National Festival of Making draws record crowds to Blackburn

10 July 2024

The National Festival of Making has become a firm fixture in the cultural calendar of Blackburn and Darwen as over 40 thousand visitors enjoyed events and activities at 24 venues in the town this weekend. The popular and critically acclaimed celebration of the past, present and future of making and manufacturing is set to return next year on 5 & 6 July 2025.  

All ages took part in over 75 workshops, almost all of which were free, and visited the many exhibitions, installations, markets and talks that took place across the town centre, including a sold out ‘in conversation’ event with Patrick Grant, supporter of the festival,      and his co-judge on the BBC series The Great British Sewing Bee, Esme Young.

Elena Jackson, Curator of the Art in Manufacturing programme and Co-Director of the National Festival of Making said “Something I look forward to every year is seeing how fantastic the town looks as it celebrates the culture and creativity of making, working closely together with the factories and highly skilled workforce that continue to build and grow the making legacy of the area. People come into the town centre for the festival and just have a go at being creative, maybe even sparking a passion in something new through joining a workshop or listening to a talk. The festival, and our wider year long programme, celebrates the importance of and joy we can get from being more creative and the whole town centre buzzes throughout the weekend.”

Two of four exhibitions created as part of Art in Manufacturing, the festival commissioning strand that pairs artists with local factories through residencies that last several months to create new collaborative work, were located at Blackburn Cathedral.

  • Textile artist Margo Selby marked the 100-years heritage of Standfast & Barracks with a 100m long fabric installation entitled ‘Breathing Colour’ which has been

suspended from the heights of the Cathedral. The work was a hit with visitors who loved that it featured colours chosen by 160 employees at the factory and accompanying sound piece by composer Peter Coyte that included recordings from Morecambe Brass Band.

  • In the Cathedral annexe Horace Lindezey brought his own witty perspective on rituals to the festival in an exhibition created in partnership with The Making Rooms.

Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

“We really are incredibly proud to host the National Festival of Making here in Blackburn.

Once again, this weekend has been an absolute triumph with record crowds enjoying everything that the festival and the town has to offer.

The programme was packed with something for everyone and it was a joy to see so many people, particularly children, enjoying the many installations, workshops, talks and performances with so many of our buildings packed with visitors all enjoying themselves, with almost everything being free too.

This really is partnership working at its very best – a wonderful showcase of our strong and ever developing cultural offer here in Blackburn with Darwen – and l’d like to wholeheartedly thank the team for another absolutely brilliant event.”

Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery and the Town Hall Square was another busy destination with the Taste Lancashire food market, bustling STEAM zone and pop-up shop from Patrick Grant’s ‘Community Clothing’. The final two Art in Manufacturing commissions were also on show here; at the museum, ceramic artist Nehal Aamir with Darwen Terracotta and Faience created ‘Intimate Hands’ to show the processes and skills found in the factory through a contemporary tiled tapestry, also inspired by the collection at the museum which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, while Sam

Williams’ playful installation ‘Fabula un Facto’, delivered with the Cardboard Box Company, took visitors on a fun trip to the factory floor through her enormous interactive piece at The Exchange.

Artist Sam Williams worked with the team at the Cardboard Box Company to create her large-scale immersive sculptural installation. She said: “I’ve been fascinated by the processes and engineering that goes into each bit of packaging created in the factory, the hidden details and incredible skills honed over years by the team there. Seeing our enormous ‘machine’ then come to life for the festival, and people interacting, playing with it, has been fantastic.”

The Cathedral Quarter hosted a popular new festival space – ‘Kitchen Tables’, which focussed on the ‘making’ that happens at home through food, henna, crochet and printing as well as markets supporting emerging creatives and independent makers. Performances of ‘TEABREAK’, a show all about making a brew, and from the Discobug DJ Stage kept visitors entertained and weaving, poetry and printing workshops ensured there was always something to get involved in.

Please note:

  • ‘Infinite Hands’: Nehal Aamir + Darwen Terracotta and Faience will be displayed at Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery until14 September.
  • ‘Breathing Colour’: Margo Selby + Standfast & Barracks will be displayed  at Blackburn Cathedral until 14 July.

The National Festival of Making will return to Blackburn on 5 & 6 July 2025.

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