BLACKBURN’S Festival of Making organisers hope to have set a new takings record despite the frequent downpours which threatened to spoil the two-day event.

The festival, now in its third year, put a national spotlight on the town, and one newspaper listed it among the top three must-attend events across the country.

Organisers hoped to have matched the 40,000 attendance figures from last year. However, the very wet weather meant fewer people attended the outdoor activities, which were all but washed out. But it is hoped that the overwhelming popularity of the indoor events will have made up the difference.

Cllr Phil Riley said although it was too early to put an exact figure on it, it is expected that the increased footfall indoors will have led to record amounts of money being generated for the town centre economy over a festival weekend.

The Blackburn with Darwen Council regeneration boss said the fact that visitors were mainly restricted to indoor arts and craft-type events meant the festival had been taken back to its “making” roots. He also believed it had been an opportunity to show people how much the town centre had changed for the better.

Cllr Riley added: “There is no question at all that a lot of people came to the festival. What all of this illustrates is that in year three, the festival is starting to become mature. In spite of the setbacks we faced with the weather, it has been successful.”

Wayne Hemingway, the festival’s director, said this year’s event was also the most inclusive yet, with more people from the Asian community not only visiting, but also hosting workshops.

Mr Hemingway, who revealed preparations had already started for next year’s festival, said: “I would say the festival has been successful.

“A number of people have come up to us thanking us for doing something which is so diverse in a time when we need communities to come together. It is an important thing. This year we have had a big increase in the number of Asian people setting up workshops, not just turning up. I think we have made another step forward in that respect. It feels like it is for everybody.”

All centred around the theme of making, visitors to the festival were treated to arts and crafts, dance workshops, cooking classes, demonstrations, shows, presentations, music — all free — and there was also a range of food and drinks from around the world.

Arguably the star attraction was the Doctor Who: The Runaway VR experience in Cathedral Square. Created especially for the festival, the virtual reality experience took participants into the Doctor’s TARDIS, voiced by current Doctor, Jody Whittaker. Participants could fly the Tardis and interact with characters to stop evil forces taking control.

Adam Heyhurst, BBC events editor, said: “This is the third year we’ve done something for the Festival of Making, and it’s our first VR event. VR is the future and it really is just like being there in the TARDIS. We’ve had people come out wide eyed talking about how good it was.”

Another event which attracted the crowds was the Cardboard Cinema. Located in the crypt in Blackburn Cathedral, the cinema was entirely made of cardboard and gave children 30 minutes of a fun film experience about a girl’s magical adventure.

Artist Hannah Fox said: “We entertained about 950 people over the weekend and you could see families with children enjoying the experience. It was quite different.”

Kim McConaghy, 44, from Darwen, who attended with her three children, Cameron, 13, Jake, seven, and Finlay, six, said: “We’ve had fun despite the downpour. There were more people here last year but that’s because of the rain.”

Ilham Sarih, from Blackburn, who attended with her three children, Sophie, three, Summer, seven, and Ayman, three, said: “The kids have loved it.”