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Having recently become an RSA Fellow, I'm excited about the opportunity to connect ideas and translate them into actions. Therefore, it's timely that my first post coincides with the forthcoming National Festival of Making taking place in Blackburn over the weekend of 15 & 16 June, with contributions by a number of other Fellows.

The associated Talks programme launches on Friday 14 June and features a host of Fellows including Daniel Charny, Darren Henley OBE, Patrick Grant, Gareth Owen Lloyd and Malcolm Garrett, to respond to some of the key challenges for making industries and in society. 

Now in its third year, National Festival of Making is a vibrant national celebration of creativity. The festival brings together artists, designers, manufacturers, small-scale makers and the public, to explore their own making potential.

Alongside the weekend programme of hands-on workshops, performances and art installations, we have invited some of the most recognisable and respected designers, makers and strategists from the UK and beyond to connect with the talent of the region in a series of curated talks and festival presentations, to respond to some of the most pivotal challenges for making industries and in society.

The Centre for Cities recently declared that Blackburn is among the top ten youngest places in the UK. It is only right that we focus on the next generation and how we can best equip them with the right skills for factories of the future.

A recent UNESCO global study declared that women account for less than 30% of jobs in STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Art and Mathematics). Here in the UK the figure is less than 9%. The Women in STEAMInspiring the Next Generation session brings together pioneering females working in STEAM occupations to explore the issues and barriers behind this staggering inequality, and how to bring about change? Download our festival publication here to read insightful perspectives from trailblazers taking part in the discussions including Philippa Glover of NW based CNC Robotics,  STEMFirst Ambassador, Helen Heggie and Chelsea Slater, co-founder of Innovate Her – a STEM initiative based in Liverpool, who offers hew own  game changing strategies

STEAM education provides learners with the opportunity to learn creatively, using skills such as problem solving. Whilst human intuition and creativity is also recognised as essential, funding is disappearing from creative and the expressive arts subjects, and their importance marginalised. The vacuum provides necessity and opportunity for new ways of thinking and innovative solutions which we explore with Chief Executive at Arts Council, Darren Henley, and others.

We continue to explore these and related themes over the weekend with creatives and strategists who will be sharing views on a range of topics. From opportunities to gain insights on the artists participating in the Art in Manufacturing showcase; to panels exploring themes including Why Creativity & Making Matters, to the relationship between Culture, Creativity, Placemaking and the idea of a festival as a movement for change.

Ahead of this years' festival we also caught up with award-winning educator Andria Zafirakou, about her creative inspirations and journey to being named Global Teacher of the Year 2018. We're delighted that Andria can join us for a stellar panel including Jason Stocks Young, who was featured in the recent BBC2 TV series Made in Great Britain.

Halima Cassell returns to the town that was previously her home for Conversations in Creativity (CiC) talk with curator Janet Boston about the ceramicists current Eclectica - Global Inspirations exhibit at Manchester Art Gallery (until January 2020). Another CiC profiles legendary designer, Malcolm Garrett, known for his iconic sleeve designs for Buzzcocks and Duran Duran. Garrett' also features in an exhibition of his work at Blackburn Cathedral that form part of his own response to a "system that wants to educate creativity out of children"

Meanwhile Our Super Women – Small Business Heroes panel profiles extraordinary women who have defined business success on their own terms.

Superheroes show up in unexpected places, shapes and sizes. Last summer a 15 year old schoolgirl didn’t show up at school, and instead, sat down outside the Swedish parliament – inadvertently kicking off a global movement for change inspiring others in over 70 countries to join in this brave act of self-expression. At last years' International Summit hosted by our talk's partner, Creative Industries Federation, industry leaders proclaimed that alongside creativity, bravery is among the most valuable skills that a young person can possess to be an effective problem solver. This is an essential attribute in this age of acceleration and disruption - not witnessed by previous generations.

In our own response to some of the biggest global challenges we bring together designers and makers to discuss game-changing propositions in two Great Ideas to Save the World panelshosted by RSA Fellows; fashion designer, Patrick Grant in conversation with Josie Warden, Senior Researcher, EEM Team at The RSA, and Daniel Charny, co-founder of Fixperts, the innovative learning programme that challenges young people to use their imagination and skills to create ingenious solutions to everyday problems. Students from Blackburn College School of Art & Design will also respond to issues relevant to us all in the End of Year Show which runs concurrently over the festival weekend.

There's a good chance that walking the streets of one of the youngest places in the UK, there could be dozens of other versions of Greta Thunberg's, inspired by the Crafts Council’s Real to Reel Film Festival screenings at Blackburn Cathedral, or possibly by a world class artist, inspirational engineer or award-winning teacher speaking at the Museum.

Greta is a rallying call to makers, and us all, to bravely respond to the challenges of the 21st Century.

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National Festival of Making takes place in Blackburn, Lancashire on 14 & 15 June. The programme of curated talks take place from Friday 14 June and continue through the Festival weekend. Events are FREE to attend but pre-registration for talks is recommended: festivalofmaking.co.uk

DOWNLOAD FULL TALKS PROGRAMME HERE.

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