Burnley Words Festival

In 2019 we delivered a highly successful Literary Festival in Burnley, seeing over 1,750 engagements across a single weekend of activity.  The festival had room to grow, and we developed the offer further by building on our practice of engaging communities to develop and curate a programme that serves local and visitor needs. We soon saw that the full potential of the festival was all in the wording!

Whilst other plans often had to be shelved during the COVID-19 pandemic, a partnership between Culturapedia and Burnley BID would go on to develop throughout this time, and following the easing of restrictions, we were ready for the next chapter of the festival.

Relaunching as  Burnley Words Festival in 2023, the programme saw an expanded offer over three weeks, repurposed with a more artistic approach; themes of ‘words’ could be captured in multiple forms rather than merely reading and writing. We also sought to create a sense of co-creation in the town, working with our promoters in Burnley to reach far and wide across the community. Through these engagements, two common themes emerged; a sense of pride in the local heritage and surrounding countryside, mainly from older constituents. Younger people in the area generally highlighted environmental concerns.

These would then be reflected in the content of the Festival’s programme. Activities ranged from family outdoor theatre and storytellers through Charter Walk; to Burnley Market became home to a wide range of books from independent publishers and an author’s stage and a graphic novel workshop. Young creatives in Burnley curated an environmental art display in the library.

Burnley Words Festival has also given empty shops and vacant units in the town a new lease of life. For example, the former Supercuts site has served as a central information hub throughout the festival. Deserted shop windows have served as advertising platforms in the high street, leading up to the festival.

This enables a longer term benefit for Burnley, with room for improved perceptions of the town centre to form and the festival to establish itself as part of Burnley’s cultural identity.

Our Creative Producer, Stephie Jessop, is embedded in Burnley, working on ideas and commissions in Burnley, encompassing the Words Festival and our other projects in the town.




Free Activities in Blackburn and Darwen Markets


When you think about market spaces, what comes to mind? The distinct layout of artisan stalls?  The sea of different voices from all the conversations that surround you? Maybe it’s the smell of fresh food and local produce. How about cultural and creative hubs, right at the heart of their town centres?

Because that’s exactly what they’ve become in Blackburn with Darwen!

This first came as a council initiative centred on family-focused activities and performances in the markets. Culturapedia has curated further creative experiences with established and emerging artists in accessible and democratic spaces.

Through the programme, Culturapedia sought to encourage people in these communities to visit their local markets more frequently. The organisation, alongside Arts Council England, also aimed to reach prospective audiences who may otherwise struggle to access the arts in ‘priority places’ – areas with low recorded levels of engagement. 

Artists were commissioned across a series of free participatory workshops and performances. The nature of the project meant that Culturapedia could offer two days of paid work to creatives in the heart of Lancashire.

Culturapedia also maintained a commitment to diversity, represented in the range of creatives they worked with; for example, striving to include South Asian artists, reflecting the large South Asian heritage population in these communities, particularly Blackburn. 

The project’s success has helped Culturapedia establish a greater presence in  Blackburn with Darwen’s communities. Regular audiences have emerged, and new audience habits have developed as a result, demonstrating a strong desire for accessible creative and cultural provision in the borough. From October 2022-2023, the project has;

  • Engaged 66 freelance artists over the year
  • Attracted 2222 participants to 37 workshops that we coordinated
  • Attracted audiences of 3375 to 42 performances across 21 separate days.

Culturapedia is actively working to develop and expand this offer further in the near future. In 2024, they received further funding to continue delivery from February and beyond.

Man paints a canvas in the street
Vincent painting at Drawn To Rawtenstall October 2021
Men dressed as chefs playing instruments at the entrance to Bacup Market
The Ski Band - Bacup Inspires October 2021
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