People in Blackburn may be forgiven for thinking they've been seeing things recently but they can rest assured their eyes are not playing tricks on them.

For this week, huge white letters have been painted at various locations across the borough, as part of a new art installation for the National Festival of Making.

The large words and poetry - celebrating spring, post-Covid hopes, and reflection - have formed the 'Of Earth And Sky – Open Air Poetry Experience' and will be visible across Blackburn with Darwen from today until July 15. 

Hoping to be putting Covid-19 behind them, the people of Blackburn and Darwen have had 30 giant poem excerpts with messages of love, hope and faith, including 11 thought-provoking public submissions, installed across the two towns.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Themes of mental health, community and casting-off the shackles of social restrictions loom large across the selected works, which are expressed in huge, free-standing letters and ground stencils in an open-air, public trail of shared, springtime inspiration.

Selected lines include: “A simple call is all it takes to let them know that you’re their mate,” courtesy of community-minded pub landlady from Blackburn's Clifton Arms, Carole Davis; as well as:“TA-RA LOCKDOWN! SEE YA LATER, DRESSING GOWN!” by Accrington-based contributor, Jonny Lindsey.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Huge words reading “MISS YOU MATE” have also been installed outside Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park ground, and offers a timely comment on sport and community.

Each selected poem has the indelible mark of the Covid pandemic cast across each line and reflects, in some way, on the writer’s personal experience and the search for resilience during the pandemic and recovery after.

Earlier in the year a public call for poets was made asking people to submit their musings, with the entries whittled down to the ones seen across the borough, with the 11 specially selected poems judged by poet Hafsah Aneela Bashir of the Poetry Health Service along with the National Festival of Making curatorial team and joining artist, Luke Jerram, who devised the Of Earth And Sky concept.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Ms Bashir said: “Many of the poems we received came to us with stories from the past year that were deeply affecting, where people had turned to words to express what was unimaginable to us before the pandemic changed our lives.

"It was so hard making a decision, so much so that one ‘winning’ poem had to become eleven.

"Each selected as a potent reflection on where we are now and where we might all want to be when this is over, also ensuring that each poem resonates with the special place in which it will be seen.”

The 30, unignorable, hand-picked locations host the poetry in free-standing, metre-tall letters, sprayed in temporary white paint onto grassed and paved areas and posted onto buildings.

Many other entries are to be hosted on the towns’ digital information boards usually reserved for advertising.

Lancashire Telegraph:

The 11 selected works presented as part of the Blackburn and Darwen Of Earth And Sky installation are:

  • My Darling, it’s time to be gentle with yourself, by Lydia McCaig from Darwen. Location: Darwen Market Square
  • Like a hive for bees buzzing around with skill "Arte" et labore,by Jason Walker from Blackburn. Location: Outside The Bureau, Penny Street
  • TA-RA LOCKDOWN! SEE YA LATER, DRESSING GOWN!, By Jonny Lindsey from Accrington. Location: Outside BBC Radio Lancashire, Darwen Street
  • Allow time to stand still, by Hajra Sidat from Blackburn. Location: Olive Lane Bowling Green
  • HAVING - LOVE, HOPE AND TRUST, by Ann Stokes from Darwen. Location: Darwen Market Square
  • Yes, people make a town, You, me, we and us, by Stuart Quinn from Burnley. Location: Grass Embankment on the junction of Victoria St and Barbara Castle Way
  • You don’t know how much I want you to see the world, by Naseerah Akooji from Blackburn. Location: Queen’s Park, Blackburn
  • A simple call is all it takes to let them know that you’re their mate, by Carole Davis, landlady of the Clifton Arms, Blackburn. Location: Outside Blackburn Central High School, Haslingden Road
  • No Need To Win! JUST PLAY, by Sarah Wade From Fleetwood. Location: Witton Park Arena, Blackburn
  • To make with your hands is to leave your mark on the world, by Jessica Hilton from Blackburn, living in Manchester. Location: Outside Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery

Lancashire Telegraph:

Director of The National Festival Of Making, Lauren Zawadzki, said: “Who knew that Lancashire had so many inspired and inspirational poets?

"The response to our call for poems was incredible and really reflected the uncertain period we’re living through and the community-spirited response that will get us through.

"Almost as important as the words are the locations and the next step is to hand all of this over to the public and invite everyone to get out there, find each poem and rediscover the great outdoors of Blackburn and Darwen.”

Devised by Luke Jerram and first seen in late 2020 throughout Gloucester, Of Earth And Sky, was created to allow people to express themselves, with the first incarnation focused on where people lived, the climate emergency and the rushing impact of the developing Covid-19 crisis.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Mr Jerram said: “Of Earth And Sky is meant to be an opportunity for people to say what’s in their hearts and on their minds and the response from the call out in Lancashire shows just how willingly that opportunity is taken when offered.

"Hundreds of responses and a selection that really speaks to the Covid-era and, hopefully, the coming post-Covid era, really is a powerful and thought-provoking outcome.”

The National Festival Of Making, has welcomed tens of thousands of people to Blackburn every year.

The fourth festival, planned to take place in June 2020, was postponed following the Covid-19 outbreak.

For the full range of poetry and to download a map to follow the Of Earth And Sky poetry trail visit