It was momentous for design when, two years ago this week, Chancellor Gordon Brown, stood up at the National Portrait Galley to launch the 2005 London Design Festival. ‘Design is not incidental to modern economies, but integral; not a part of success, but the heart of success; and not a sideshow, but the centrepiece,’ he said, amid a host of soundbites.
What happened next is the stuff of legend. The Cox Review, already commissioned by Brown from Design Council chairman Sir George Cox when he made that speech, confirmed the Government’s commitment to design as a way of beating the competition as nations jostle for world economic dominance. Brown’s election since as Prime Minister gives us hope that that commitment won’t easily be forgotten.
Central Government gave way to more local interests on Monday evening, when London mayor Ken Livingstone delivered his LDF opening address at the Southbank Centre. But this doesn’t mark a dumbing down of design – or the event.
London is an international hub for UK trade and innovation, as the LDF and key components such as 100% Design have proved over time. And with the 2012 Olympic Games in the offing its global position is beyond doubt.
Livingstone has shown his commitment to design, but more through architecture. Lord Rogers’ role on the plan for London is well known and projects such as the remodelling of Trafalgar Square, by Foster & Partners and Imagination, among others, have made a difference.
Now though, Livingstone’s speaking out for design, saying that he would prefer London to be recognised as a cultural capital rather than purely as a world financial centre (see News, page 3).
‘Success doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by design’ was one of Brown’s slogans two years ago. It would be great if Livingstone and his mayoral rivals set aside their political differences and took it to their hearts. What better mission statement could there be for the capital as plans for the Olympics progress.