Drunken speech outlines design’s sexual politics

If Design Council chairman John Sorrell’s speech writers have any clout, the council’s 50th Anniversary dinner would have been a far from sober affair.

Held at the Royal Festival Hall on 14 December, it kicked off with an after-dinner speech by Sorrell.

Summing up, he talked of female and male perceptions of design, from the perspective of two ten-year-olds: “A girl says: ‘With art, if you like, you can be really weird. But with design you have to think about what other people will like.’ A boy says: ‘Design is important because if it was not designed it could not be made’, ” said Sorrell.

He then invited everyone to raise their glasses and drink a toast to design, the next generation and the next 50 years.

What the assembled company didn’t know was that Sorrell’s printed copy of this rousing address instructed him to finish his speech, wait for the applause, then “sit down and get drunk”.

And as a man of duty and compliance, he must surely have felt obliged to follow instructions.

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