LDF deal with Beijing event set to boost Sino-UK design links

With the London Design Festival in full swing, an announcement was made last night of a partnership between the capital’s main design event and China’s inaugural Beijing Design Week, which will be held from 27 September to 3 October next year.

The new relationship has been in the offing for some time, according to LDF chairman Sir John Sorrell and director Ben Evans. Sorrell has already met the vice-mayor of Beijing and is calling the announcement ’a statement on the importance of design and creativity in both countries’.

Evans says that more than 70 other cities around the world have set up festivals in a similar mould since LDF’s inception in 2003 and that several have approached the London event in the hope of forming partnerships.

This, however, is the first collaboration for LDF. Evans says, ’We can’t have a dialogue with everyone, but we hope and expect to add other cities and build stronger relationships with key European ones.’

London is currently signed up to be guest city for the first instalment of Beijing Design Week, but members from both organisations are already looking to extend the relationship into future years.

’We’ll have to see what happens next year, but we’re looking to forge a relationship that will last a very long time,’ says Sorrell, who suggests LDF will provide consultancy in an advisory role.

’I talked to the vice-mayor of Beijing about what made it work here and how best to get it off the ground. We’ve learned many lessons,’ says Sorrell.

The two organisations understand that collaboration, content-sharing and the exchange of talent and ideas will be explored under the partnership. Although details are yet to be confirmed, British designs will be exported and there will be associated business opportunities.

UK Trade & Investment is taking an interest in the developing relationship, according to Sorrell, who says, ’It is in the loop completely. It understands and sees the opportunity.’

He adds, ’Architects and designers need to take full advantage of this relationship and look for opportunity – but it’s partly up to British design companies. [The relationship] can be a gateway for companies to do business abroad.’

A spokesman for UKTI says, ’UKTI is aware of the plans for a Beijing Design Week and will support the London Design Festival to highlight opportunities for UK design companies that result from the relationship.’

Aric Chen, creative director of Beijing Design Week, is in London this week with a delegation from China. He says that the ’guest city’ status is ’a way of keeping internationally focused’, and adds, ’I hope London will have a future presence now the door has been opened.’

Chen, like Sorrell, expects the relationship to be symbiotic, leading to a greater presence of Chinese design at LDF.

Early details are beginning to emerge about Beijing Design Week, which is set to include installations around the city. One in Tiananmen Square will be unveiled for China’s 1 October National Day celebrations.

Beijing Design Week
Beijing Design Week follows a pilot event in 2009

The London Design Festival/Beijing Design Week partnership follows the success of the Shanghai Expo and Thomas Heatherwick’s Pavilion there, which has already received 5.5 million visitors

UK Business and Enterprise minister Mark Prisk was in China last week to strengthen bilateral trade relations on a UKTI-organised trip where he met government ministers, UK companies trading in China, business leaders and investors

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