More than 20 Nelson and Colne College students have had the opportunity to support the success of the inaugural British Textile Biennial held at locations across East Lancashire.

Throughout October, the College students who are on a range of Creative Arts and Media courses, have volunteered their time with event set up and installation of works prior to the launch, and during exhibition opening hours after doors opened to the public.

This includes the hugely popular Adidas Spezial exhibition at Blackburn Cotton Exchange, a showcase of designer T-shirts in Blackburn Cathedral, leading textile artist Alice Kettle’s ‘Thread Bearing Witness’ spectacle at Gawthorpe Hall, and a banner display at Northlight in Brierfield.

The opportunity for students to volunteer at the British Textile Biennial came hot on the heels of a visit to Nelson and Colne College by alumna Laurie Peake, the Director of Super Slow Way, who organised the Biennial.

Alfie Payne, 18, who is completing the Foundation Art Diploma at Nelson and Colne College, has a career aspiration to be a footwear or trainer designer.

Former Park High School student Alfie said: “I have a good collection of rare shoes and I have always loved the feeling you get from buying a new pair, so it was a privilege to get the opportunity to talk to such an esteemed shoe designer in Gary Aspden at the Adidas exhibition.

“Seeing all the shoes has given me further inspiration to create my own, and Gary took me round the exhibition showing me how he goes about creating a modern shoe influenced by trainer designs from the past. He was a very approachable, he spoke to me about his life and career, and he gave me tips on where to go in terms of university.

“My course at College has been amazing as it has made me realise what I want most in life – and that is to be a trainer designer – as it has enabled me the creative freedom to do what I want.”

Caitlin Loder-Helm, 17, a Level 3 Art and Design student at Nelson and Colne College, has been volunteering at the Alice Kettle exhibition.

Caitlin, formerly of Blessed Trinity RC College, said: “Volunteering at the Biennial has been a good opportunity for me. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone and has helped me to improve my communication and my confidence.

“I really enjoy the graphic design side of my course, so to be volunteering at a textile exhibition with Alice Kettle has been something different and very interesting for me too. The colours are vibrant and so much time has gone into it – the attention to detail is amazing.”

The creative industries are the fastest growing part of the UK economy, and the sector accounts for one in 10 jobs across the UK. In 2018, over 3.2 million people worked in the creative economy, and 87% of jobs within it are seen as ‘future proof’ – at low risk or at no risk of automation.

Cerise Ward, Foundation Art Diploma lecturer at Nelson and Colne College, said: “To have a high profile arts and culture showcase such as the British Textile Biennial on the doorstep has been a remarkable chance for our Creative and Media students to engage with some of the country’s leading and innovative textile artists, and to learn about the history and traditions of the textile industry in Lancashire.”

Alice Kettle said: “It is fantastic to have young people volunteering on the exhibition. You learn a lot from young people and their curiosity. They are the true future and are at the heart of everything. It’s hugely important also as creativity has developed and evolved, that we pass on that heritage to develop it further.”

The British Textile Biennial runs until Sunday 3 November. Further details about locations of exhibitions can be found at

Nelson and Colne College offers a range of Creative Arts and Media courses including A Levels in Fashion and Textiles, Film Studies, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Media Studies and Photography, and vocational courses in Art and Design and in Creative and Digital Media.

Nelson and Colne College is the number one college in the country for 16-18 learner achievement and 16-18 Apprenticeship achievement, and is number one in Lancashire for A Level and vocational studies, based on progress.

If you would like to apply to study at Nelson and Colne College, contact 01282 440272 or visit