WE are backing a campaign started by a group of friends who are speaking up for Bolton following a damning report in a national newspaper describing it as a 'nothing of a town'.

Sarah Longlands and her friends were so annoyed at the Guardian newspaper headline 'How Bolton became a nothing of a town' they have started a social media campaign to promote all that is good in Bolton.

Along with Rosslyn Colderley, Victoria Bradford Keegan and Rebecca Nicholl, she is hoping to rebuild pride in the town and show that there is a lot going for Bolton, while at the same time not denying it has challenges — like many other towns up and down the country.

Sarah, who lives in Heaton, moved to Bolton 10 years ago. She said: "When I first moved here I loved the friendliness of the people, the thriving local market, and the beauty of Winter Hill.

"There are many reasons to love Bolton but sometimes the bad news makes us forget.

"Our new campaign is about rediscovering the reasons that we love Bolton. In doing so we hope to find out how we can work together to become a town we can be all be proud to call our home.

"The Guardian recently published a piece that described how Bolton town centre has been struggling in recent years. The article tapped into local anger, frustration and sadness about the way in which the town has changed as many landmark shops and buildings have closed or been altered in recent times.

"However, many of us were dismayed at the headline of the article, which ran ‘How Bolton became a nothing of a town’. It’s true that Bolton has its fair share of challenges. No one is trying to deny that."

In the article journalist Andy Walton, who grew up in Bolton, cites the closure of shops such as Prestons of Bolton and the conversion of a former library in Victoria Square into a betting shop as examples of the town’s problems, which he claims have been compounded by the development of Middlebrook and the Trafford Centre.

But town centre bosses hit back citing the refurbishment of Newport Street, museum and Albert Halls, the development of the Market Place, opening of the cinema and The Vaults.

Bolton has one of the world's most significant Egyptology collections and the museum is undergoing a multi-million pound transformation which is set to become an international tourist attraction.

The rich history of Bolton is reflected throughout the town, not least in its popular historic halls.

The development of the transport infrastructure and plans for new hotels will attract people to stay in Bolton when visiting Greater Manchester.

Events such as Bolton Food and Drink Festival — described as the biggest in the country by celebrity chef James Martin — and Ironman attract more than a quarter of million people.

Retail analysts have described Bolton as responding to changes in shopping habits, by providing a good mix of shops and leisure.

The friends, who live close to each other, met up for a chat and the Guardian article dominated the conversation, leading them to come up with idea to celebrate what is great about the town.

Sarah said: "To describe it as a ‘nothing of a town’ feels like a step too far.

"Bolton is our home, and that means something.

"More than 200,000 of us live here with friends and family and many of us still believe that there is much to celebrate about life in the town."

The group has is encouraging people to join their campaign which The Bolton News is also backing.

Rebecca, aged 39, who lives in Bank Top, added: "Some of the article was true. Shops have shut, but this is not unique to Bolton. I work all over and Bolton is a damn site better than some other towns. It is very easy to latch on to the negatives but other shops have opened.

"I love the people, the friendliness and the openness ."

Sarah, aged 40, said "In response, myself and some friends got together and we’ve set up @ourbolton on Twitter and Facebook to find out whether life in Bolton is about more than just empty shops, bad planning and overcrowded trains — and we’re pretty sure it is!

"We’re inviting you to share your #reasonsIlovebolton so that together we can start the process of rebuilding pride in Bolton and changing things for the better."

Ian Savage, editor of The Bolton News, said: "I agree with the group that the headline was a step too far and the many positive aspects of the town were ignored — the country parks, the historic halls, the museum collection and the investment being pumped into the town.

"There is no doubt Bolton, like many other towns has its challenges. Consumer habits have changed as online shopping becomes more popular, but Bolton has responded to those challenges by attracting people back into town with more leisure facilities. High street stores which left have returned.

"So we are encouraging people to get on aboard with the campaign. A nothing of a town would certainly not attract 267,000 visitors as was the case over the Bank Holiday weekend."

Show us your pride in the town using the #ReasonsILoveBolton hashtag