Blackburn to host the UK’s first National Festival of Making

Katie | November 14, 2016

May 2017 will see Blackburn, Lancashire in the North of England host the inaugural National Festival of Making, a celebration of manufacturing, art and design.


Developed by a new ‘Festival of Making’ community interest company – a collaboration between Lancashire-born designer, Wayne Hemingway, festival producers, Deco Publique, and creative place-making social enterprise, Placeshakers – the festival aims to celebrate and recognise the craft and ingenuity of a region where 25% of the population still works in making and manufacturing.


“I was working with a team on the Blackburn is Open project when we discovered that Blackburn has twice the national average of people employed in the manufacturing industry and a community of talented and creative makers working from homes and studios across the region,” Wayne Hemmingway told Design Geek. “Blackburn is where I was brought up, and where we manufactured Red or Dead’s early collections. There was clearly a need for a celebratory event that promotes making and manufacturing in all its diversity. Making things is part of the human condition; it gives purpose, pleasure and prosperity.”

The event will explore and celebrate the current diversity in range, scale and skills of UK-based making. Ten collaborations between manufacturers and artists will be commissioned with the aim of connecting traditional techniques and materials with challenging, contemporary ideas. “We can’t yet imagine what we’ll see and that’s the beauty of pairing talented artists with manufacturers who make everything from injection-moulded plastic parts for the automotive industry to terracotta for worldwide architectural and restoration projects,” Elena Gifford, producer at Deco Publique/National Festival of Making CIC told Design Geek. “Artists will have access to an enormous breadth of materials and cutting edge technology in companies steeped in manufacturing heritage, so expect to see the fruits of their unique collaborations in an Art Trail around Blackburn Town Centre.” Entitled Super Slow Way, the call-out for artists will be held in Autumn 2016, so watch this space.


Alongside these commissions, a series of new documentary films will capture the diversity of making in the North of English including the ‘front room factory’ phenomenon that sees artisans often in the textile trade – using their homes as their production lines. It’s a very traditional way of working, characteristic of Blackburn and nearby Darwen, and yet parallels with so-called ‘kitchen-table’ businesses and the growing trend of working from home make it seem very contemporary.

“The National Festival of Making is the first UK festival bringing together manufacturing, art and design to be held in the heartland of British industry, developing celebratory acts of creativity and uniting makers of diverse disciplines,” said Wayne Hemmingway. “The aim is to create an event that celebrates making and manufacturing in all its forms and inspires people to get doing things. Above all we want to create 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.”


“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,” adds Khalid Saifullah managing director of Star Tissue and chairman of the Hive Business Leaders Network. “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.”

The festival will take place on Saturday 06 and Sunday 07 May 2017 in Blackburn, Lancashire.


Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

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