Helen Brady is an experienced Event Manager at Events Northern. She is a Proud Prestonian, born and bred, and is passionate about shopping small and spending local. She also co-founded Make Do Drink, a collaborative platform and workshop series that brings pop up events to Preston City Centre. Here is her love letter.
It’s February and in case you hadn’t noticed, that means that love is in the air.
Although that can usually be a good excuse for an outpouring of public admiration for your nearest and dearest, this writer doesn’t really go all in on the mushy stuff.
Instead, she is going to focus her affections on her hometown and all its cheeky charm.
Now, as much as your author would love you to picture a Northern Carrie Bradshaw, typing away on a MacBook, at an Instagram-able desk, in an inexplicably large and extremely well decorated apartment. Sat staring out at the hustling, bustling streets below while penning an elaborate love letter to the exciting scenes that stretch out before her; the reality is in fact quite different.
She is actually sat at her kitchen table, huddled over a trusty Dell laptop (yes, it’s heavier to take to meetings, but no, it has yet to malfunction), eating tea (it’s absolutely not called Dinner, have you read the name of this publication?) and listening to Storm Ciara whoosh round all the rubbish outside.
So no, as you may have guessed, she does not reside in glamourous New York; the city that never sleeps, but the place she does call home is England’s 3rd newest city, Preston, in Lancashire. And believe her when she says, unlike the buzzing metropolis of Manhattan, on a cold Monday evening in early February, the city of Preston is asleep by 10:30pm.
Despite its lack of Cathedral (we’ve got St Walburge’s instead; it’s got the tallest spire of any Parish Church in the UK) Preston was granted City Status in 2002 after winning the Golden City contest in celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. So, we are a City…. kind of.
Unlike the buzzing metropolis of Manhattan, on a cold Monday evening in early February, the city of Preston is asleep by 10:30pm.
As a home grown Prestonian who has moved away, then come back, then moved away, and come back again, your writer will confidently say that one of Preston’s main charms has always been its people. It is difficult to replicate the no nonsense, quick-witted and kind-hearted sense of humour that overflows into conversations everywhere. And in recent years this unique sense of character that exudes from residents is beginning to be weaved into the fabric of the city itself. What was once a textbook town is now becoming a thriving community of homegrown entrepreneurs, independent business and creative communities. The ever-growing feeling of opportunity and optimism seems to be more prevalent than it ever has done before. Nicola Darwen, a freelance creative based in the City Centre explained, “My favourite thing about Preston at the moment is the feeling of potential, we have such a rich history and people are starting to cotton on to the fact that we have a really bright future too!”
A previously average night out is now dotted with quirky bars and independent pubs. We’ve got vintage stores and makers markets. There are stunning Victorian parks and beautifully preserved architecture. We’ve got Butter Pie’s and Easter Monday Egg Rolling and the Preston Guild. Famous alumni include Nick Park, Freddie Flintoff, Edith Rigby, and Lubaina Himid. A city whose symbol incorporates the letters PP, Proud Preston, is living up to its name and giving its residents a reason to shout about it.
Amy Cheadle is the Co-Founder & Sales and Marketing Director of The Northern Dough Co, a thriving food manufacturer based in Preston. She explained that it is the community spirit of the area that makes it unique to her, “What I truly love about Preston is the connections people are so passionate about making with each other and to their surroundings. From small businesses working together on collaborations, to people using their free time to protect and preserve the city’s heritage, almost everyone I speak to is actively contributing and proud of this place, its history and people, and wants to own a part in its future.”
The city is absolutely brimming with inspirational Northerners doing amazing things in business. We have butchers, bakers and trendy brogue makers, all bringing amazing homegrown products to market. We have MDs and CEOs ploughing both precious time and money back into the growing local economy. We have entrepreneurs and innovators developing the processes and products of the future. The thing that all these people have in common is that they decided to do all these things here. In Preston. In Lancashire. They are part of an ever growing creative, business community that is constantly collaborating, sharing best practice and helping each other grow.
Lynsey Thompson, Managing Director at Wash Studio whose HQ is based in the heart of the city on Winckley Square explained, “Preston to me feels open, unpretentious and honest. There is a real sense of community building here, which welcomes all types of people and business – a place where you can truly be yourself. It is a city that is ready for change and I believe is open to the people within to help shape its future.”
With all of that in mind, although we may not be giving Manhattan a run for its money any time soon, Preston and its proud people are working together to create a sense of place that you can truly fall for. And isn’t that exactly what February is for!
We asked our Proud Prestonian contributors for their go-to destinations to get that feel for the City:
The new Preston Markets are a perfect example of that mix of traditional and forward thinking – you can still get all your fresh produce, meats and cheese from stall holders that have been selling for generations, but you can now also get a mean brunch and a glass of wine on the side!
Nicola Darwen, Freelance Graphic Designer
My favourite place in Preston is Winckley Square. I’m probably biased as it’s where I work but I love seeing a whole variety of people come to enjoy it. From community events and historical talks to school trips and lazy days in the sun. It’s the perfect place to people watch, surrounded by beautiful, historic buildings.
Lynsey Thompson, Managing Director, Wash Studio
I think the place that best represents the vibe in Preston for me is the gin bar Plau on Friargate. It quite literally charts history from some of the earliest days of our city, right through to the present day, and was painstakingly rediscovered and renovated by a team of people with incredible passion for restoration, history and community. To me, it’s the complete embodiment of what makes Preston and its people great, with the bonus of great food and cocktails while you’re drinking in the history.
Amy Cheadle, Sales and Marketing Director, The Northern Dough Co