Dott Cornwall can learn from the North East’s festival

The organisers of the second Designs of the Time can learn from the first programme in 2007. Angus Montgomery reports

‘Designs of the Time 07 was an experiment – a prototype, if you will,’ says Malcolm Page, deputy chief executive of Dott 07 co-funding body One North East. ‘It is an iterative journey, and if we did it again no doubt we would do some things the same way and do other things differently, but the primary function of prototypes is to learn from the lessons and improve next time around.’

The next time around is fast approaching, as plans for Dott Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, first revealed in these pages (DW 19 February), begin to take shape. Those who took part in Dott 07, the first in a ten-year series of regional design events, are now in a position to pass on their thoughts on the legacy, the successes and the failures of that event, and to provide an exemplar for the South West to pick up the baton.

John Thackara, programme director of Dott 07, says, ‘The advice I would give for Dott Cornwall is that it should enable things that would not have happened without Dott being there.’ He points to projects such as Middlesbrough’s Urban Farming programme, which has just received £4m in Government funding, and the Alzheimer’s 100 initiative, which is being taken up on a national level, as examples of Dott schemes that are providing a permanent legacy for the North East.

Commenting on the Dott schemes already lined up in Cornwall, which are predominantly urban regeneration initiatives, Thackara says, ‘What we worked to do with Dott 07 was to reframe design to help organise different aspects of daily life. I think the job in Cornwall will be to look at the development of social regeneration alongside the development of the “hard things” in urban regeneration.’

Craig Hutton, design director of Newcastle-based NE6 Design, which worked on design projects for Dott 07 including materials for the Eco Design Challenge, says, ‘Dott 07 clearly made a difference in terms of educating people. For example, it made them more aware of their carbon footprints; raising awareness of design and how it contributes to daily life.’

From a professional perspective, Hutton adds that working with Dott 07 – led by Thackara and executive producer Robert O’Dowd – was ‘a joy’. He says, ‘It was very refreshing to work with people who know what design should be. The transition back to our normal client life was very noticeable.’

Unfortunately, Hutton says, Dott’s exemplary work as a client has yet to filter through to the rest of the regional client base. ‘Clients in the North East still need a good kick up the arse,’ he notes. He says more workshops and conferences to engage clients, which were held in the North East, could be a good way of spreading Dott’s client gospel.

Karen Stone, director of North East design festival Design Event, which was set up in 2005 and received funding through Dott 07, says, ‘The support received through Dott has been hugely beneficial for us – before Dott 07, things were happening on a much smaller scale.

‘I think a good lesson that Dott Cornwall has learned is to select a shortlist of tangible projects prior to launch – something that couldn’t be done for Dott 07 as it was the first event in the programme. Something else that should be carried through to Cornwall is the engagement with local authority teams Dott 07 had.’

Phil Gendall, strategic director of Falmouth-based Gendall Design and former chairman of the South West Design Forum, is clearly looking forward to seeing the South West put under the design spotlight.

He says, ‘Dott offers a new paradigm – it views the public not as “targets” for marketing, but as participants who will benefit from the outcome of a project.

‘There are communities in Cornwall who are among the poorest in the country, and these are the areas where Dott should go – it gives communities a sense of ownership and confidence.’

Picking up on Hutton’s praise of Dott as a client, Gendall says, ‘It is absolutely essential for Dott to educate clients. It focuses on the public sector, and this can be one of the most exemplary – or one of the most appalling, ramshackle, haphazard and manipulative – client groups. If the Dott process can do anything to advance this, then that would be fantastic.’

Speaking of any potential legacy from Dott Cornwall, Gendall says, ‘If some kids do a little better at school and graduate with a better understanding of design, then go on to run local businesses and commission design in a better way, that would be a far better outcome than just bricks and mortar.’

Dott Cornwall plans:

Dott Cornwall is currently seeking design project managers to work across four potential projects:

• The Pengegon Community Centre, planned for the Pengegon Estate in Pool

• A new road, turning the A3047 between Camborne, Pool and Redruth into a public transport pathway

• A sustainable building centre for the Camborne, Pool and Redruth area

• A social enterprise centre for Camborne, Pool and Redruth

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