The National Festival of Making

FOM Merged

Visitors pledge to return as festival ‘makes’ a big impression

The very first National Festival of Making saw over 30,000 people flock to Blackburn town centre to enjoy the celebration of makers and making in May.

This inaugural event included many Hive members such as WEC, Graham & Brown, Cardboard Box Factory Darwen Terracotta, to name but a few. Hive also hosted a pop-up shop on King William Street in the five weeks leading up to the festival which included workshops from the aforementioned Hive members and an excellent wall display designed by Source Creative and produced by the Cardboard Box Factory. Hive also hosted it’s own area within the pop-up during the festival weekend which was a roaring success.

The festival was directed and produced by Deco Publique , Place Shakers and Wayne Hemingway MBE and the HemingwayDesign team was located in Blackburn owing to its strong connection with manufacturing forged during the industrial revolution and its unique UK status as having the highest proportion (25%) of its workforce working in making and manufacturing.

It attracted over twice the numbers predicted and even reached the number one spot of topics trending on Twitter.

Over half of those who came to the town to enjoy two days of demonstrations, workshops and performances as well as a collection of amazing art installations, were recorded as having come from outside of the area with some people travelling from as far away as London, Birmingham and Carlisle. Along with the excellent national media coverage, the festival has really helped to put Blackburn on the map.

The festival, funded by the Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Superslow Way and Blackburn with Darwen Council, proved a boost for a number of town centre venues including the Making Rooms, the town’s three story digital hub, that reported six months’ worth of visitors over the two days and the museum attracting ten times the amount of people it would normally expect.

Visitor surveys revealed that 80 percent would visit Blackburn again as a result of the festival, and that it had made them see the town ‘in a new light’.

Feedback also showed that many were impressed by the town’s architecture in particular and radical regeneration that has seen millions spent in recent years on the town’s infrastructure and public spaces.

Director of the festival, Wayne Hemingway MBE, said: “Uplifting, diverse, exciting, forward looking, cultural, stimulating, community cohesive and full of clear opportunity, all words and phrases I can now use about the town I was brought up in. To say I am dead chuffed would be an understatement. Blackburn was a wonderful host and location for the first of the annual National Festival of Making and we hope that year two will be in the tow.”

Harry Catherall, Chief Executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “This was a fantastic event and I would like to congratulate everyone who worked so hard to make it such a success. It was a great opportunity to show off our town, which is fast becoming a real destination with projects like the wonderful Cathedral Quarter, the Making Rooms, the new leisure centre and the many new businesses that are opening up all the time.  The phrase I kept hearing over the weekend was that it was as if ‘Blackburn has woken up’ and I think that says it all.”

Mo Isap, the Chair of the Blackburn with Darwen Local Strategic Partnership, said: “I am extremely proud that it was Blackburn that has played host to the inaugural National Festival of Making and I hope that those who came and saw just how special our town is will visit again soon. This event marks another key milestone in our journey, which began in 2014 when we launched the Plan for Prosperity, and I am excited for the future of our place.”