2024 Festival Dates: 6 & 7 July

Digital Stories

Digital Stories is a new creative project led by two Lancashire based arts organisations, theatre company imitating the dog and The National Festival of Making.

The project was an opportunity for recent arts graduates to collaborate with experienced storyteller Emily Hennessey and digital artist Virpi Kettu to develop their digital skills and turn their stories into brand new web-based work.

The participants, Ian Mathison, Juvairiyya Patel, Christian Bell and his daughter, Evelynn, explored their own personal stories, rooted in their connections to Blackburn and Darwen. Working with Emily and Virpi, they each developed their own, unique narratives and storyboarded their ideas, before working with video, stop-motion animation and animation of still photography with 3D effects to create their short films, which are now available to view below.

Each piece, in its own, personal way, offers individual perspectives on people, place and art in the heart of communities. Sparked by the participants’ stories, encouraged and developed with the mentoring of Emily and Virpi, the films are available to watch, enjoy and take inspiration from.

Digital Stories was made possible with funding from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Arts Council England and the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Meet the participants and watch their stories

Juvairiyya Patel is a Deaf and Disabled Artist living in Blackburn. She is a recent graduate of Blackburn College where she completed her Fine Art degree. She has a strong connection to Blackburn as her artwork and experiences have all been in and around Blackburn.

The support and mentoring of Virpi has been great, helping with recording my video and editing etc. I was always able to ask questions which is important to me. The relationship with everyone was also amazing and important to me.”

Evelynn (aged 9) has grown up in Pendle with her Dad, Christian. As a practicing emerging artist working in Blackburn, Christian has introduced Evelynn to areas of Blackburn and Darwen which have been relevant to the narrative of his development as a recently graduating artist. Through this process, Evelynn has been given the freedom to develop her own exciting narrative via stop motion animation.

The support [and] mentoring we have received throughout this project [has] opened our minds to different ways of sharing our individual interests both professionally and personally. We’ve enjoyed the whole experience of working on something together and bridging my professional life with my personal life as a father.”

Liverpool born Ian Mathison is a multi-disciplinary artist who moved to Blackburn in 1993. From the early 1980s, Ian balanced a career in business with life as a semi-professional photographer which became a full time occupation in 2012. Having completed his degree in Fine Art this year, Ian now describes himself as photographer, printer, painter and poet. He is married to Karen with three grown up children, one granddaughter, three dogs and two cats.


My favourite part of the project was the collaboration and interaction with other artists and the team.

Discovering new potential creative outlets. My story is one of a growing love for my adopted hometown, going from where I was, to where I am now.”

About the Artists

Emily Hennessey is a bold and dynamic performance storyteller who tells myths, epics, folktales and wondertales from across the world.

With a Swedish background, Emily has a particular passion for Norse mythology and Scandinavian folktales. Work and travels in India have also infused a great love of Hindu myth and epic.

Emily has toured in India, Iceland and Japan and performed at venues and festivals across Europe.

Virpi Kettu is a film director and animator working extensively in the EU and Canada. Her portfolio includes animation for the Wallace and Gromit Oscar winning feature film ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ and ‘Shaun the Sheep’. She has also worked with DreamWorks, Passion Pictures and Universal Pictures.

In 2012 she founded Kettu Studios, an Animation and Film Production studio in collaboration with exceptional artists based in Canada and EU. Kettu Studios was created to connect skills and experience in the animation and film industry to a worldwide network of talented freelance friends.


Producer: Kate Beard Assistant Producer: Daisy Williamson Artists: Emily Hennessey & Virpi Kettu Photographer: Ed Waring

With thanks to The Making Rooms, Blackburn



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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