2016 Best of Britannia North, Preston

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 May 2016

Matthew Wilcock

Matthew Wilcock

Archant

Creative talent from across the north headed to Preston for an event showcasing the Best of Britannia. Roger Borrell reports

Two stars of the BBC’s unlikeliest TV hits were among the supporters of a special show in Lancashire flying the flag for the north’s creative men and women

Preston-born Matthew Wilcock, winner of The Great British Throw Down, which challenged potters to create stunning crockery, was one of the early arrivals at BOB, the Best of Britannia North show held at the old Post Office on the Flag Market in Preston.

‘This is a brilliant event,’ said Matthew, currently teaching at a school in Giggleswick. ‘Several people here have turned activities they enjoy into small businesses. It’s amazing to see their work developing.’

Another supporter was fashion designer Patrick Grant, one of the judges on The Great British Sewing Bee and now owner of the Cookson & Clegg clothing factory in Blackburn.

One of the driving forces behind BOB North is fashion guru Wayne Hemingway, who said: ‘As a born and bred Lancastrian who manufactures much of my company’s designs in the county, I am delighted BOB is coming back to Preston. The impact is bound to be huge.’

Visitors to the Grade II listed building found an Aladdin’s cave packed with stands displaying a huge range of specialist items made across the north of England.

Some were very new – Blackburn’s Fawziyah Raja who works as a textile artist was a prime example. ‘This is my first day in business,’ said the 22-year-old. ‘I hadn’t intended to start so soon but when I heard about the exhibition I decided to take the plunge.’

Others have been able to fulfil long-held dreams. Annie Hewitt, of Feniscowles, runs a business called Soul Furniture, creating attractive pieces from reclaimed wood. ‘Virtually everything I use is reclaimed – I’m gradually cleaning up every street in Lancashire!’

Annie used to work in the law. ‘I got to the age of 40 and wondered whether I should go on shuffling around pieces of paper or do something that really appealed. I decided to go for it.’

It was a similar story for Rory and Ieuan Thomas-Cole, who set up Thomas-Cole in Chorley using essential and fragrance oils to create steamers and reed diffusers. ‘I used to work for the courts service but I’d always been interested in graphic design,’ said Rory. ‘Ieuan was interested in fragrances so we decided to put the two things together and now we sell through tens stockists and artisan markets all over the north. Things are going well – we are opening a new workshop in Darwen.

‘This is a really good event. I was born in Preston so I’m really pleased the city has been able to pull together something so exciting.’

The event, also supported Marketing Lancashire, is pencilled in for a repeat performance next year. The old Post Office has been for sale for some time so finding a home for BOB 2017 might need some more creative thought.

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