “Edge Collection” by Harry Grundy.
On Thursday, February 17, The Whitaker will premiere an evening on The Life and Poetry of Samuel Bamford by Neil Bell, who played Bamford in Mike Leigh Film Peterloo.
And Manchester’s award-winning shorts will be screened at the venue’s Kinofilm festival on Thursday 3 March.
A far cry from 2013, when a funding dispute between county and borough councils cast doubt on the future survival of the Rossendale Museum.
Carl says they are expected to reach 55,000 annual visitors in their first year since reopening in July – several months ahead of the target set by heritage funders.
He told the Rossendale Free Press: “We are very happy, especially with everything that is happening with Covid and the reopening.
“We were in a very difficult scenario, but it was really successful. We certainly didn’t lose any numbers. Obviously we have invested and are doing more marketing.”
He said the connection to the RLT has given them a broader reach and allowed them to advance their community goal.
“The good thing about the award is that they recognized the level and quality that we managed to maintain – even though we doubled in size,” added Carl.
“We are looking for national and international artists – we are moving in the right direction.”
A Leisure Trust spokesperson said: ‘Congratulations to the Whitaker – Rossendale Museum and Art Gallery on a well-deserved award for a fantastic team last night at the Lancashire Tourism Awards.’
Marketing Lancashire welcomed nearly 400 tourism and hospitality partners and colleagues, at the guest event hosted by comedian Tez Ilyas.
Dearden Wood, Edenfield and Rossendale Holiday Cottages & Glamping reached the bottom three before being listed in the Camping, Glamping & Holiday Park of the Year category, the latter also being a finalist for the Self-Catering Accommodation of the Year award .
Multi-award winning Eagle & Child was also a finalist in the new Resilience and Innovation category, driven by the challenges of the past two years.
Throughout the lockdown, it acted as a community hub providing over 1,500 meals to vulnerable people, and also provided food parcels and support to local organisations.
Mr Duckett, who took over the abandoned venue in 2011, recently handed over the reins to Bill and Will Gallie, of Gallie Inns.
The pub’s social media manager, Robyn Eames, said: “I’m incredibly proud to have worked for a boss like Glen, to give people like me a chance when others wouldn’t and to always look for ways to help people.”
In her opening speech, Rachel McQueen, Managing Director of Marketing Lancashire, said: ‘We have lost so much over the past two years, and I know many in this room will have suffered personal and professional pain.
“But we have also gained something – the undeniable truth that the Lancastrian spirit will never be defeated, and the recognition, at last, that this great county is nothing without its tourism and hospitality businesses.
“When you were forced to close everyone realized how much they missed you and how the visitor economy has a big impact on the quality of life in Lancashire.”
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