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

Published Monday 15 May 2017 at 14:23

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.

The event directed and produced by Wayne Hemingway MBE, HemingwayDesign, Deco Publique and Place Shakers, was held in the town thanks to its strong connection with manufacturing forged during the industrial revolution.

Blackburn also boasts a unique status in the UK, having the highest proportion (25%) of its workforce working in making and manufacturing.

The event which is hoped will become an annual festival,  attracted over twice the numbers predicted and even reached the number one spot of topics trending on Twitter.

Over half of those who came were 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.

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.

The Community Clothing shop owned by Sewing Bee Celebrity Patrick Grant, welcomed 500 people to its Community Quilt demonstration with a 1,400 percent increase on its typical sales.

Other figures showed that 500 pots were thrown over the weekend by participants in the ceramics workshop run by design collective Supermarche, 244 people took part in a plaster casting workshop with artist James Bloomfield, and on average a paper plane was folded every 90 seconds at the Folding Table Artwork demonstration.

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 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.”

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