Preston Blog is moving to Blog Preston

We're moving, to blogpreston.co.uk

We're moving, to blogpreston.co.uk

After a very successful first six months of existence, Preston Blog is moving. It’s also changing it’s name, to Blog Preston.

We’ve bought a domain name. We’ve got a fancy new design. But that’s all that’s changed, expect the same great content but just on blogpreston.co.uk and we’ve added a few little extras – like making it easier to contribute, integrating our twitter feed and also we’ll be starting a weekly email newsletter, so get yourself signed up.

There may be a few hiccups as transfer over to the new site, but rest assured we’ll be working as hard as we can to make sure there’s still great content.

Thanks for all your support, reading, commenting and kind words during the last six months. We hope you’ll join us for the rest of the journey at blogpreston.co.uk

Cider & Perry Festival at New Continental

The festival is expected to be one of the largest in the North West. Image credit to neon bubble.

The festival is expected to be one of the largest in the North West. Image credit to neon bubble.

The New Continental in Preston, Lancashire is to play host to its first ever cider and perry festival. Over sixty different ciders will be on offer from all over the UK and continental Europe. It will run from Thursday 9th July to Saturday 11th July 2009.

The format will be similar to the Continental’s beer festival held back in May, the cider being dispensed from the pub’s arts space and a marquee erected outside with live music.

Confirmed acts include Manchester indie hopefuls Marble Krusher and Shrieking Violets, Lancaster nu-folk band Ottersgear and Preston’s very own With Knife, The Fifty50s, Baboon and Mrs & Mrs, who have just signed a record deal and are playing festivals including Solfest and Brampton Live.

Interview: Lawrence Butterfield who worked at Whittingham Mental Hospital

Corridor in Whittingham Mental Asylum near Preston, Lancashire

Corridor in Whittingham Mental Asylum near Preston, Lancashire

One of the most popular posts on this blog was David Perkin’s description of the urban exploration of the decaying Whittingham Mental Asylum just outside of Preston, Lancashire. But, what was it like when it was still operating and what was it like to work there? We got in touch with Lawrence Butterfield who worked at Whittingham from 1986 to 1988.

Whittingham is known for being a rather spooky place, even during the day, and the Whittingham Inquiry was famous in the 1960s when terrible abuses were discovered at the hospital. Butterfield worked nights at Whittingham as a staff nurse, but he didn’t find it that scary.

He said: “I used to work nights to ensure the residents had a good night’s sleep and make sure, as many of them were institutionalised, that there were no problems.

“We used to work 7.30 PM to 7.30 AM so if anything spooky was going to happen, it would happen during these hours. I am intruiged by all the photos on the web of the asylum and the stories about ghosts and such like, but when I was working there I didn’t feel threatened or scared.

However, there were two experiences that caused Butterfield to feel a little uneasy during his shifts.

“The first ‘experience’, if you can call it that,” says Butterfield, “was when I was sitting up one night with a colleague and it must of been around 3 AM. It was common for staff nurses to visit each other during the night shifts as the patients were generally sleeping soundly. We were chatting and my colleague suddenly went very quiet and I saw the look on her face change, just for a few seconds, and I asked her what was wrong and she said she’d seen a shape on my shoulder. She said it was like a monkey shape, and only there for a second, but that there was definitely something there.

“I didn’t feel anything on my shoulder, but I can tell you after that I was a bit on edge for the rest of the shift!”

The second experience for Butterfield involved a corridor that was notorious amongst the staff at Whittingham for weird occurances.

Butterfield said: “There was this corridor that was a short cut between some of the wards, and using it would cut five-six minutes off your journey time. There were all sorts of stories flying round about it, the main one being that a girl had gone down it and half way down the lights had gone out.

“One night I decided I would take this corridor. I walked down it and you know, it really felt like someone was watching me. The way the corridor was set up meant it had windows on either side that looked into old wards, and there were all these wrought iron beds in there – old ones – and other stuff. Needless to say I walked very quickly down that corridor!”

Whittingham at it’s hey day had around 3,500 patients and was one of the largest institutions in Europe. When Lawrence was there it was holding around 2,000 patients but the Care in the Community Act of 1990 was looming and it was to be the beginning of the end for Whittingham.

“It’s a pity what’s happening with Whittingham”, says Lawrence, “although it’s not that attractive compared to other mental hospitals it’s a shame it’s just being left to rot.

“It’s sad as well that the Whittingham Inquiry is probably what the place is most well known for, despite all the great work and brilliant staff that were there. When I was there in the 1980s the Inquiry was still hanging over us – and I don’t think the trust with the local community was every regained.”

Butterfield has gone on to work for the NHS and become a high profile figure in the anti-stigma movement around mental health. He feels his time at Whittingham, he was 25 when he started, was a good grounding in mental health and allowed him to see such a large institution at work.

“I have many fond memories from working at Whittingham,” recalls Butterfield, “there was a great morale amongst the staff, despite the long shifts, and some of the patients were great work with.

“The hospital was a very imposing place to work, those huge Victorian buildings, big corridors and large grounds – and with Chingle Hall on view in the distance I can see why people think the area is haunted.”

Butterfield has now written a book about his experiences in the health service, particularly mental health issues, and his time at Whittingham is mentioned. The book, called Sticks and Stones, is available from June 30th 2009 and proceeds from the sales will go towards promoting more acceptance and understanding of mental illness.

Interview: Nancy Dykins, Business Link North West

Business Link acts as a way to sign post business owners through the maze of starting up and running a successful business. Image credit to Mark Sardella.

Business Link acts as a way to sign post business owners through the maze of starting up and running a successful business. Image credit to Mark Sardella.

With the recession in full swing, jobs being lost, the pound losing value, and the ‘green shoots’ of recovery just a twinkle in Darling’s eye we thought it would be a good time to find out what Business Link are up to.

The government has been pumping money into services that promote and help businesses to grow, particularly new start-ups. So, with one eye on our own ambitions here on Preston Blog it was interesting to speak to Nancy Dykins who is a broker for the digital and creative industries in the North West with Business Link.

Nancy Dykins says that planning is where most businesses have problems

Nancy Dykins says that planning is where most businesses have problems

“We’re a free to use, impartial and confidential business support service”, says Dykins, “we want to give people that help to start a business or to grow an existing one.”

Business Link North West helps around 9,600 clients a year and each broker has around 70-80 clients they will deal with on a regular basis.

The brokers work as a team to provide support to a wide range of businesses and this is a big challenge for them according to Dykins.

She said: “We work to signpost people to the right information, training and potentially funding. It’s a hard challenge as you can be dealing with so many different sized business’ at one time.

“I can be working with an advertising agency in the morning on a human resources issue to a small greetings card one-man-band operation in the afternoon who wants to boost sales.”

Brokers have to keep on top of a deluge of information as laws, rules and funding opportunities change daily in the business world.

“Part of my role is taking all the information that flows into my inbox and picking out the bits that are useful”, says Dykins, “I will then try to pass this on to my clients wherever I can.”

One of the key positives of Business Link is that it is free to use. Anyone who is starting up a business, or thinking of starting one up, can ask for help.

Dykins said: “We’re impartial which is important, we like it when people come to us at the very earliest stages of setting up a business and we can be there right from the start.

“But, we can do a lot to help established businesses as well.”

You might think that Business Link brokers may have all the theory and no practical experience, but this isn’t the case. Get Nancy as an advisor and she’s set up and run two successful companies, selling one of them, Orchard Suits recruitment agency in Manchester, to become a Business Link advisor.

“We don’t want people who have just sat behind desks”, says Dykins, “the aim of Business Link is that you get an advisor who has real business experience, has been there and done it – so that they understand what you’ll be going through when setting up your business. You don’t want someone just talking a load of management and business theory at you.”

When setting up a business there are many challenges to overcome, but becoming a victim of your own passion is what Dykins feels is the biggest threat to any entreprenuer.

She said: “It’s very easy to get the blinkers on and just do what you want, and not make the best decision for the business.

“Plus we find that after the first year, while the business is doing well they are struggling to keep themselves organise and think beyond the next batch of orders, the next job or the next delivery. They lack the strategic stuff and we can really help people with this.”

Review: Russell Howard @ Guild Hall, Preston

This is a guest post from Louise Hendy. She is a student studying psychology, Spanish and IT at A-level. She blogs at the trick to life’s not to get too attached to it and can be found on twitter @louise_hendy. If you’d like to write a guest post for Preston Blog check out how you can get involved.

Russell Howard is a regular at the Edinburgh Festival. Image credit to Dave Smith.

Russell Howard is a regular at the Edinburgh Festival. Image credit to Dave Smith.

I think I’ll start by saying if you ever get the chance to go and see this man, you absolutely must go.

Russell had a support act for his show but unfortunately I have forgotten his name. I know his first name was Mark and he was from Bristol like Russell. He isn’t a well known comedian at all; I think he might just be friends with Russell. ANYWAYS, he was actually pretty funny and I can’t remember why exactly but he did get a huge round of applause at one point.

After a brief interval Russell came on stage in his trademark t-shirt and jeans combo.

He came and got distracted immediately by something someone shouted at him about wanting his babies.

He had amazing stage presence too. He seemed as hyper as he does when he’s on tv and he kept going off on little random tangents because of the stuff that members of the audience said.

The good people of Preston lived up to their dirty mindedness a good few times with Russell saying some things that he probably should have phrased differently.

There was a point when a man left to go to the bar and whilst he was gone Russell asked the people he was with to tell a secret about the guy and he would slip it into the show at one point and at that point everyone would cheer. The secret was um… the guy couldn’t get a hard on with a bar maid!

Like he said, Russell slipped it into the show and there was a monster cheer and round of applause. The guy wanted Russell to pose for a photo so Russell said only if you re-enact the scene with me. So he got on stage and bent over in front of Russell… that photo will look VERY dodgy to anyone that sees it on the Internet or something, put it that way.

At the end, when they ask if the audience had any questions. Someone asked for Russell’s top to which he said no as he had “very large, weird nipples” nice.

It resulted in a lady flashing her boobs at Russell’s support act.

I think the gig was one of my favourites I have ever been to and in the words of Russell “it was the single most oddest gig I have ever done”. It certainly was.

Celebrate Preston’s Fairtrade birthday

The Fairtrade Festival is being organised by Preston FM and local Fairtrade groups

The Fairtrade Festival is being organised by Preston FM and local Fairtrade groups

Today marks five years since the city of Preston was awarded Fairtrade status. To celebrate an event has been organised on the flag market, including music, guest speakers and dignatries. It’s taking place from 10 AM – 4 PM.

Brave the weather, head down and enjoy some quality entertainment and celebrate that Preston is helping those worse off than ourselves.

Preston FM will be there, who are co-organising the event, along with Preston & South Ribble Fairtrade Group.

Groovy outdoor film screenings @ GlastonFerret mini-festival

Cinematopia poster

Cinematopia poster

An outdoor film screening at a pub mini-festival? Is there a better way to spend a summer night?

The Best of Cinematopia 09 will showcase an awesome line-up of the grooviest short film, music video, animation and digital media from our past events at the outdoor Orange Peel stage. And all this with a turfed pub, live bands, barbeque and real scrumpy (and the outdoor area’s roofed so you don’t need to worry about the British weather).

Hosted by Kitsch Monkey Productions and the Mad Ferret, Cinematopia is Preston’s only regular movie night screening a themed programme of weird and wonderful films, animation and audio visual media. Themes have included kitsch, trash, psychedelic, avant-garde, sci-fi and spaghetti western.

Friday 26 June. Doors 7pm. Films 9.30pm £3 entry

Mad Ferret, 55 Fylde Road, Preston, Lancs PR1 2XQ

Full programme

Glastonferret myspace

Cinematopia Facebook group