Blackburn Open Walls kick started earlier this week and runs until Saturday the 22nd of July. The question is, could this be the best one yet?
This year Phlegm, Add Fuel, Case Maclaim and at least 9 other Artists will all be adding stuning pieces of art to the already star studded gallery of Blackburn’s back streets. With the tag line “Make Blackburn Beautiful” this streetart festival is well on its way to delivering on its promise.
Hayley Welsh (2016)
We managed to steal a few minutes of organiser Hayley Welsh’s time to ask a few questions...
UA : I'm guessing the first question has to be why Blackburn? I know you were originally local but (before the first BOW) from the outside it didn't look like there was a big street art scene here?
HW : Yes I’m from Blackburn originally. I spent a lot of my childhood in the town centre growing up, being interested in art. All through my childhood I didn’t really believe being an artist was a real career option, It was like an unimaginable goal. It wasn’t until I was an adult living outside Blackburn, when I actually met a real full time artist. I guess that was part of the inspiration to bring art and artists to my hometown. If one child can see an individual doing something what they love, painting a big wall, and feel inspired, then I’ll be happy. I also love the idea of bringing something unexpected to the town, that hasn’t really been here on such a scale before.
UA : Your currently based in Australia, logistically how hard was this to originally set in motion and now to pull off every year? (Did you originally think it would just be One event?)
Are there any plans to transport open walls down under or to other cities?
HW : It’s surprising not too bad organising the festival from overseas. Google maps, and Skype make location hunting and meet ups really easy, although it’s always so nice to have the face to face interaction with the wall owners and artists when I get back on the home land. I’ve always had the idea of making it a three year project. I like the idea of it growing and giving it chance to naturally evolve, whether that be more projects in Blackburn or even in other towns.
Jerome Davenport (2017)
UA : Now into your 3rd year, how are the blackburn locals finding your project and on the whole has it been positively received? What kind of feedback have you had? and has the mood changed (Did people try to appose your original idea but then change there minds after seeing what was created?)
HW : I believe that Blackburn is a very creative town but often behind closed doors, so it’s been great bringing the act of making art to street level for everyone to see. From the very first year when I created my first piece in town, people of Blackburn have been overwhelmingly thankful and appreciative of the art we’ve brought and every year the artists are amazed by how much people love and say thank you whilst they’re painting. As the projects grown, so has the people’s energy and love of the project, and thus were seeing locals spot then sit and watch the artworks come to life literally makes my heart sing. Sharing creative moments and making differences to everyday public spaces is what this is all about and it’s great when we see it happening around us.
UA : I personally think the festival is a great idea it brings loads of new people to the area and I for one probably wouldn't visit anywhere near as much if BOW didn't exist! So I hope local people see it as a massive positive.
HW : We hope so too and are in awe of you guys who come to town especially to enjoy the art. The tourists that come to town bring a whole new energy of exploration and appreciation to the streets that some locals sometimes pass by, so to all the photographers and bloggers who come to support BOW we couldn’t be more thank full. You are as important as the artists and we love that you love the project as much as us.
UA : So do you feel streetart has gained an increased following since social media has taken over? And do you think this is a good thing?
HW : I think so and yes I think it’s a good thing. It’s a platform for us all to share what we’re passionate about so I think that’s got to be good
UA : With having a platform to showcase there photos the amount of people like myself who enjoy documenting artwork is staggering and this has only increased over the last few years. Do you like the fact this helps to get art out to more and more people or did you prefer it when people have to travel to see the pieces in person? Did that make the original artwork in some ways more special?
HW: I think it’s always better to see things in person. The act of finding art in public space is so magical a photo can’t really capture it, but social media and photos can inspire you all to go and find it so it complements each other I think.
Alex Gallagher (2016/18)
UA : On the same note then it must be so much easier putting on an event like this now you have instant direct contact with other like minded people from around the world?
HW : Yes I think it helps that I’m an artist myself. I know more how artists think and what they need, especially coming overseas to a town they’ve never been to before. I hope they all feel looked after and part of the family. That personal connection I think is important, for everyone involved. I hope they enjoy being here and feel like Blackburn is their home for their short stay.
UA : The first open walls was a ladies only affair so was this originally going to be the plan going forward. If so what changed?
HW : It originally started as ladies only as we wanted to do something a bit different and I was and still am really passionate about showing us girls up scissors and booms making big things happen. There’s not that many ladies doing street art out there so I so glad we did that for the first year. In the second year, so many male artists were getting in touch to take part and I kind of didn’t want to be sexist, so decided in the second year to chose people because of their art, not their gender. For me it’s all about the art, no matter the persons age, gender, race or religion, and that’s the way we’re moving forward and I think it works well.
UA : The line up at BOW just keep getting bigger and better! Is there a wish list that your working from or does a lot of it come down to schedules and tapping up some of your friends to come and hang for a week in sunny Blackburn?
HW : Each artist we have I love the work of. I had my wish list of artists that I’d love to bring to town and I’m delighted to say most of them are here, so that’s a dream come true ;)
UA : What are your thoughts for the future, are there already plans in place to continue next year?
HW : No plans just yet. We’re happy to see how and where the project evolves next year. Maybe more big walls, maybe more installation stuff. Either way, BOW is not disappearing just yet and we will continue to push the act of bringing art to public space, to #makeblackburnbeautiful.
Curtis Hylton (2018)
UA: Thank you so much for your time Hayley
HW : Your welcome x
Blackburn Open Walls finishes with a guided tour by Hayley on Saturday but the artwork can be enjoyed all year round. For more information check them out on instergram and Facebook.