Parbold - the community that created their own brilliant arts complex

Christ Church and Parbold Hill form the backdrop for Shevington Sharks Rugby League players in train

Christ Church and Parbold Hill form the backdrop for Shevington Sharks Rugby League players in training for the new season which starts this month (March) at Alder Lane playing fields - Credit: Archant

Great entertainment and good beer make Parbold a perfect place to visit, writes Rebekka O’Grady

In tune....Our Lady & All Saints school children, Lydia Woolley (5), Josef Zulueta (7), Libby Speakm

In tune....Our Lady & All Saints school children, Lydia Woolley (5), Josef Zulueta (7), Libby Speakman (6), James Ferguson (8), Tom Bartholomew (7) Francesca Singh (10) and Emily Johnstone (10) take a turn on the Steinway Piano at the Village Hall - Credit: Archant

Parbold might look like a sleepy, picturesque Lancashire community but the locals are really making a song and dance about it. Nestling in the valley of the River Douglas and the iconic Parbold Hill, it also has the Leeds-Liverpool canal running close by making it an ideal place for walking. But it is the humble village hall that has fired the enthusiasm of locals and brought in visitors eager to see internationally-acclaimed musicians.

Since 2008, the hall has been transformed from a rather austere building into the beating heart of Parbold. This is now the Rolls-Royce of village halls. Not only is it the home of the Parbold Picture House, but it is also the base for Douglas Music, a charity celebrating its 40th season.

Their musical events became so popular they outgrew the WI Hall. The chairman, Dr Michael Bonsall, said: ‘I think some people had given up on this place but after receiving a number of grants, things began to take shape. The auditorium was complete in 2008 but something was still missing.’

That gap was filled when committee member Clare Gillard had the bright idea of screening films and Parbold Picture House was born in 2009. Over four years it has generated over 10,000 tickets sales and won two awards from the British Federation of Film Societies.

‘These awards show we are doing something right. It was amazing when we started our ‘Front Row’ event screening the National Theatre live,’ said Michael. ‘Local people, who can’t travel to the likes of Manchester, can now enjoy watching new films and the latest theatre productions with a front row seat. It’s great for the community.’

The hall is owned by the parish council and leased to a community association run by volunteers. Douglas Music is one of its main users and is now the proud possessor of a Steinway Model D grand piano. With piano rental costs approaching £1,600 an event, they decided to purchase their own. To add to the small fund amassed by raffle ticket sales, they appealed for local donors. An impressive £12,000 was raised and the rest of the £85,000 required to purchase the ex-Barbican Hall piano came from a number of grants.

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‘This is just an excellent indication of how much the community cares for one another,’ added Michael. ‘The piano is now used at our concerts by a number of international and local artists but also by schools and piano teachers for their events. Each person within this community owns a part of that piano. It really has brought a sense of status to the venue and cultural tourism to the town.’

In May, Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa held a ‘Pied Piper’ concert where 200 schoolchildren, including pupils from local primary, Our Ladies and All Saints, gathered around the piano for the recital. Head teacher Claire Griffin said the village hall had a positive impact on the school.

‘It’s wonderful for the children to visit and use the facilities here. It’s important for our pupils to see professional musicians play as we teach a lot of music lessons within the school. We look forward to future collaborative projects with Douglas Music.’

While Claire has talented children, just up the road is a Problem Child. This is the name of a micro-brewery attached to The Wayfarer dining pub and it’s the creation of Rachel and Jonny Birkett. Rachel is the daughter of Mel and Nadine Street who own the adjoining dining pub.

After 16 years of working for her parents and then managing the pub, she wanted to do her own thing. ‘The brewery is our addition to the family business. I didn’t want to give up the years I’d invested in the pub so this is a nice way of having both, as it’s still related in some way.’

Progressing from an idea in 2010, head brewer Jonny, 41, initially trialled flavours in a barrel in his garage before expanding into an extension to the pub in summer 2013. Primarily, it was to be sold only in the pub but as more money was invested and the business developed, it grew in popularity. Problem Child is now on tap in a number of Lancashire pubs and is on offer at major beer festivals including Southport and Liverpool.

‘Problem Child really has been taken well by the community. A great many Parbold residents enjoy drinking real ale and they’ve said it’s great to have a local brewery. We wanted to have that local feel, and our draught clips say “Brewed in Parbold” so that the town is recognised.’

With good beer and great entertainment, the people of Parbold have every reason to be merry.

Local landmarks

The 18th century windmill is one of Parbold’s landmarks. Built in 1789, The Windmill Gallery has been home to artist James Bartholomew, 43, for nearly 15 years. ‘Nowadays, a lot of people travel from far afield to visit the gallery, but even now I’m surprised when I have people from Parbold telling me they didn’t know it was here!’

Visitors are attracted into the gallery by curiosity of the building itself, but James’ beautiful artwork is worth a visit alone. ‘Whenever I have an exhibition or a new batch of work, I hold a preview night which is a nice social event within the town. At Christmas I had a brass band playing at the front of the gallery.’

Across the road is the ‘Yours is the Earth’ café, deli and ice-cream parlour. The café has been open nine years but it has been recently refurbished. ‘We were busy before the renovation, but it’s just been crazy since!’ says proprietor Nina Ainscough, 32. ‘The café is in a terrific spot by the canal, so we have a lot of people coming in from walks for a drink and bite to eat. However it’s still really popular with the local community, from new mums to retired residents. I’m planning on starting an afternoon tea, so that’s an exciting new venture for the café’.

Alder Lane playing fields have also been given a new lease of life in becoming the training ground for the Shevington Sharks junior and youth rugby teams. The Sharks have adopted Parbold as their new training home. ‘Lancashire County Council offered us the land so we took up the offer. Some of the lads live in Parbold and it’s also a great new opportunity to source new players.’ said head coach, Martin Carney.

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