Design in the regions can ride out mooted political change

The regions are a hot topic. With the Tories bent on scrapping the system of Regional Development Agencies should the party win the next General Election, debate centres around alternative means by which those out of London can continue to shape their own destinies.

For design, the threat to the RDAs is a real issue, the likes of One North East being exemplars of how local government can foster design. Witness One North East’s key role in the inaugural Designs of the Time programme in 2007, which continues to have resonance in the region.

But, as has been said, if the RDAs go something else will replace them. It’s about restating the case for design and building a relationship with the new authority, whatever form it takes.

Design has, in fact, never been stronger in the regions. National bodies such as the Design Business Association play some part, but umbrella organisations set up by local activists tend to set the agenda and wield more clout within their communities.

Examples include Bristol Media, now a membership body headed by its founder Mike Bennett of digital group E3 Media, members of which organised the first Long Lunch at Cowley Manor in Gloucestershire last week. The purpose was networking, but the organisation does much more to support creative businesses in the region.

The same is true of design forums representing the South West, the South Coast and Cornwall, among others, while Wired Sussex has particular responsibility for the interaction design community centred on Brighton.

Add to this the massive talent across the country – last week’s Benchmarks awards and Design Week’s latest Creative Survey, for example, were far from London-centric in their reach – and you see regional success increasing with national and international projects.

Whatever the outcome of the political debacle over the regionals, design is ready to take it on.It just needs more cohesion between regional groups and national bodies to really make it work.

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  • Dr David Hill November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The RDAs produce nothing of any real value. Even the Labour Government’s own report produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers stated that they only created £1 of value for every £1 put in – the status quo. The only benefit it gives is to the gravy train and the blotted pay packets of all RDA’s executives. Similar to all the government’s quangos. i.e. local government ombudsman (deadwood if you have a complaint against a council, sheer waste of time), Oftel (no use if the telecoms company is ripping you off, sheer waste of time), etc, etc, etc, etc.
    Overall the RDAs are a complete throwaway of the taxpayer’s money to put it in a nutshell. That is unless you are a chief executive of a rollercoaster financial bumper package RDA of course ! £15.3 billion spent over the first 9-years with no benefit according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

    Dr David Hill
    World Innovation Foundation

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