DESIGNER Wayne Hemingway called on entrepreneurs to follow his lead and start their business in his home town as the Blackburn is Open project got into full swing.

The launch party held yesterday in King William Street celebrated the opening of the town’s first pop-up art centre.

And it promoted the pioneering Blackburn is Open scheme which aims to ‘wage war’ on the town’s empty shops and promote creative enterprises, particularly among young people.

Mr Hemingway said: “Blackburn is the town that I was born in, the town that I grew up in and the town that made me.

“It’s where I opened my first shop and where I began my career and so it’s really important to me to get involved in a project like this and do what’s best for the town.

“I still have family here and I’m a Blackburn Rovers supporter and I want the town to do well.

“Blackburn town centre needs to be lively and vibrant. It needs to return to being a place that people want to visit.

“This will help it become all those things and more, and everybody will benefit.”

Guests also visited the St Johns Centre, which is being transformed into a gallery and arts studio for Blackburn students.

Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Kate Hollern said: “This scheme will really benefit everyone, especially the young creative people we have so many of in this town.

“The atmosphere at the launch was just buzzing and it’s what we hope the centre of Blackburn will be like everyday.”

The event championed local enterprise, serving food provided by vegetarian café Sprout of Darwen Street and displayed an exhibition both created and curated by Great Harwood artist Nicola Hebson, who has been helped by the scheme since October.

Nicola said: “Blackburn is Open has helped me a lot. I will be opening my own shop in King William Street, thanks to their help, which is something that I had always wanted.

“They have really encouraged me to thrive.”