We’ve been working with Creative Connections, Blackburn’s Local Cultural Education Partnership and their members Youth Action, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council & sector support organisation, Curious Minds.
Thanks to National Lottery Players and with funding from Arts Council England, we’ve designed, commissioned, sourced, packed and distributed 300 boxes jam-packed with art materials, stationary and creative activities.
The disappointment of a summer of cancelled family festivals is being challenged by the National Festival of Making as a new partnership is formed to create a ‘festival in a box’ aimed at keeping creativity alive in Blackburn until the popular, town centre festival can return in 2021.
Artist-led ‘Let’s Make’ packs have been devised with the expertise of five, specially-commissioned artists, each of whom had been looking forward to presenting lively, have-a-go activities at the event, scheduled to happen in June. Like many creatives, each has faced an uncertain summer as the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis hit the arts, including performance events, gallery exhibitions and hundreds of UK festivals.
The packs follow the Arts Council England Lets Create initiative which will see over 25,000 packs being distributed across the country through Arts Council England’s Bridge organisations and their local partners, such as museums, local authorities, schools, food banks and other charities.
Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said of the initiative: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re helping children to lead creative lives during lockdown and beyond. We know that being creative teaches young people new skills, as well as increasing their overall happiness and wellbeing. These art boxes will help more children from every background get the chance to flourish despite the challenges they’re facing right now.”
Working with partners in the local area to both fund and direct boxes to families, including lead partner Creative Connections and youth sector specialist Youth Action, 300 children have initially received the box with more set to go into production for hand-delivery or pick-up in the coming weeks. Not only does the box go some way to bringing the festival experience back to life under COVID-19 measures, it provides all of the stationery needed for children moving from primary to secondary school as the summer holidays draw to a close.
Jaffer Hussain Chair of Creative Connections (Local Cultural Educational Partnership) said:
During this difficult and unprecedent time, I am pleased that a number of partners have been able to work together for the betterment of our young people. Creative Connections was formed so that all children and young people could access holistic arts and cultural activities and the ‘Let’s Make’ boxes continues our vision in a really interesting, innovative and interactive way! This is the just the start of a journey where Blackburn with Darwen’s children and young people will be able to access and engage with arts and cultural activities through a range of mechanisms and initiatives.
The box, packed with activities that are not only fun, but many of which also conform to the festival’s core aim of helping to develop interests in STEAM (science, technology, arts and maths), have been produced by local manufacturers, the Cardboard Box Company, with an innovative, easy-build pattern showing children how to turn the box into a small making table.
The commissioned artists include recent graduates from Blackburn College, Sana Patel and Emma Colbert, Lancaster-based designers, Supermarche, and established, and career artists Jason Taylor and Gemma May Potter. The range of activities contained in each box range from creating pixel art to setting up a portrait-drawing workshop right at home.
Lauren Zawadzki, Festival Director, said of the project:
“Festivals are important for a sense of communal experience and gathering, which have been made impossible this year by COVID-19. We can’t change that, but we can’t let creativity and the opportunity for young people, regardless of the limitations of their background, to put their potential to the test completely disappear for a whole year. If not longer. Artists need as much support as possible too, otherwise they just won’t be there next time we need them, so the ‘Let’s Make’ boxes are an ideal, short-term solution in ensuring the act of making doesn’t disappear from either Blackburn families’ lives, or our valued artists, until we can return with the full festival experience next year.”
Photography by Robin Zahler.