Thriving Blackburn club ready to celebrate centenary

This Is Lancashire: Tom Kellie, left, and Joe Carlin play darts. Tom Kellie, left, and Joe Carlin play darts.

WHILE others may be struggling or shutting up shop, a Blackburn Working Men’s Institute is preparing to celebrate its centenary next month.

St Paul’s WMI will mark the occasion on Saturday, March 1 with a party and a countdown to midnight.

The Montague Street club was established on March 2, 1914 and has been on the same site and in the same building ever since.

The club, which boasts around 420 members, is run by a 10-strong committee, who helped to bring the club back from the verge of collapse three years ago.

It comes after bosses at the 102-year-old Furthergate Working Men’s Club in Blackburn said they would have to close for good at the end of February, citing falling membership, high rent and bills, and a change of drinking culture.

St Paul’s found itself in ‘massive’ debt three years ago, and a new committee stepped in to take over the day-to-day management.

After an overhaul and a review of the finances, the club is now thriving and attracting new members through regular snooker and darts matches. It also hosts a members’ night every Saturday, with local artists booked to play in front of packed audiences.

Secretary Allan Griffin, 67, who has been a member of the institute for 12 years said: “Everyone here is very proud of that fact that the club is going to reach its centenary.

“Three years ago we were on the verge of selling up but through good management we have pulled through.

“We are gaining members now and we are thriving on Saturday nights.

“The darts and snooker teams are attracting new, young members to the club, which is fantastic.

“The club used to be packed in the 1970s and I’ve been told that it was hard to get in at times because it was so full.

“It’s not quite like that these days because that was a different age but we are certainly doing well for ourselves.

“We are very proud to be an independent club which is owned by the members and I hope that it will still be here in another 100 years’ time.”

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