2024 Festival Dates: 6 & 7 July

MAKE PLANS for The National Festival of Making!

30th April 2018

A tonne of fresh clay delivered every day, historic photography, a vibrant revival of endangered making skills, fresh music talent from the BBC and over 140 making activities announced!

A tonne of fresh clay, ready for shaping by the creative hands of visitors to The National Festival of Making will be delivered to Blackburn town centre on both, fun-packed, family friendly and FREE-to-attend festival days, taking place over Sat 12 – Sun 13 May 2018. For the second year, the festival announces its programme of events, entertainment and hands-on activities to tempt curious newcomers and expert makers to plan which activities and makers they will visit to find inspiration and new experiences.

As well as joining in a communal, day-long, drop-in clay modelling experience, the festival revives skills from Britain’s ‘endangered crafts’ list, opens up abandoned buildings in the name of art, welcomes new music with BBC Introducing, revives the sights, sounds and spirit of a 1980s South Asian wedding and exhibits a series of rarely seen photographs from Lancashire’s treasured Talbot Archive. With an emphasis on unforgettable, hands-on activities for people of all ages, the town centre becomes a one-stop-shop for everything ‘making’. Check out our latest highlights below, and visit our What’s On pages to see what’s in store for you this year!


Remake a Memory with Clayground

A tonne of raw Staffordshire modelling clay will be dropped off in Blackburn by the Clayground Collective in a FREE, drop-in event for everyone aged 5 and up. Come and help us fashion Blackburn’s biggest ever communal sculpture, capturing memories of your first ever makes – will you recreate your first ever sandcastle, a mud pie or a family portrait? Clayground is supported by festival friends, Townscape Heritage Project and Darwen Terracotta.

Make with the Manufacturer

Enter our factory floor and experience eight workshops specially devised for the National Festival of Making by Manchester-based collective Makers Dozen. Breathing new life into rare skills and giving factory floor processes a contemporary twist: Make with the Manufacturer is our on-site factory floor, bustling with creativity and craft. Take a seat at the production line and get to involved with our range of lively and engaging making activities, whether working with materials by hand, getting busy with specialist implements or even making the tools themselves!

Makers Dozen have been touring the factories of Pennine Lancashire, taking in the manufacturing magnificence at Star Tissue, Silent Night, Roach Bridge Tissues and WEC Group and other to find the spirit of the endangered crafts that built the factories. In their workshops you’ll find the pride, ingenuity and timelessness of rare making methods – and get to grips with the materials and techniques yourself.

Art in Manufacturing opens up forgotten spaces

Seven artists have been working with Pennine Lancashire’s leading manufacturers to create brand new artworks. Visitors to the festival will have an exclusive opportunity to enter two of the town’s most fascinating buildings – Tony’s Empress Ballroom and the Cotton Exchange. These two sleeping giants of the town will be reawakened by two artists – Martyn Ware and Liz West – whose installations are sure to be festival highlight.

Wedding Bells at Blackburn Market

‘The Making of a South Asian Wedding’ travels back in time to the 1980s, rediscovering the making traditions that award-winning artist Dawinder Bansal remembers from the vibrant family celebrations of her youth. Gathering together cultural traditions from across South Asia, local makers with join together to recreate the sights and sounds, crafts and foods that combine to make a magical wedding celebration complete.

BBC Introducing in Cathedral Square

The BBC are back in Blackburn! This year they’re bringing a selection of artists who’re making it BIG for the BBC Introducing stage in Cathedral Square. Expect to see the next-big-thing in breakthrough musical talent throughout the weekend. Check out the full lineup in our What’s On page, and see if you can spot the next Adele!

Rare Photographs of Lancashire Past

Blackburn’s history is brought vividly to life as we open up the incredible Talbot Archive to the public. Father and son team, Wally and Howard Talbot worked as news photographers from the 30s to the 90s, documenting Lancashire life in a collection that is both evocative and humorous. Our experts present a special exhibition of the Talbot Archive in Blackburn Cathedral, showing the very best of the 34,000 strong archive of remarkable images in which Royal visits sit side by side with vivid depictions of domestic, industrial and rural lives of the past.

Retro screen printing and leather work in the Festival Hub

The brilliantly imaginative duo Supermarche invite you to join the print department of their Mega Mart as they pitch new designs for prototype packaging. Their very intriguing workshop will have you screen printing confectionary packaging. Elsewhere in the hub you can join festival favourites Diamond Awl for an introduction to traditional leatherwork and walk away with your own keyring or cardholder. All this and much more at this year’s Festival Hub!

The Making Rooms are FAB!

Blackburn’s have-a-go technology haven the Making Rooms has thrown open its doors for a tech-fest weekend featuring eight-legged robotic creatures and tiny robot war beasties with co-labs with fab-labs from Pembrokeshire and Warrington demonstrating the latest technologies. Discover how a beach ball would bounce on the moon, get advice on that crowdfunding project with advice from our Kickstarter employee and find out how a troop of Scouts can are using the latest technology to make your life better.

We’re in Fashion! Textile Activities Galore

Textiles are stitched into the fabric of our festival and we feature methods from the traditional to the avant garde with free drop-in workshops found throughout the town centre. The University of Central Lancashire’s Faculty of Art, Design and Fashion are delivering a series of workshops for fashion fans, including a Scarf Styling Workshop, collaborating with Gawthorpe Hall to bring modern and modest dressing trends together. The UK Fashion and Textile Association visits for a second year, letting visitors get to grips with industrial sewing machines, while Lancashire’s own Henry Holland has worked with Blackburn College’s Get Set students to provide a printing process 101 with Holland-inspired commemorative festival t-shirts. Add to that kantha stitching, goldwork embroidery, mandala knitting and much, much more.

The Teenage Market is Back!

A real showcase of creative talent and budding entrepreneurs – you’ll have the chance to pick up the wares of the newest emerging makers and drink in the energy, vibrancy and diversity our young crafters are bringing to the table. Curated by young people for young people and promising a growing roster of traders, this year’s market is also upping the entertainment factor an artist workshops and a live music stage. 

Family Friendly at Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery

Our family-friendly Festival is packed with activities to keep the kids busy. If they aren’t folding unicorns with Blackburn college or crafting clay effigies with clayground then kid-friendly art sessions at Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery will have them hooked. Check out the What’s On for all of our child-friendly activities – we’ve made sure it’s going to be an imaginative, play-filled weekend for them.

Lights! Camera! Make! Catch a film at the Festival

Blackburn Cathedral and King George’s Hall provide big screen entertainment in a specially curated selection of films that evoke the spirit of making in its most diverse forms. Produced by the Crafts Council and Crafts magazine, the ‘Reel to Reel’ programme shows an eclectic range of short films including documentaries, maker profiles, music videos and hand-crafted animations from around the globe that celebrate craft in all its facets.



With more than 140 activities announced for the festival weekend, visit our What’s On section to see where you’ll find your Making inspiration this year!




2019 Trusts & Foundations

The National Festival Of Making Delivery Team

National Festival of Making is supported by the Arts Council England, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Brian Mercer Trust and Foundations and Partners. This project is part-funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

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