out of the fringe of Burnley’s central shopping area there towers the newly-opened Keirby Hotel, standing, in the words of The Guardian “as conspicuous and self-conscious as a brand-new car upended on a scrap heap.” “We were free of all inhibitions when it came to design,” declared its architect; “There is not one listed building of architectural interest in Burnley.”
The eight storeys of the Keirby are topped by two luxurious penthouse suites which are available to visiting executives at a charge of £10 a day (plus food); and where they may do their lavish entertaining protected, for all I know, by only a multi-coloured Venetian blind from an otherwise uninterrupted panorama of Burnley’s grimy acres of sub-standard houses and archaic schools.
The visitor from the lower ranks of the managerial elite will have to make do with one of the 46 bedrooms, each with private bath, at a more modest £2 2s. 0d. a night, unless of course he brings his lady, in which case the charge will be £3 18s. 0d. (The new Leofric Hotel in Coventry can do it cheaper than this with breakfast thrown in.) At the Keirby breakfast is extra—and expensive. And for lunch, the hotel is suggesting that local businessmen in a hurry should dash in for the fifteen-shilling standard. The man not so hard pressed for time may, of course, linger and study the full menu at his leisure; happy in the knowledge that the trout he may decide to order is still swimming around in a special tank in the kitchen. If the service is a little slow, he can keep in touch with the stock exchange by nipping into the adjoining cocktail bar, where the lunchtime prices will be posted.
The Keirby is the pride and joy of the Labour controlled council. The mayor obligingly eulogised about the hotel at the opening ceremony and the chairman of the licensing justices referred to it as “a monument symbolising the new Burnley which the local authority are trying to create”, pointing at the same time to forthcoming “farreaching changes in the structure of local government, and a hotel such as the Keirby could be one of the most important assets in determining on what rung of the ladder Burnley was placed.”
The local Labour party has shown pride in the part played by its representatives in encouraging the Keirby’s development, although it is difficult to see what electoral appeal this can have for the voters in the nearby working class district of Stoneyholme, which has no pub at all, or Fulledge where the same parent company controls a number of dreary tongue-and-groove-andsawdust-type hovels which no self-respecting licensing bench would tolerate for two minutes.
There was little by way of popular criticism during the construction of the Keirby, save from Saturday night revellers waiting in pouring rain for homeward-bound transport at central bus stops whose shelters had been removed to meet the convenience of the contractors. (The bus stops themselves were later removed, presumably to meet the convenience of the proprietors!)
The absence of adverse comment was due in the main to careful stage management—everything was explained. If the district was to attract the new and diversified industry which it so desperately needed, the urgent and crying need for additional hotel accommodation must be met. The number of letting bedrooms available was totally inadequate and it was this lack which the Keirby was designed to remedy.