Park gets time off after Guild year

Coun Tom Burns at the play area at the end of Fishwick Parade
Coun Tom Burns at the play area at the end of Fishwick Parade
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Preston’s historic Avenham Park is to get an extended breather this year after being left battered by a busy Guild.

City leaders have confirmed a series of events which will form the centrepiece of a summer and winter festival will not take place on the park.

Six months after the closing of the Guild, areas of both Avenham and Miller Park which hosted the Guild are still boggy after a wet winter.

This year, the annual Caribbean Carnival will also culminate on Moor Park and the Mela festival move to the Flag Market, but the traditional Easter Monday egg-rolling will still take place on the Avenham Park slope.

Coun Tom Burns, cabinet member for culture and leisure services on Preston Council, said it had decided to shift events into the city centre to boost its regeneration ambitions.

He said: “We cannot challenge the big retailers on their own terms, city centres like Preston have to offer a point of difference and arts and culture is that difference.

“The Guild showed us that if events are taking place, people will come to them and the benefits they bring will flow through.”

Workshops involving officials from the council, Lancashire County Council, the University of Central Lancashire and business and arts groups will draw up a programme for events which will kick-off next year.

Anchor events including the Mela, Caribbean Carnival and Riversway Festival in the summer and Bonfire Night celebrations and Christmas lights switch-on will be complemented by smaller community events under the plans.

Adrian Phillips, deputy director of environment, insisted the repairs to both Avenham and Miller Parks were “on schedule” despite parts still being churned up.

He said the council would re-seed large swathes of the park in the first week of April.

He added: “After every Guild there has been a need to undertake the kind of repairs we are looking at here, everything is on schedule.”

Events manager Tim Joel said the park would be turned into ‘Easter-land’ for the egg-rolling event which will encourage visitors away from boggy areas with live entertainment around features including the Swiss Chalet and Belvedere.

But, he said the aim of the events will be to drive people into city centre shops.

He said: “Physical regeneration cannot be the sole answer, it is about giving people a reason to want to come to the city centre.”

Gulab Singh, who stood down as chairman of the Mela organising committee last year, said he had recommended it relocated to the city centre after the 2012 festival was washed out.

The proposals will be put to the council’s cabinet in April for approval.