National Festival of Making

18 October 2016

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.


  • The first National Festival of Making takes place on Sat 6 and Sun 7 May 2017 in Blackburn Lancashire, where 25% of the population still works in making and manufacturing


  • Influential designer, Wayne Hemingway amongst organisers and list of supporters bringing together the first UK festival of its kind, initiating a series of newly commissioned works


  • Documentary films to capture the diversity of the true ‘Northern Powerhouse’, featuring the ‘front room factory’ phenomenon, as two days of celebration takes over the Lancashire town


‘A new kind of festival for a new age of making’ has been announced to take place in the towns that the decline in British manufacturing forgot. The first ever National Festival of Making has been announced to take place over the weekend of Sat 6 and Sun 7 May 2017 and deliberately set in the producing heartland of Blackburn, Lancashire to explore and celebrate the present day diversity in the range, scale and skills of UK-based making. Manufacturers large and small will collaborate with artists on a series of new commissions, interlacing often traditional techniques and materials with challenging, contemporary ideas, each to be revealed as part of the final two day, town centre festival.


Developed by a new Festival of Making Community Interest Company – a collaborative venture involving Lancashire-born designer, Wayne Hemingway, festival producers, Deco Publique and creative place-making social enterprise, Placeshakers – The National Festival of Making aims to ignite a sense of celebration and encourage recognition for the craft and ingenuity of a region that sees manufacturing employment recorded at twice the national average[1].


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 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 of Sat 6 and Sun 7 May as The National Festival of Making feeling takes over the streets 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. A call for artists is to be made in autumn 2016.


  • 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.


Wayne Hemingway, joint founder of the National Festival of Making CIC and of HemingwayDesign, 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.  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.


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.”


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 at and Facebook at

[1] Figures on employment by sector detailed in ‘Labour Market Profile – Blackburn with Darwen’ Report from Nomis:

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