New Chief Executive named as Burnley Leisure & Culture Celebrates 10 years as a Charitable Trust 

Published on: May 1st 2024

Charitable Trust, Burnley Leisure and Culture, are celebrating their 10th anniversary – and a new leader who promises to build on its ‘force for good’ in the borough. 

Burnley born and bred Paul Foster became the new Chief Executive of Burnley Leisure and Culture (BLC) this month, 10 years since the trust was formed to operate, the majority, of leisure facilities in the borough previously managed by Burnley Council’s Sport and Culture Services. 

His elevation to the role marks the culmination of a career that began as a casual lifeguard at the Thompson Centre 30 years ago.  

He then held various roles within the council-run sport and cultural services, where he was head of community and wellbeing when BLC formed, and he made the switch to the new organisation. 

The priority for me moving forward is to build on the good foundations put in place over the past 10 years,” says Paul, who was BLC’s Deputy Chief Executive for three years before the retirement of his predecessor Gerard Vinton. 

“Gerard got the trust to where it is now. My job is to carry on that good work. I want us to be seen as a force for good for Burnley residents, whether that’s from the point of view of physical activity, arts, theatre and cultural activities and everything else we do.” 

Working in partnership with the council, BLC is responsible for the operation, management and development of St Peter’s and Padiham leisure centres, Prairie Sports Village, Barden athletics track, Thompson Park boating lake, Burnley Mechanics Theatre, numerous hospitality venues and Towneley golf courses and clubhouse, along with borough-wide arts development, community health and wellbeing, sport and play development. 

BLC’s not-for-profit status means that all of its surplus revenue is reinvested in its services and facilities, such as supporting the £750,000 refurbishment of its gyms and swimming pool changing areas at Padiham and those currently taking place at St Peter’s: leading on the Beat the Street and #OutdoorTown initiatives and supporting local health programmes such as Up and Active. 

The BLC swim academy welcomes 4,200 children every year, while work in every one of the borough’s 32 primary schools touches the lives of 4,000 pupils. 

The latest additions to the community support programme include the Down Town Kitchen & Café in Burnley town centre, as part of Burnley Together, and the Active Cycles pop-up shop in Charter Walk that opens on 24th April in partnership with Active Lancashire. 

And as part of the lead up to Burnley’s Year of Culture in 2027, BLC has just launched the Culture Burnley Awards recognising the borough’s cultural organisations and individuals.  

Nominations are open until June 22nd and the awards night will take place at the Burnley Mechanics Theatre on Thursday, 5th September – just two months after the annual Active Burnley Awards, which celebrate health, sporting and wellbeing activities and achievements at all levels across the borough. 

Paul, a former pupil at Barden High School, says: “Our strategic relationship with the council has gone from strength to strength over the 10 years. We’ve taken established relationships and made new arrangements to the point where we see it as a true partnership. 

“It’s been a steady growth, especially around hospitality, which we weren’t delivering back then, and we’ve made some great achievements. Prairie Sports Village was opened about the time we started operating and since then we’ve added a second 3G pitch and the Toptracer system at the driving range. We’re always looking at future investment.” 

Outside of work, Paul is a lifelong Burnley Football Club supporter and a member of Towneley Golf Club. He has two grown up children, a son and daughter, with his wife Karen and is a regular swimmer – the love of which launched his career.