Digital event is reborn as Future Everything ‘living lab’

The Future Everything Festival, to be held in Manchester this month, will act as a ’living lab, to prototype design for a new world’, according to founder Drew Hemment.

The festival, which is being held from 12-15 May, features art installations, a music programme, a wide-ranging conference and the presentation of the inaugural £10 000 Future Everything Award – which goes to the Eyewriter eye-tracking project.

Future Everything was formerly the Future Sonic festival, which was established in 1995, and this is the first year the event will operate under the Future Everything moniker. ’My background is in dance music, and I launched Future Sonic to showcase creative work coming out of the digital world,’ Hemment says. ’The name has now caught up with what we are. We haven’t been a music festival for a long time. Now our focus is much more on elements such as social design and innovation.’

The Future Everything branding has been created by Kiosk, the consultancy founded by David Bailey, formerly of The Designers Republic. Bailey, who has been working with the festival since its inception five years ago, says this year the branding is much more ’stripped-back’, so that the new identity is brought to the fore. He adds that there may be a return a more graphic style with next year’s work.

The festival’s key strands are art, music, conference, ’play everything’ and ’showcase’.

The art strand features a number of digital and interactive elements, as well as urban interventions. Among the former are WPP digital consultancy Digit’s Poly installation, described as a ’living bar chart’, and Aaron Koblin’s data visualisations, which Hemment hails as ’jaw-dropping’. Urban interventions include the European Architecture Students Assembly’s temporary City Experiment Building.

The music strand picks up on the festival’s origins in dance music culture, and features performances from Congolese band Konono No 1, and US psychedelic band Animal Collective, among many others.

The ’play everything’ strand, says Hemment, features projects aimed at making the festival ’as accessible as possible’. Among these are the Unlimited Connectivity scheme – a live link between New York and Manchester – and the Dirty Electronics workshop, which enables people to build their own DIY electronic instrument from scratch.

Showcase is a programme of independently run music and art events across Manchester. But much of the meat of Future Everything is in the conference. One of the key themes addressed will be open data. Hemment says that if public bodies make the data they hold freely available ’it could give spark to all sorts of things’.

He points to the SF Trees phone app in San Francisco, made possible by San Francisco making its public data freely available. The app allows users to point a phone at any tree and receive data about its modern and Latin names – data that can be used to map a path through the city connecting trees, or to set up a fan group for trees.

Hemment says Future Everything is receiving funding from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts in order to make Manchester an open-data city.

Another of the conference’s key features is the Glonet event, which networks the conference around the world. But instead of streaming it to individual computers, the conference will be broadcast to parallel Future Everything audiences in venues in Sendai in Japan, Istanbul in Turkey, São Paulo in Brazil and Vancouver in Canada. Hemment says of this ’group to group’ connectivity, ’If you’re a festival you’ve got to have global aspirations, and if you’re considering your carbon footprint you’ve got to find ways of being globally connected.’

Future Everything timeline

  • 1995-Inaugural Future Sonic event
  • 2004-Future Sonic’s Mobile Connections event looks at mobile, wireless and locative arts
  • 2007-Future Sonic becomes one of the Manchester Firsts projects commissioned by the Manchester International Festival
  • 2010-Future Sonic becomes Future Everything

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