An inspirational evening in Blackburn Cathedral

Words by Jack Havercroft

As part of the National Festival of Making being held in Blackburn, four Jaypees made their way to Blackburn Cathedral for an evening where, the promotional pieces assured us,  ‘A stellar panel of designer-makers discuss their inspirations and importance of self-initiated projects in their creative practice’. Sounded good.

Set within the grand surroundings of the cathedral, the stage consisted of a sofa, the three speakers and our host for the night Dave Kirkwood - a very informal and welcoming setting.

First up was Hamish Muir - founder of 8vo and Muir McNeil Design. Hamish walked us through (amongst other topics) the process of producing record sleeves and promotional material for the likes of Factory Records and The Hacienda and creating, and establishing, Octavo - a magazine that celebrated typography and its uses across a wide and varied promotional landscape. Hamish delivered his talk in a laconic and engaging style that made us aware of the world of design way before computers - something that one member of JP74 can remember very clearly!

Hamish was followed by Craig Oldham. Craig was passionate - about everything….but seemed to increase the passionate volume when talking about his self-initiated project ‘In Loving Memory of Work’. The subtitle to this publication is ‘A Visual record of the UK Miners’ Strike’ which took place in 1984/85 - and affected Craig on a very personal level. The first image he showed us was a picture of his father being arrested - his crime was to protect one of his mates from the police - from here on in it was going to be a memorable talk. We were walked through the images of the time along with the supporting posters and graphics that highlighted the cause and the position of the miners affected by the pit closures. The severity of the situation and the positive aspects that came through the adversity were clear to see - captured in the book and also for us to witness as the support images to Craig’s talk. As part of the promotional material for the book is a limited poster which is printed using coal dust from Barnsley Colliery - the accompanying video that showed us the process from raw material to print was one that will live long in the memory.

Last up was Jane Foster. Jane terms herself as an illustrator and textile designer - and she is - but the journey from her previous life as teacher to also being a recognised author was a long and arduous one. It wasn’t just that Jane was in the right place at the right time that has led to her many book deals and having her designs grace the shelves of some of the country’s leading retail outlets - it was her dedication, belief and hard graft that has ensured her designs will continue to grow in popularity on a global scale. Now ensconced in Devon, Jane is working towards establishing the work/life balance that has moved her from a cottage industry to a recognised brand.

So, all round, a great evening that left us feeling inspired and privileged to be in the company of three very different, but equally successful, self motivated and driven speakers.