Regional design hubs make for a stronger UK industry

It’s still March and yet the season of festivals is soon to be upon us. With the extended D&AD Congress due to kick off at London’s Old Billingsgate in mid-April, coinciding with the Milan Fair, and the London Design Festival heading towards its third incarnation in September, it promises to be a busy time for those bent on promoting creativity.

But London isn’t the only UK city celebrating design this year. It’s great to see Cardiff doing its bit to push creativity up the local agenda and use it to attract wider attention to the Welsh capital in its centenary year (see News, page 7).

In its first year, the Cardiff festival, planned for June, will follow a tried format, initiating some events, but, like the London Design Festival, also encompassing set pieces such as the degree shows from Cardiff School of Art & Design.

However, with the likes of Olwen Moseley, the school’s resourceful director of enterprise and development, on its organising committee, we can expect greater things to come. Moseley has already enlisted the support of London design greats such as Michael Johnson, Glenn Tutssel and The Partners managing creative director Gillian Thomas to work with her students. Meanwhile, the Cardiff contingent did well in last year’s D&AD Student Awards, proving her claims that the city is rich in creativity.

By incorporating emerging talent in the festival, Cardiff may be assuring its future as a creative hub. If it can foster a culture of pride in design, it might hope to hang on to its brighter graduates in the way that Glasgow tends to. By also embracing the Audi Foundation Design Challenge for A-level students, the event organisers are bringing a new generation into the fold.

Wales isn’t the only UK region boosting the importance of design – locally, nationally and globally. Last November Cornish Design Forum was born, a ‘trade association’ established by West Country design groups, Stoke has its Different by Design initiative and last month Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell announced the Six Cities programme for 2007, which will build on the creative strengths of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Aberdeen and Stirling.

Chancellor Gordon Brown’s announcement in the Budget of a design centre for Newcastle Gateshead meanwhile honours that region’s massive efforts to get design on top of the local business agenda. It also fuels the Design Council’s plan to hold a design biennale there.

It all shows that London is no longer the only powerhouse for design. It makes for a stronger industry if all regions of the country are actively involved, so get out and support local activities in your area.

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