Regional initiatives require clear promotional strategies

The design industry is keen to celebrate the talent in the regions – and rightly so. The Cardiff Design Festival, the North East’s Design Event (see News, page 4) and the 2007 Designs of the Time initiative, to be staged in Newcastle/ Gateshead by One Nor

The design industry is keen to celebrate the talent in the regions – and rightly so. The Cardiff Design Festival, the North East’s Design Event, and the 2007 Designs of the Time initiative, to be staged in Newcastle/Gateshead by One North East and the Design Council, are among ventures to promote creativity outside London.

Indeed, there has been a groundswell of confidence outside the capital as just about every region has established a ‘forum’, ‘festival’ or ‘association’, locally, to promote its collective might. Meanwhile, the Design Business Association and D&AD have extended their interests beyond the M25.

This is great news and to be encouraged. UK design owes its strength to its diversity, regional or otherwise, and a postcode gives no clue to creative ability.

Sadly, not all initiatives hit the mark. Exposed, the ‘rising art and culture’ show from the North West, staged for one night only in London’s Manchester Square, sought to push the region’s visual stars. It can’t amount to much, though, if, as it turned out, national heroes like Peter Saville, artist Chris Ofili and photographer Kevin Cummins are cited as ‘rising’ local talent. The Hacienda being the venue for Madonna’s second UK concert isn’t much of a claim to fame for Manchester as a hotbed of creative talent, yet one of the speech-makers laboured the point.

No one doubts the abilities of people from the North West, nor the talent residing there. But Explored was an example of how not to promote it. The organisers might have been better mounting a show of homegrown superstars such as Saville, Ofili and Cummins in Liverpool or Manchester to encourage young people and sponsors there. Or they could set up a region-wide festival along the lines of the autumn’s art-based Liverpool Biennial.

It’s not clear what their goal was in Manchester Square, but the event left many of the audience bemused by the concept.

Thankfully, other regions have got it right.

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