BLACKBURN’S economy is set for a £1million-plus boost after a record-breaking Festival of Making event.

Organisers estimate that 60,000 people visited the town centre over the weekend and predictions indicate they will surpass the £895,000 the 2017 festival generated.

Founding director Wayne Hemingway hailed an event that was even bigger and better than last year’s with visitors from all over the country enjoying attractions reflecting the town’s rich and varied manufacturing and cultural heritage.

There was making, music and food in shops, stalls and marquees for visitors to enjoy.

Internationally famous designer of ‘Red or Dead’ Mr Hemingway said:

“This festival has put Blackburn on the map again.

“It has been great for the town’s self-esteem and people are attending from all its communities and coming together.

“The weather was just perfect for the festival. The feedback from everyone has been great. More people came and they stayed longer.”

Councillor Phil Riley, executive member for regeneration on Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “It is safe to say that the weekend has been a success. We have been blessed with fantastic weather and that has contributed greatly to the number of people in attendance, which at this stage we predict to be double that of last year.

“Evidence would also suggest that with double the amount of people in attendance that double the amount of money will have been generated.

“If you take the figure from last year I expect that this year’s figure will be double, if not more.”

Mr Hemingway was quick to head for the first performance of the ‘Church of Rare Souls’ soundscape produced by Heaven 17 and Human League founder Martyn Ware at the now vacant Tony’s Ballroom on Town Hall Street.

This mixed the sounds of the factory floor with words from bosses and workers and was introduced with words from Peter Davis who managed the venue for 35 years recorded when he popped in on the Friday before the festival.

Mr Ware said: “This is just such an atmospheric venue, unchanged since it was refitted in 1935.

“On hearing about its Northern Soul heritage we just had to include that in the soundscape.”

Salesbury resident Marie Wilson, 40, was impressed by the nostalgic 30-minute show as was her nine-year-old daughter Orla.

Having watched a high-energy performance by dancers Lauren Fitzpatrick and James Whitehead, returning to Blackburn after featuring in the film Northern Soul part-made in King George’s Hall, Orla said: “I might try it myself.”

Also impressed were visitors from Blackpool, Natalie Ward and Lee Richards.

She said: “That was fantastic.”

Mr Richards added: “This ballroom is so atmospheric.”

The dancing continued in Blackburn Market for ‘The Making of a South Indian Wedding’ where specialists Sohan and Aruna Kailey performed to 1980’s-style Bhangra rhythms.

They quickly had audience members of all ages and heritages dancing and the mock ‘front room’ and then out into Church Street.

Mr Kailey, from Solihull, said: “We have had a great time. It’s good to see different communities having fun together. We’ll happily come back next year.”

Enjoying the display were 61-year-old Daphne Coates  from the Griffin area of Blackburn and her friend 49-year-old Angela Southworth from Darwen.

Miss Coates said: “I’ve really enjoyed myself. It’s been fantastic.”

Mrs Southworth said: “I’ve had a great time. The dancing was amazing.”
Also watching was Yassin Ahmed who came to Little Harwood from Eritrea 18 months ago.

He said: “I never expected anything like this when I came to Blackburn. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Big attractions for the children were the Flycycle and Submerscycle which drew queues of youngsters keen to be transported in highly-decorated tricycles up and down King William Street.

The amazing Boom Bike from Sound Interventions were also creating mobile dance music and getting visitors moving along the road near the Town Hall, turned into  Festival Street for the day.

The Cardboard Cinema ‘Art in Manufacturing’ project in the Cathedral Crypt was booked out for all 20 performances of Cumbrian artist Hannah Fox’s film ‘Fairytale of the North’.

Ms Fox said she heard about last year’s Festival of Making and decided to get involved as a result.

She said: “I was really excited by the idea of  ‘Art in  Manufacturing and chose the Cardboard Box Company because it was an interesting idea to use their product for a recyclable cinema.

“The film is a fairytale about a girl in Blackburn looking for colour and starts in black and white ending, of course, in colour. It pays homage to Blackburn’s film pioneers of the early 1900s Mitchell and Kenyon.”

After 3pm each day crowds gathered as local bands took to the BBC Introducing stage in Cathedral Square.

BBC Radio Lancashire presenter Sean McGinty said: “What a great weekend. The town looks fabulous.”

In Town Hall Square people  moved from cookery demonstrations in the Taste Tent to hands on creativity in the Making Marquee.

People were squinting at maps and programmes in the sun as they sought out varying attractions including the seven Art in Manufacturing installations and the Clayground with a ton of fresh Staffordshire modelling clay to create shapes and memories with.

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said as she headed into Tony’s Ballroom: “It’s been an absolutely fantastic event  and great to see all our communities coming together.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Mohammed Khan agreed saying: “It’s been a fantastic day.”

Lyakat Patel from Shear Brow said: “We came last year and we really enjoyed it. So we thought we’d all come again.”

And as visitors moved from venue to venue and attraction to attraction, Blackburn College’s fine arts course leader Jamie Holman was approaching them to record video massages for and ‘archival artwork’.

He said: “We are creating a record of who people are, how they dress and how they live for the future just as the famous Mitchell and Kenyon collection did for in Blackburn in the early 1900s.

“We recorded 500 messages last year and we want to do 1,000 this year so we can build up this video archive for every year of the Festival of Making and and add to the work Mitchell and Kenyon did a century ago.”