The UK’s first National Festival of Making is to be held in Blackburn

Influential designer Wayne Hemingway MBE is among the organisers of a new festival being launched in Blackburn to celebrate manufacturing, art and design.

Taking place next year on May 6-7, The Festival of Making will aim to make Blackburn the national capital of making in a place where 25% of the population is employed in making and manufacturing.

The festival has been developed by a new Festival of Making Community Interest Company involving Lancashire-born designer, Wayne Hemingway, festival producers, Deco Publique and creative place-making social enterprise, Placeshakers.

From textiles to terracotta, it aims to bring a sense of celebration to the town’s streets and raise national and international awareness of UK making and inspire others to consider their own talents and aspirations.

The range of events and projects set to take place, with many more to be announced, are:

• Weekend Festival: An opportunity to see, make and do for residents and visitors to Blackburn town centre over the weekend with hands-on activities, tours, talks and more.

• The Art in Manufacturing: a collaboration between the National Festival of Making and arts commissioners, Super Slow Way, ten specially-commissioned artists will work with the expertise, machinery and materials of makers in and around Blackburn and Darwen to create innovative and experimental new works.

• Front Room Factories: A phenomenon not unique, but characteristic of Blackburn and Darwen communities are the makers – often in the textile trade – who use their homes as their production lines. They will be captured in a series of documentary films screened during the festival as part of Art in Manufacturing.

Wayne Hemingway, said: “This is a new kind of festival for a new age of making, one where the economy is centred around not only quality, skill and ingenuity, but one that fits into a shifting landscape of social change, of a welcome diversity of people and one of a networked, digital age. By commissioning artists to work with manufacturers in Blackburn and Darwen, the festival is provoking new and exciting ideas that strike a chord through creativity and imagination. Yet we’re here also to underscore the remarkable fact that this area still has a successful manufacturing economy unlike of a scale greater than just about anywhere else in the UK and can provide inspiration to others.

“Above all we are here to have a celebration so expect The Festival of Making’s music to make you move your feet, its street food to tickle your taste buds, its craft beers to hit the spot and its workshops to introduce you to new skills.”

The National Festival of Making is supported with funding from Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Super Slow Way and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

Councillor Phil Riley, Executive member for Regeneration at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “Blackburn with Darwen is the obvious home for the country’s first national Festival of Making with our long proud history of Making going back to the industrial revolution when Blackburn was the weaving capital of the globe. Today we have some world class manufacturers and a wealth of creatives and artists so this festival gives us the perfect platform to shout about this. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can make the most of this opportunity to show the nation what talented makers and manufacturers we have here in the borough.”

Khalid Saifullah Managing Director of Star Tissue and Chairman of the Hive Business Leaders Network, said: “Blackburn is steeped in manufacturing history, but it is the pursuit of innovation and ingenuity that means the region still has making at its heart. The development of new ideas to go with traditional skills and values is vital, not only for the sustainability of our regional economy, but for British making as a whole, and The National Festival of Making will celebrate and help to further develop that essential mix of creativity in manufacturing. It is entirely appropriate that this celebration takes place here in the North West, in Lancashire and especially in Blackburn.”

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