Blair initiative to boost UK design

Prime Minister Tony Blair has made a personal foray into design, asking the Design Council to run brainstorming sessions on using design to take Britain into the millennium.

He identified three themes for the venture: how design can be used in the Millennium Dome at Greenwich; how international summits hosted by the UK can be used to promote the creative industries; and how visitors’ first impressions of Britain can be enhanced through our airports, train links and ports.

According to Design Council chief executive Andrew Summers, some six sessions will be held in late September and through October. Participants will be drawn from all design disciplines and the aim will be “to stimulate ideas and “explore new thinking to take Britain into the millennium”, says Summers.

The Design Council will publish the findings in a report to be presented to Blair by the end of the year.

Blair was due to announce the initiative at a reception for design industry leaders at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday evening. This is the first such occasion hosted by a prime minister since Margaret Thatcher’s design think-tanks of 1982 and 1987.

Among the 60 or so invitees are product designers James Dyson and Clive Grinyer, graphic designers Janice Kirkpatrick and Mike Dempsey, architects and interiors specialists Lorenzo Apicella, Will Alsop, Rasshied Din and Ben Kelly, Imagination’s Gary Withers and fashion designers Betty Jackson and Jasper Conran.

In a Guardian article published on Tuesday, Blair said of his guests. “I want to meet them because they are a British success story. They are becoming a power in the British economy.”

He went on: “These people are ambassadors for New Britain. They embody strong British characteristics as valuable to us today as they have ever been: know-how, creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and, most of all, originality.”

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