Archive for May, 2014

Bi O White Bgrd

I owe a lot to Blackburn. I got a council funded place at a magnificent school Queen Elizabeth Grammar and the council also help fund my University education. Just as importantly it gave me the cultural grounding that set me up for a career in the creative industries. From the day my mum took me to see The Sweet at King Georges Hall when I was 11 I was off! My first concert on my own, weeks later was Slade I was 12 and I went to see David Bowie at King George’s Hall in Blackburn. I can picture every bit of it to this day. He was there in all of his splendour, in his make-up, the changes of outfits, and I remember seeing the next day a combination of things that really turned me on to style and music culture in a big way. One was that he was banned from Blackburn for wearing little apart from a sumo wrestlers nappy type thing. I thought “Great! That’s how it should be done; I want to be banned from Blackburn as well!” I went out and bought the Aladdin Sane album, got a feather cut, stopped short of buying a giant nappy, but bought a big pair of yellow wide legged Bowie trousers – and that was the start of me buying records, going clubbing and it introduced me to the most stimulating and enjoyable things in my life being fashion, music, youth culture, dancing, socialising. It allowed me to enjoy a career in a sector, the Creative Industries, that is vital to Britain’s economy and which we lead the world in.

I saw the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Blondie in the town, The Lodestar gave me Roxy and Bowie nights and the Golden Palms and The Cavendish Blackburn allowed me to build my love of soul, funk and disco. There were decent pubs a plenty, cafe’s and don’t get me reminiscing about the wonderful old cinema opposite the town hall Ames Record bar and the Record and Tape Exchange fed my nascent addiction to 7 inch slabs of punk and northern soul vinyl, whilst the humour at Ewood Park helped develop my Lancashire wit and East Lancashire Cricket Club helped me develop my love for the greatest of sports.

Blackburn truly was a great place to grow up and continued to help my first business Red or Dead, hosting our first shop and manufacturing unit. The town has suffered in the past couple of decades to the point where for many the idea of a night out in Blackburn is laughable. Blackburn with Darwen has a population of almost 150,000 and not one single hotel or restaurant of note in the town centre that is open in the evening and no town centre cinema. 

You can be sure that there are young people that could be the new Michael Winterbottom (a world renowned film director who was in my class at school), Christine Cort (another friend and night clubbing contemporary of mine) who runs the Manchester International Festival but they won’t have the cultural opportunities close to home that we had. 

An initiative that I am involved with Blackburn is Open is looking to change that. 

Blackburn is Open is looking for industrious and ambitious craftspeople, makers and artists to answer the call and be part of a radical new initiative for the town centre. The scheme is waging a war on empty shops, offices and spaces and rather than just thinking about replacing lost retail with retail the scheme is looking to fill premises with entrepreneurs and ideas that revolve around ‘making’. 

They are offered discounted premises with support and mentoring to help them build successful and sustainable enterprises as part of a new ‘industrious’ community in the heart of Blackburn. 

In addition, discounted business rates are being offered to already established creative businesses to encourage them to relocate to the town centre. So far we have helped a number of young businesses to “have a go” and the signs are very encouraging. Take a look at the website there are some great trades and crafts starting to become part of these project and we there are signs of a bit of evening life coming back into town with First Thursdays and Friday Night Live.

The kind of trades and crafts the Blackburn is Open is attracting were once in the centre of any town and that’s where they should be again to maintain vibrant and living town centres. Blackburn is a town of ‘making’ and manufacturing with around 25 per cent of jobs in the manufacturing sector, that’s over twice the national average and a fact that can really help the town prosper as ‘Made in Britain’ continues to grow. To keep this ‘making’ tradition in full view of the citizens of Blackburn as they go about their daily business has to be a positive thing and can inspire a new generation.

The project is being brought together under a new ‘manifesto’ for Blackburn called Arte et Labore and this moniker might be the marketing glue that helps Blackburn is Open stick. It had been staring me in my face The Latin phrase, which means ‘through skill and hard work’, appears on the borough’s crest as well as being the motto of Blackburn rovers as well as being on my school blazer town’s football team. It refers to the area’s proud industrial heritage. 

The Blackburn is Open manifesto pledges to build on this historic legacy by boosting opportunities for people to develop their skills, creating conditions for small businesses especially ‘makers’ and those in the creative industries and increasing employment choices particularly for young people. 

There are now plans afoot for a FabLab a creative hub for makers and even for a Festival of Making. 

Blackburn is successful as a manufacturing town and we may just have found how to tap into the DNA to get its town centre mojo working. 

For more information visit www.blackburnisopen.co.uk or facebook.com/blackburnisopen


Read Full Post »

Gerardine Wayne And Tony With Dog

At Hemingway Design, as multi disciplinary designers who specialise in affordable and social design we are fortunate to have a varied and stimulating series of projects. From our housing and urban design projects to our public festivals and design for public events at Southbank Centre, to our sustainability led projects for Coca Cola and McDonalds to seaside regeneration projects like Dreamland Margate and The Boscombe Overstrand there is never a dull moment, we are challenged and have to dig deep in terms of design thinking and often how to deliver real, lasting value on very small budgets. We often take on projects that are voyages of discovery for all parties and take them on because its clear that a project will fulfill the mantra of our design practice “design is about improving things that matter in life.” 

We have just attended the “kick off ” meeting for Galloway’s Centre for the Blind and Partially Sighted in Morecambe where we are heading up the vision for a forward thinking new centre for the blind and partially sighted in one of Morecambe’s iconic buildings. The Visitor Building. This project has challenging budgets and a challenging building and as new centre’s for the blind and partially sighted are not iniquitous, there are not many precedents to inform our thinking, but often that is a good thing as you have to really put your thinking caps on. There is a natural tendency to approach first meetings of this nature with some trepidation, you are just getting to know the client and you hope that they will be forthcoming with their knowledge, that they will throw themselves into the process and be open to change and experimentation, but its not always the case.We left this meeting though thoroughly uplifted. Galloway’s had organised a focus group of a dozen or so blind and partially sighted women and men across a wide age band to come and talk to us about their needs, their ideas.

So we all assembled in a room in the Visitor building, 20 people and a clutch of utterly adorable guide dogs, for this dog lover this really adds to the attractiveness of this project! The discussion started to flow, the blind and partially sighted community were certainly vocal and came armed with ideas and all contributed to a design discussion as if they were old hands at it. We shouldn’t have been surprised. Our first company Red or Dead was started by Gerardine and I without any design training and built by a team consisting of club kids, university drop outs and the odd trained individual and I mean odd and individual! Everyone at Red or Dead was encouraged and did contribute to the ranges, from the accounts staff to the warehouse operatives and van drivers and the product ranges benefited from it and the meetings remained full of surprise and witty banter.

This way of working has continued at Hemingway Design.We have created award winning and hugely popular affordable housing schemes, been the driving force behind award winning regeneration schemes, designed successful radios, furniture ranges, uniforms and a whole host of products that none of us have had training in, but what we pride ourselves in is having an abundance of common sense, positivity, an ability to graft very hard indeed, an understanding of the need for thorough research and thorough user engagement and a philosophy that we will not entertain the idea that at the end of a project that we ever feel that we could have done better. We have got to feel that we have pushed ourselves to the level of our ability and pushed the project to its highest level with the resources and budgets available to it.

The meeting with the Galloway’s community was a meeting full of common sense, sleeves rolled up, positivity, excitement and the icing on the cake…witty banter.

We are so lucky to be embarking on a project that again is life affirming.

Read Full Post »