BLACKBURN actor and soap star Peter Gunn will fire the starting pistol for the town’s heritage festival in September.

The 51-year-old, who played Brian Packham, Coronation Street’s Bessie Street School headteacher, will open proceedings.

He will be at the pop-up bandstand outside the Cathedral at 10.30am for the ceremony on Saturday September 13.

Yesterday a ‘living mermaid’ also appeared at Mayers Fishmongers in Blackburn Market to create a social media marketing stunt for the Blackburn Heritage Festival weekend.

Mr Gunn - who has a string of acting credits including A Touch of Frost and Hannah Montana: The Movie - has been reflecting on the heritage of the town.

He said: “What struck me most about Blackburn when I came to live here 15 years ago was the visible evidence of its origins and its industrial past, reflected in the buildings and architecture.

“I remember visiting the museum and learning of Blackburn’s political and social history, watching a film of valves being made at Mullards.

“I enjoy discovering friends’ and neighbours’ connections with Blackburn’s working history, the mills, the Royal Ordnance Factory, Mullards (or Phillips as it became known) and Thwaites’ brewery.”

X Factor finalist Stacey Solomon will also be performing at The Mall during the event.

Festival bosses hope in total around 25,000 people will attend the weekend.

Organiser Harriet Roberts is appealing to businesses wanting to take part to contact her by the end of today to ensure a place in the festival guide.

So far it has 60 attractions including a carousel, canal trips, and promenade theatre productions.

They include The Carnival of Curiosities with an apothecary bar featuring peep show attractions.

There will be visits from the Thwaites Shire Horses, steam traction engines, vintage vehi-0cles and clog dancing.

In addition there will be guided history walks and sampling of Lancashire cooking in Blackburn Market.

Ms Roberts said: “For people who have not been to Blackburn recently, the festival is a great opportunity to celebrate the town’s proud past and get a glimpse of the future.”