Preston is set for a £5m boost as the eyes of the world fall on it for the Easter weekend.
A bumper schedule of events kicks off with the Preston Passion today, which will see an audience of millions of television viewers watch a live production beamed from the city’s bus station. Hotels in the city have been booked up, while shops, restaurants and bars are gearing up for a busy weekend, with thousands of visitors set to flock to events.
Today, star Fern Britton, who will narrate the live performance which goes out on BBC1 from midday, said she was “delighted” to be in the city.
She said: “It is such a relief to finally be here.
“I woke up in my hotel room, drew the curtains and looked out over the bus station to see the whole thing unfolding in front of me.
“Everyone has been incredibly friendly, all the people who are involved are so professional, they just walk past and say ‘hello’ as if it is another day.
“It’s great, I am delighted it is finally here.”
Weather forecasters are predicting “light rain” for the production, which goes live on BBC One from midday, but the narrator said it would not stop the re-telling of the “special” story, a modern take on the traditional Easter message.
She added: “I am obviously hoping it goes seamlessly, but we all know that is not always the case with live television.
“Whatever happens, the show must go on.”
A huge area around the city’s bus station closed down yesterday for rehearsals involving some of the 3,500 people which will take part in today’s live performance, which will follow the screening of three pre-recorded films which will go out live on BBC One.
It is predicted the Easter weekend could draw in up to £2m to Preston with visitors coming for the Passion, a bumper Lancashire Market taking place on Saturday and the traditional egg-rolling event on Avenham Park on Easter Monday.
A number of city hotels reported being busy with tourism experts predicting the exposure the city will receive is worth up to £3m.
Tony Openshaw, a director at tourist board Marketing Lancashire, said: “If Preston were to advertise itself, you would be looking at anything up to £3m for an hour’s exposure on day-time television.
“It is all about legacy, an event like the Passion sews the seed in people’s mind and often we find that when they are passing, they will stop by.
“The impact is often not instant, but over the next two or three years.”
Daniel Rich, manager of the Holiday Inn Preston, said his hotel was booked up today with many of the cast and crew from the BBC.
He is also expecting further bumper weekends with the Corporate Games coming to the city in July.
The manager said: “We have some coach tours coming in this weekend for rugby events at Preston Grasshoppers and that is on top of the markets and the egg-rolling.
“It is shaping up to be a very strong Easter for Preston.”
The Preston Legacy International Hotel and the Premier Inn in the city centre were also reporting being “very busy” this weekend.
Organisers are expecting the annual egg-rolling event to smash last year’s crowds of up to 20,000 people.