There is art at play in Lancashire’s countless, largely invisible factories: hundreds of people embark each day on creative tasks, working with remarkable attention to detail to produce the beautiful, the delicious and the complex, from the most delicate to the most durable products on earth.
In 2016 these manufacturers opened their doors to our artists, laying bare their industry secrets and specialist machinery, their materials, staff and heritage skills in an unprecedented collaboration. Working shoulder to shoulder with factory floor staff, unearthing dead poets and delving deep into the factory records, our artists produced surprising and politically charged works which explored the unheralded skills, processes and history of our factories. Their responses were to their residencies were as varied as the manufacturers they worked with: industrial workspaces were transfigured into celestial sculpture, the lives of employees were upholstered, Rudolph von Laban inspired choreography moved a team of bakers, a choral performance rang through the chambers of the Cathedral, and a waste-plastic floor installation invaded a city-centre shop.
From amongst the machinery and the materials it was the workforces of the industrialists that emerged as the centre of Art in Manufacturing – their loves, dreams and their craft proved as essential to the artists’ process as they are to the manufacturers’. The retelling of their stories marked the shared history of our making, and asserted that the machine, however powerful, cannot take away the process, skill and experience of the maker.