The National Festival of Making

FOM Merged

‘A new kind of festival for a new age of making’ comes vibrantly to life in May 2017, setting imaginations and North West England alight with the buzz of creativity and craft as artists, manufacturers and market traders celebrate Britain: a nation of makers.

Founded by renowned designer, Wayne Hemingway MBE and supported by creative industry heavyweights, designers Patrick Grant, Henry Holland and film director, Michael Winterbottom, the UK’s first ever National Festival of Making takes place over Sat 6 and Sun 7 May 2017 in the ‘home of British manufacturing’ –  Blackburn, Lancashire. A FREE family festival happening  at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse, just an hour away from Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, Hemingway and festival organisers promise a vibrant celebration of British making, where people of all ages will see, hear, taste and take part in things they’ll encounter nowhere else.

A nation entranced by television programmes like ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ (of which Grant is, famously, a judge), the festival is the first such event to celebrate Britain’s growing fascination and sustained brilliance in making, giving makers of all shapes and sizes a platform to share their innovative products and ideas. Anyone willing to have a go themselves could find themselves involved in everything from making take-home clothes with professional designers to making ‘the ultimate paper plane’ with aerospace engineers.

This first national celebration takes place in Blackburn, a location steeped in centuries of making tradition where 25% of the local population, twice the national average, is still employed in making industries. Bringing manufacturing, creativity and fun together, the festival also features a series of unusual art commissions, including a trail of striking artworks made using the machines in Lancashire’s factories and architects aiming to bring the great, British shed kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Wayne Hemingway, who grew up in Blackburn and founded the first factory for his former clothing label, Red or Dead in 1983 in the town says:

“We’ll come together at the first National Festival of Making to celebrate, enjoying music to make us move our feet, enjoy taste-bud tickling street food from around the region and try the latest craft beers any one of our brilliant, regional brewers have conjured up. We’ll also be inspired to try things we never thought we’d try and perhaps even find that we are good at, so together we’ll have fun in workshops hosted by brilliant, skilled and inspiring makers, artists and designers to find out what we like making the most.

“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 of a relative scale greater than just about anywhere else in the UK and can provide inspiration to others.”

From textiles to terracotta, Blackburn and neighbouring Darwen are vital organs in the body of British making and the festival aims to bring a sense of celebration to the town’s streets, extend the reach of making into the communities that surround it, raise national and international awareness of Britain’s making culture 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 visitors to Blackburn from around the UK as The National Festival of Making feeling takes over the streets with hands-on activities, workshops, music, live performances, tours, talks and more.
  • Makers Market and Street Traders: From fashion to foaming ale and fresh food, The National Festival of Making will be a voyage of discovery for anyone looking to get their hands on the latest artisan wares from Lancashire and further afield.
  • The Art in Manufacturing: a collaboration between the National Festival of Making and arts commissioners, Super Slow Way, ten specially-commissioned artists work with the expertise, machinery and materials of makers in and around Blackburn and Darwen to create innovative and experimental new artworks to be found on the town’s streets and in unusual indoor spaces.
  • MakerShed: If your home is your castle, then you don’t own a shed. Britain would be nothing without its sheds – a place to ponder life’s intricacies in the company of your lawnmower. The MakerShed competition challenges young architects to reinvent the much-loved, simple wooden structure, with the winning entries being built to act as workshop spaces/meeting places on the approval of a panel of expert judges, including Hemingway, Civic Entrepreneur, Alastair Parvin and Blackburn Bus Station architect, Altaf Master.
  • 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. At once innately traditional, yet compatible with modern trends in ‘kitchen table’ businesses and home working, these artisans are to be captured in a series of documentary films screened during the festival as part of Art in Manufacturing.

Developed by a new Festival of Making Community Interest Company – a collaborative venture involving Hemingway, festival producers, Deco Publique and creative place-making social enterprise, Placeshakers. The festival delivery team also includes arts commissioners, Super Slow Way. The National Festival of Making is supported with funding from Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.  The Festival of Making has also secured partnerships with local organisations including The Hive CIC, Blackburn’s business network and Creative Lancashire, who will deliver a business-focussed event as part of the festival’s programme.

For updates about the festival programme and information on how to get involved visit and sign up to the mailing list. News and opportunities will also be posted on Twitter  and Facebook.



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