As it celebrates its first anniversary tomorrow, The ACE Centre in Nelson is fast becoming one of the most talked-about venues in East Lancashire. We discover the secret of its success.

HAVING welcomed some of the biggest chart-toppers of the decade through its doors since opening 12 months ago, The ACE Centre is putting Nelson back on the map.

Not since the days of the famous Imperial Ballroom, which attracted stars including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Tom Jones, has the town been visited by such big names.

In its first year the venue has played host to Brit Award-winning Florence and the Machine and r’n’b sensation Mr Hudson, both who left the big cities behind to grace the centre’s stage.

With more than 220,000 visitors setting foot into the state-of-the-art £6.5 million centre so far, it has become a hive of activity for the community, providing music, comedy, dance, food and entertainment.

The multi-purpose venue in Cross Street, which celebrates its first birthday tomorrow, has facilities including dance and drama studios, a creative arts room, gallery space, meeting rooms and an in-house recording studio popular with the areas local celebs.

Britain’s Got Talent star Hollie Steel recorded her album Hollie at the centre, while Burnley striker Steven Thompson lived out his musical ambitions when he belted out his version of Just Looking, by Welsh rockers The Stereophonics, during a special recording session.

And this year the centre’s managers say they want to attract more top names.

Nicole Morgan, operations manager, said she hopes the venue's reputation will grow bigger and better over the next 12 months.

She said: “We want to bring in big-name acts, to try and bring a bit of city life into Nelson.

"People can expect more live music from local bands as well as some top name comedians such as Jenny Eclair, who we have just booked for November.

“I think part of the success of the centre is that we try and provide affordable entertainment in intimate surroundings.”

There are areas for Cinema, theatre and live music in the building, as well as the ACE courtyard bar, café and bistro.

The Enterprise Centre, which is home to local businesses, is located on the highest floor of the centre.

Some of the centre’s most popular attractions are Cinema Paradiso, a weekly cinema afternoon, and the recently-launched Paul Nicholas school of acting, which attracted over 65 people in its first week alone.

The Garrick Theatre Company is moving its home from Burnley Mechanics this month and will be performing its first show at the venue in September.

Nicole added: “We are hoping to expand on activities that have been popular, such as our ballroom dancing classes, monthly comedy nights and the pie, peas and poetry nights with Pendle Borderline theatre company, to meet demand.

“The aim is to provide activities for everyone, from children through to pensioners.

"We would like people to come forward and suggest anything that they think would be enjoyed by the community — we are open to suggestions,” she said.

To celebrate the anniversary there is a weekend of free activities, including a barbecue, cocktails and free live music in the courtyard on Friday, July 9.

And on Saturday, July 10 all the centre’s activities will be free, including cinema showings and dance classes.

To round off the weekend there will be a free family fun day with outdoor games, activities, tournaments and singing competitions.

l For more details and the centre’s full listings visit