The National Festival of Making

20 April 2017

A new kind of festival for a new age of making, the first National Festival of Making takes place at the heart of British making, Blackburn, Lancashire on Sat 6 – Sun 7 May 2017 and has revealed, for the first time, the breadth of making, tasting and buying experiences laid out for visitors over two unforgettable, spectacular days.

The first national celebration of its kind, the FREE family festival promises people they will see, taste, try and hear things they’ll never have done before. Now, with live appearances from personalities including TV chefs and food entrepreneurs Gizzi Erskine, Aldo Zilli and Nigel Haworth announced, alongside brand new art and performance in unusual town centre locations, tantalising food from Polish Kielbasa to Vegan Mexican Churros and the chance to get hands on by casting objects in plaster, printing posters and making music, the festival looks set to deliver on those promises.

The reveal of The National Festival of Making programme at gives a first glimpse of everything planned to take place, with more still promised to appear on the online ‘What’s On’ guide in the coming days and weeks. Alongside anticipated street-swelling visitor numbers, Blackburn’s town centre will see dramatic transformations in the addition of the festival hub, the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) Pavilion (Town Hall Square), BBC Treehouse (Cathedral Square) and a series of unusual, architecturally-designed, wooden MakerSheds (Cathedral Square). For two-days, Blackburn cements its status as the UK’s current capital of making.

Wayne Hemingway, Co-Founder of The Festival of Making, said: “This festival is unmissable; there can be no doubt about it. This is the first such celebration of making in this country and whether someone is an aspiring maker, curious about how things are made, crazy about shopping for the handmade or simply wish to soak up the festival atmosphere with good food, drink and live performances, they will find what they are looking for here. We can’t wait to welcome everyone to Blackburn.”

Taking place in venues open to the public, the vast majority of National Festival of Making events take place over both days between 11am – 6pm and are completely FREE to attend. Some events may have different times, be limited entry, require advance booking and/or incur a small charge, in which case such conditions are made clear on the website. Highlights of festival events announced to date are:

Bakers from Cherrytree Bakery have created a brand new piece of contemporary dance, performed twice on both festival dates, 20 denim flying hat-wearing ‘tourists’ will walk the streets and through the lives of long-gone Blackburn textile entrepreneurs (11.30am, Saturday and Sunday), workers from Darwen Terracotta have their tools turned into ceramic sculpture and parts of beds from Silentnight Beds become a ‘walk in’ work of art as part of the ground breaking Art In Manufacturing project. Since the start of 2017, nine artists have been paired with nine Pennine Lancashire manufacturers to make brand new art in collaboration with workers at each factory. The results of these projects, encapsulating vital, personal and manufacturing histories and modern expertise found at each company, will be found throughout the town centre including the previously abandoned Cotton Exchange, Blackburn Cathedral, Cathedral Square, Blackburn Bus Station, Exchange Coffee and Prism Gallery. For more information see:

Blackburn’s own, hi-tech hub, The Making Rooms plays a starring role in ensuring The National Festival of Making looks to the future with technologically-led, hands-on experiences, from building a giant ‘Pixel Wall’ for large-scale, retro video gaming to ensuring even tone deaf participants are able to make music using specially designed, digital instruments with Global Sound Movement. In The Mall, creators of a revolutionary, micro-computer, Raspberry Pi Foundation gives people a bite-size introduction to coding. Courtesy of Hobs, the interior of Blackburn Cathedral has been completely 3D mapped and turned into a virtual reality environment, within which visitors will be invited to take part in a treasure hunt. Blackburn Library plays host to two, further, exciting digital workshops with [Ctrl] + [P] providing insights into the latest in 3D printing technology and Colourground puts their own colour-documentation app in visitors’ hands to develop a colour palette for Blackburn using the myriad shades of the collected book covers.

Leading, young British filmmaker, Aaron Dunleavy, under the guidance of award-winning director, Michael Winterbottom and inspired by Lancashire film pioneers, Mitchell and Kenyon, premieres his new film project: We Take Them and We Make Them, documenting the real lives of a diverse range of young people in the town. From Crafts Council comes the regional premiere of their Real to Reel Film Festival, an opportunity to see any of 44 films specially commissioned to showcase the breadth of crafts practice in the modern age.

What does Lancashire taste like? BBC’s Great British Menu chef and leading light in both traditional and modern regional cuisine, Nigel Haworth, opens the doors of his own Northcote Café to reveal what he and aspiring chefs from Blackburn College have cooked up in response to the festival’s challenge: make a definitive menu for the county in 2017. Credited with being a revitalising force for British towns, The Teenage Market galvanizes the entrepreneurial spirit of young people from Lancashire and further a field and takes over Town Hall Street with a range of products procured or made with care, while King George’s Hall hosts the festival’s Makers Market, offering high-quality fashions, homewares and jewellery. Cathedral Square and Town Hall Square become a foodie haven with street food specialists selling locally-sourced, globally-inspired menus while the Routemaster Bus Bar Company lays on craft beers, cocktails and cordials.

A true, festival atmosphere unfolds all around Blackburn during the festival, with some of the most innovative performance companies hitting the streets. The (one man) circus comes to town in Thingamabob, bringing comedy, music and theatre to Cathedral Square alongside Illumaphonium, a ‘have a bash’ part-musical instrument, part-sculpture that engages people of all age in generating soothing sound. Young people from Lancashire join performance charity, More Music to showcase their own performing abilities, gathering in school or community ensembles to dance, sing and act their way around Town Hall Square at 2.30pm and 4pm each day. Three performances of Cotton on Saturday afternoon on King William Street tell the history of Lancashire’s cotton trade, an historic, economic boom still evident across the county today, using the antiquated artform of clog dancing, yet promising a modern twist.

Well in excess of 30 workshops and activities have already been announced for people to try over the festival weekend, passing on food-making, textile stitching, ceramic casting and computer-programming skills amongst the broadest range of hands-on opportunities believed to be assembled at any UK festival. Market Traders at King George’s Hall have been tasked with making while they sell, handing over the reins in everything from wood turning to lampshade painting to people browsing their stalls in an innovative move by the festival, breaking the barrier between the maker and the public. Art In Manufacturing artists, each going into factories over the past three months, have been similarly tasked to explain the things they found and how they work, with movement classes, plaster casting and pattern making workshops.

Lancashire’s own international design sensation, Henry Holland has given his advice to Ironic, a Blackburn-based group of students with learning difficulties, who will present a range of Holland-inspired t-shirt designs to fashion-collectors to either buy off the peg or make themselves.  Blackburn yarn dyers, Three Bears visit Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery to offer a Yarn Dying Drop-In, while the secrets of South Asian embroidery, Kantha are made public, over both days, at King George’s Hall. Getting to grips with a modern age of making, Blackburn College host a digital filmmaking workshop while Blackburn Youth Zone opens its doors and collaborates with Manchester’s Madlab to teach families the basics of coding.

As a family friendly event, nothing is out of bounds, but some events might be more suitable for very small children or as experiences that unite everyone, young or old. Sock It And See at King George’s Hall takes place over both days and brings families in on the underappreciated art of making socks – a wardrobe staple and often a ‘make or break’ addition to an outfit – with the opportunity to make the ultimate pair. In the same place, Fashion Doll Dressing will be an all-ages introduction to fashion illustration and collage, getting involved with mood boards and developing wild and wonderful dressing-up concepts.  Family Museum: Sharing Stories at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery encourages everyone to come forward with personal, family and local histories, taking artefacts and photographs with them, and speak with the museum team about how they evaluate and archive items that tell fascinating stories. Both Get Crafty: Art and Craft Sessions at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery and Making Noise – Craft, Read, Rhythm & Rhyme at Blackburn Library (Sat Only, 12.30pm) mean young children can be messy, noisy and imaginative.

In celebrating the first, ever National Festival of Making, the BBC brings a range of events and activities to the festival in their own BBC Treehouse in Cathedral Square. Described as ‘the ultimate activity club for CBeebies viewers and their families’ the Let’s Go Club brings participatory song and dance, plus the chance to grow a special festival garden. Animation hero, Shaun The Sheep is the subject of a clay modelling workshop and Art Ninja brings his own, special combination of creativity and ninja madness. Going up the age ranges, the micro:bit series brings technology-based workshops for fans of CBBC’s Wolfblood and Dr Who, making series-themed gadgets from a range of materials. Fans of the BBC’s food programmes will recognise many of the names brought along for live cooking demonstrations and Q&A opportunities including Nigel Haworth, Aldo Zilli, Gizzi Erskine and Great British Bake Off 2016’s Selasi Gbormittah and Benjamina Ebuehi.

NOTE: Entry to BBC events at The National Festival of Making is managed by the BBC. For the most up-to-date information, please visit:

Developed by a new Festival of Making Community Interest Company – a collaborative venture involving Wayne 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 at, Facebook at and Instagram at

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