G7 Speakers' Conference: What is it and why does it matter?

Presenter Gamal Fahnbulleh reports live from Astley Hall ahead of the G7 Speakers' Conference.

The town's MP calls it "Lancashire's best kept secret" - but if that's true - Chorley's charms won't be secret for much longer.

Some of the world's most influential politicians are headed this way - followed by an international media presence, and a giant security operation.

It's the G7 Speakers' Conference.

What is the G7 Speakers' Conference?

This annual meeting brings together the counterparts of The Speaker of the House of Commons from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA and the European Parliament.

Hosted by the current Speaker, Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle, it's a chance for these politicians to meet face to face for the first time since the pandemic, to share their experiences over the last 18 months.

The event will be hosted by the UK Speaker, and proud local MP, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

This year's summit is themed around the question: "Secure versus Open Parliaments?" How do you keep politicians safe in an increasingly dangerous world, while making sure the doors of democracy stay open to the public.

These are major, complicated, international issues - but it won't be all work and no play.

As well as planned visits to local landmarks - Speaker Nancy Pelosi for instance is presenting a US flag to the town's oldest church - the G7 Speakers will be given "a real taste of Lancashire", in a feast including Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, Butter Pie, Goosnargh duck and traditional Lancashire hot pot.

Sir Lindsay has also promised us "they're going to leave knowing what a Chorley Cake tastes like".

Why does it matter?

The theme of this year's conference has never felt more important - the office of the USA delegate was ransacked during rioting on Capitol Hill following the US election, and Sir Lindsay Hoyle himself has seen the impact of terrorism and the extreme right.

January saw rioters storm the US Capitol.

He was in the Speaker's Chair the day of the 2017 Westminster terror attack, and welcomed Kim Leadbeater to the House, after the murder of her sister, Jo Cox MP.

The representatives will look at how best to handle the threats posed by terrorism, abuse and hostility on social media.

What to expect

There may be some surprise spectacles in store, but initially - not too much. The majority of the summit is taking place at Astley Hall - and behind closed doors - with the public unable to watch the meeting for security reasons.

But do keep an eye out on Sunday night, by the end of the conference, the Speakers will issue a joint statement setting out any recommendations or commitments they have made

The most obvious sign of one of the first major international events since the pandemic began will be the security in the town - from road closures, to barricades, to a heavy, visible police.

What is in it for Chorley?

It's Chorley's first ever international conference - and with tourism starting to open up again, media coverage across seven countries and three continents is never a bad idea.

As well as showing off the refurbishment of the main venue - the 16th century country house Astley Hall - any places the Speakers visit as part of the conference (currently under wraps due to security) will get a showing on the global stage.

Astley Hall is set to unveil the results of a £1.7 million refurbishment.

"It's about flying the flag for Chorley, and showing all Lancashire has to offer on the international stage" - Sir Lindsay Hoyle told me - "American TV sets are going to be blown away by what we have to offer."

And remember those Chorley Cakes? It's not the only souvenir Speakers will be presented with, nor the only town having their moment in the spotlight.

The Speakers will all be presented with a customised Warrington Wolves rugby league shirt - so "PELOSI, 7" and the name of Warrington could well be worn out and about in Washington.

And for a Speaker who's determined to open up parliament - and a possible career in politics - to a greater variety of people, it's a key chance to inspire the town's young people.

Dignitaries will help local schoolchildren plant trees at the venue to mark the summit - and try to create a lasting legacy.