Top designer takes time out to meet carers and staff at the new-look Blackpool Carers’ Centre
Blackpool Carers’ Centre has designs on top designer Laurence Llewelyn Bowen.
Mr Llewelyn Bowen has been invited to attend the charity’s Purple Ball in January, named in honour of BBC’s DIY SOS, and to become an ambassador for the charity.
The invitation came from former young carers’ champion and now family support worker Camilla Ball, 21, when the flamboyant TV personality dropped in on Beaverbrooks House at the invitation of Lancashire’s High Sheriff John Barnett – patron and co-founder of the charity.
Beaverbrooks House on Newton Drive is the new base of the 11-year-old charity after hundreds of volunteers, many of them local, assisted BBC DIY SOS in transforming much of the Victorian building into what presenter Nick Knowles has called ‘the coolest youth club in town’.
The makeover has made good the damage caused by metal thieves – who moved in after the NHS-run Blenhem House child development service relocated to Whitegate Drive - and provided a beautiful base for hundreds of young carers helped by the charity.
The coolest youth club in town
The charity is now converting the upper floor into offices and allied facilities for staff.
The sheer scale of the aptly named Big Build – one of the biggest taken on by the popular BBC team – will be revealed in the DIY SOS special for Children in Need week in November.
Until then it remains under wraps.
Laurence took time out from his own busy schedule in Blackpool to meet some of the staff and carers at the new look centre.
Laurence, who lost his father at an early age, spoke openly and eloquently about how ‘anxiety’ over his mother’s prolonged ill health – as a result of MS – had cast a shadow over his childhood, but took pains to stress: “I was not a young carer.”
Charity chief executive Michelle Smith said Laurence’s recognition of the ‘resilience and many admirable qualities’ of young carers had resonated with youngsters who do not wish to be ‘pitied’ but do need greater recognition of the vital role they play in caring for loved ones.
The resort’s new young carers’ co-champion Liam Quinn, 16, who took care of his diabetic mum until her death earlier this year, also thanked Laurence, and confided his hopes of helping other young and young adult carers.
Laurence said he was honoured to have taken part in the project and had set out to create a ‘bespoke boutique’ base as a beacon for Britain’s young carers.
The pair struck a pose alongside one of the most distinctive features of all: the Blackpool Rocks ‘stick of rock’ designed by Laurence and donated by Blackpool Illuminations from the new display which puts company names up in Lights this year.
The illuminated tourism totem has already proved a great talking point.
“I’m the Marmite of designers,” Laurence admitted. “You couldn’t seriously expect to get away without something that had ‘Blackpool’ running right through it?”
Liam concluded: “I think Laurence is great and I can’t wait to see the programme.
“He has such a posh image but he comes across just like an average guy, someone you can really talk to and who gets what young carers are all about. I just wasn’t expecting that.”