Design festivals need to leave a lasting legacy for design

Next week’s Milan furniture fair looms for those in interiors, a blend of commerce and culture that is always inspiring.

But for the wider UK creative community bigger things are brewing for design, with Scotland’s long-awaited Six Cities programme due to kick off in May and the London Design Festival team setting out their stall for September, having secured new funding from the London Development Agency. Meanwhile, the joint One North East/ Design Council venture, Designs of the Time, trundles on in Newcastle/Gateshead.

So what’s to be gained from all this? The focus on design is welcome, but only those with a lasting outcome have real value. There is no doubt, for example, that had the LDF fallen on the sword of the LDA following its review last year, London would still be celebrating design in September. The 100% Design show and its attendant events are fixtures in the international calendar and the new Tent showcase, planned for the Old Truman Brewery complex in the East End, promises to bring newer talents to the fore.

It’s best though when festival organisers bring together clients and designers, or designers across disciplines, and this is where Six Cities looks set to score. With the backing of Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell, plans such as the ‘double bills’ promise to leave a legacy for design locally.

But there must be a bigger idea. When the LDF kicked off in 2003 it had the ill-fated World Creative Forum at its heart, styled on economic think-tank Davos. Now Miami and San Francisco are staging world events to promote creativity.

So what of London’s chances? The latest bid comes from Ravi Naidoo, organiser of Cape Town’s Design Indaba, who has helped put South Africa on the design map. He is exploring a ‘summit’ for London in 2008 that would push sustainability through design with real outcomes that work globally. If it comes off, that would be a real breakthrough, with everyone a winner.

Lynda Relph-Knight

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