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The inaugural National Festival of Making comes to Blackburn

PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:03 27 April 2017

Jacqui Sharples at Print for the Love of Wood, Great Harwood. Picture: Claire Sutton

Jacqui Sharples at Print for the Love of Wood, Great Harwood. Picture: Claire Sutton

Claire Sutton 2012

Blackburn will host the UK’s first national celebration of manufacturing, as Paul Mackenzie reports

It is often said that we don’t make anything in this country any more but visitors to Blackburn this month will learn how wrong that is as the town hosts a weekend-long celebration of manufacturing and creativity.

The inaugural National Festival of Making is a free family festival which will give makers of all shapes and sizes a platform to share their innovative products and ideas. Anyone willing to have a go could find themselves involved in everything from making take-home clothes with professional designers to folding ‘the ultimate paper plane’ with aerospace engineers.

The event – the first of its kind in the country – was founded by designer Wayne Hemingway MBE and supported by creative industry heavyweights, designers Patrick Grant, Henry Holland and film director Michael Winterbottom. Blackburn was chosen to host the event not only because the town is steeped in centuries of making tradition, but a quarter of the population is still involved in making industries.

Wayne Hemingway, who grew up in Blackburn and founded the first factory for his former clothing label, Red or Dead in 1983 in the town, said: ‘I didn’t think that figure could be right when I first heard it – the national average is 11 per cent and the figure is lower in large towns and cities – but it is true. One in four people in Blackburn is actively involved in making things – everything from jet engines to clothes and food.’

Wayne has been involved in Blackburn is Open, a project aimed at revitalising the town centre, and he added: ‘We wanted to do something a little bit different and something place-specific that would have a lasting impact. I realised that what it said on my old school blazer, and on the town hall, and on the Blackburn Rovers badge, Arte et Labore, by skill and hard work, still holds true. We have built everything that we have done in Blackburn around that, around making.

‘Whether it’s chocolates or bicycles, seeing people making things is inspiring. Making things is good and there has never been a national celebration like this. There are trade shows, but there has never been anything where the public can watch people making things and can take part in workshops.

‘The festival will include music makers and people making food and drink. We knew it would work as long as it’s a celebratory thing.’

The festival aims to raise national and international awareness of Britain’s making culture and inspire others to consider their own talents and aspirations. The event will include workshops, live performances, tours and talks, with locally made products – from fashion to food – on sale at a makers’ market.

Wayne, who also organises Morecambe’s annual Vintage by the Sea festival, said: ‘I believe we’re holding the event in the right place – Blackburn is at the centre of the manufacturing heartland of Britain – and at the right time. In the post-Brexit world, whatever you think of Brexit – and I’m firmly against it – you can’t argue that making in places like the north of England is very important.

‘The festival was planned long before the vote last June – it has been three years in the making – but I think we have hit on something that can help heal the divisions that were always there but which have come to the surface since the Brexit vote. It just seems to have caught the mood of the time. The festival has really struck a chord and it will help to bring the community together a bit more. And I think it will bring the eyes of the world onto Blackburn like nothing has since Rovers won the Premiership.’

The National Festival of Making will be held on May 6 and 7 at venues around Blackburn. For details go to www.festivalofmaking.co.uk, or @festofmaking or see the Facebook page, facebook.com/festofmaking

Don’t miss Lancashire Life next month – Wayne’s new homes in Blackburn.

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