Blackburn Creative Capital

Year | 2015
Location | Blackburn, Lancashire, UK
Client | Claire Tymon, Cultural Planner, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

Creative Capital is a collaborative project between SSoA, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackburn is Open.

On the surface, Blackburn appears to be a post industrial town, underused and neglected, with low aspirations. However, we found a town with a lot of hidden, yet significant, creative infrastructure, with a wide variety of existing and proposed cultural initiatives, but a lack of awareness hinders Blackburn’s potential regeneration.

Our brief set out aspirations to assert new connectivity between social and creative infrastructure, to help define Blackburn as the Creative Capital of the UK. Blackburn has a proud history of making with more than 25 percent of jobs in Blackburn in manufacturing. As a celebration, it will host the first National ‘Festival of Making’ in October 2016, which will act as a catalyst for Blackburn to be the Creative Capital.

Following several  trips to Blackburn, we mapped and analysed the town within the context of its already existing creative communities, meeting with stakeholders and community groups. We took advantage of having a base in one of Blackburn town centres vacant shops by arranging public consultations including the ‘Making Session’ which we encouraged the public to decorate paper sheds with their aspirations for the festival. These collaborations led to our best ideas and invaluable information to take us through to our final outcome.

From this research and information we produced a series of  books to be given to the client and stakeholders. The strategies work through different stages, permanent, temporary and legacy, based around the Festival of Making.

Book 1: Blackburn – This book contains the research and contextual analysis of Blackburn, providing a valuable base for the project. This included a catalogue that specifies essential information about each of the venues, including; interested parties, history, architectural features, floor plans, and relevant photographs.

Book 2: Festival of Making – This is a narrative of the festival, beginning with The Shuttle; a movable workspace designed to integrate communities and businesses into the production of their festival in the 12 months leading up to the event, making objects that will be brought together as an iconic centre piece to the festival where collaboration will be celebrated, conceived as the cornucopia of making.

Following with proposals for the Festival of Making incorporating wayfinding routes, nodes and street planning, with ideas suggesting desirable streetscape and designs for the most prominent routes of the festival. Finally, the legacy through the Creative Capital project has consistently been one of the primary drivers. The legacy of the festival will not only be the reuse of physical infrastructure in terms of furniture and The Shuttle but also the connections made through the networking of venues, to ensure festival atmosphere and experience is remembered positively. The use of technology including an app will also strengthen the legacy of the strategy.

Book 3 : Instruction Manual – Small booklet used to show the manufacturing of the key designs for, the Shuttle, adaptable furniture and wayfinding strategies all to be made by Blackburn in Blackburn.

Book 4 : Live Project – This document provided our client with an explanation of the live project process and all other subsidiary information. This way decisions and strategies can be understood within the live project process.

We envisage that these deliverables will be useful in supporting our clients to realise their future goals. We also hope that our work will enable the list of active ‘collaborators’ to grow further, highlighting our projects objectives to define a new future for Blackburn as the Creative Capital of the UK.

We would like to thank Blackburn is Open, Blackburn with Darwen Council, and all the people of Blackburn for their time and efforts over the course of the six week project.


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