Popular Leyland events scrapped

'A sad day for Leyland': John Emmerton and Joan Downes are upset that their group, based at Worden Arts Centre, has ended
'A sad day for Leyland': John Emmerton and Joan Downes are upset that their group, based at Worden Arts Centre, has ended

Leyland has seen the last of its popular Chinese New Year celebrations and Parkicipate summer holiday clubs, it has been revealed.

A group of dedicated volunteers, who have organised events at Worden Park for the past eight years, has reached an untimely dead end.

The South Ribble Arts Forum, based at Worden Arts and Crafts Centre, is the latest organisation to fall victim of funding cuts, and will no longer meet up and arrange activities for the childrenof Leyland.

Around 300 people who took part in the group’s weekly craft sessions also have nowhere to go, and the hundreds of families who enjoyed the forum’s annual festivities are left looking for other things to do this summer.

Artist John Emmerton, 90, who held classes for around 20 youngsters every week, said: “It is a very sad day for Leyland.

“I’m afraid I’ve held my last class at the centre now, and it’s such a shame.

“One lad has been coming for four years, and he always asks for me.

“I will really miss working with the children; I’m still young at heart myself.”

The group has relied on grant funding since it was set up nearly a decade ago in 2004, and also held annual Christmas fairs, May Day celebrations, and activities such as teddy bears’ picnics in Worden Park for the community.

The forum is made up of people who enjoy art, patchwork, pottery, jewellery making and lace making.

John said: “I used to have sessions at the Arts Centre around three times a week, but the opening hours were reduced, and it started to get a bit frustrating.

“There are about 50 volunteers in total, and the group really enhanced the park in my eyes.

“People from all over South Ribble would come to the different sessions and events, and it really is the death of an important part of Leyland.”

South Ribble Council worked with the forum for a number of years to help organise the Chinese New Year and Parkicipate events, which attracted thousands of people to the town each year.

The council was forced to pull allocated funding for charity and volunteer groups from its budget in 2009, and the forum has been turning to other organisations for grants in recent years.

Chairman of the Arts Forum committee, Cath Moran, said: “The Arts Forum has come to an end because we can’t attract the funding we need to keep going anymore.

“We had donation boxes at the centre and there was a small annual fee for committee members, which would help with buying art materials.

“But we needed grant money to pay professional artists to come in and see us, and to put towards the big Chinese New Year and Parkicipate functions. It’s been very worrying, and we’ve had to make the decision to end it all now.”

- For the full story, see this week’s Leyland Guardian