Design festivals provide great opportunities to connect and be inspired

Our taste for festivals in design continues unabated, fuelled perhaps by the same urge to connect face to face in the age of social media and digital data that has spawned so many successful music-based events.

As the dust settles on the London Design Festival – an international event now with a strong global following – Cardiff kicks off its tenth annual celebration of design on Friday and local groups seek to extend and rebrand the Liverpool Design Symposium (see News), it is worth considering the legacy they build.

For the design community, festivals offer a chance to meet with like-minded souls, to showcase emerging talent, swap notes on new technologies and debate the issues of the day. More importantly perhaps, they attract clients and other visitors from outside the host city or region, providing an opportunity for new partnerships and creative commissions and greater public engagement with design.

They have their high spots – the Anti Design Festival brought edgy graphics and new thinking to the LDF and the Tramshed in Shoreditch added a great venue, while the Victoria & Albert Museum’s commitment went from strength to strength. But they also have their lows, the Outrace installation in Trafalgar Square by Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram being the biggest disappointment at the LDF in a year that saw 100% Design dwindle and the digital content of the festival virtually vanish. But they fly the flag for design in front of an audience including international design stars, politicians, design buyers and activists it would be difficult to gather without a clear focus.

Festivals are hard work – ask the indefatigable William Knight of the LDF, Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway, who staged the first Vintage at Goodwood last month, and Olwen Moseley, one of the Cardiff activists. And for many protagonists they are a sideline to their main job, but they are patently worth it. Bring it on.

By Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor

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