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‘A Phoenix from the flames’: Pendleton Sixth Form College’s Graphic Design Department showcases success 18-months on from tragic fire

Happy ending for Pendleton Sixth Form College over a year on from a fire that devastated their graphic design facilities.

Staff, students and some of Pendleton’s finest graphic design alumni gathered at the college to celebrate not only 10-years of success within the department, but also the transformation that has taken place over the last 18-months, following the blaze.

It was in May 2016 when Pendleton fell victim to the inferno which engulfed the main graphic design classroom. Around 40 fire-fighters and eight fire crews were called out to battle the blaze, but the studio, as well as irreplaceable work and resources, could not be saved.

(Before and after renovation of the fire struck classroom)

before and after

David Holcroft, Graphic Design Teacher at Pendleton said: “It was a shame, obviously we are happy now with all the incredible changes that have been made, but it was awful losing resources and students work that simply could not be replaced.

“Nonetheless, the department has proven to be somewhat of a phoenix from the flames since the tragedy, and that has a lot to do with the incredible support we have received from past students. Many got in touch to offer their backing and it was lovely to see that so many of our former students look back at their time at Pendleton with such fondness.”

At the event last month, the department officially opened their brand new, state-of-the-art studio and facilities, which have been built in the ashes of the fire.

The newly transformed workspace is home to brand new iMacs, printers, HD projectors and bespoke furniture that would be the envy of any, industry standard, design studio.

However, the occasion served as much more than just a launch event. Exhibited in the studio was work from many of the college’s incredibly successful and talented alumni. Former students were invited to talk about their successes and where their qualifications had taken them since leaving Pendleton. This served to both provide inspiration and learning opportunities for budding designers currently at the college, or thinking of studying the subject in the future.


Just one of the many former students in attendance was Emily Wolstenholme, whose work was chosen to create the event’s promotional flyer. The recent graduate was described by her former teacher as ‘one of the best students he has ever taught’ on the night, as her work was admired by those just starting out.

Another was Jennifer Craven, former Fred Longworth High School pupil, who kicked of her career working at Trinity Mirror Creative – The Manchester Evening News’ very own design agency. She is now a full-time, freelance graphic designer.

Melissa Hoey, who is now a UX Designer for leading fashion brand, Missguided, was also in attendance, networking with those aspiring to get into the industry.

Other extremely successful attendees included Phil Earnshaw and Mike Emerson.

Phil, a digital designer for Modern English, has worked with clients including Queens of the Stone Age and The Charlatans. The former Moorside High School pupil also worked on the design for the Foo Fighters website, just last year.

Mike has worked with clients including Johnnie Walker, Haagen Dazs, Guinness, Omega and Vimto – covering everything from design to packaging, advertising to 3D experiential, all as Art Director and Designer at LOVE Creative.

Mike Emerson

(Mike Emerson)

Whilst studying at Pendleton around 9-years-ago, Laura Gallagher, former St Ambrose Barlow RC High School pupil, won a college-wide design competition, with her entry being chosen as the official college logo, which is still in use to this day.

Since graduating, Laura has worked at Rapport: The People Activation Agency, working with a range of clients such as Nestlè Purina, TalkTalk, Thomas Cook, Fujitsu and more.

Reece Crowder, Digital Content Producer for CFM Radio in Cardiff, was at the exhibition presenting his work. He shared with guests his words of wisdom: “The best things to do is have the willingness to crack on and do something. If you give it 100% you’re going to get something out of it, and graphic design is one of those skills you can learn, anyone can do it.”

Since leaving Pendleton, Reece has studied at the University of Cumbria and now works at CFM producing content for the station’s social media channels. This is alongside freelance design projects including a website for ‘Little the Jewellers’. 


(Reece Crowder)



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