Tom Dixon is calling for a bit of calm and unity. It’s time for some sense to prevail. He’s been doing a lot of thinking recently about the design show scene in London, not least because of his appointment last week as creative director of 100% Design.
As anyone within shooting distance of the corridors of power knows, things have been getting uncomfortably hot in the world of design events lately. We’re not talking about the awkward resignation at the end of last year of Tim Pyne, 100% Design’s previous creative chief, which the organisers would rather not elaborate on. Nor are we talking about the departure of Ian Rudge and Jimmy MacDonald, the respective founders of 100% Design and 100% East. All that appears rather anodyne when contrasted with the picture of back-biting and in-fighting that’s been painted in other quarters of the London show scene.
Reports of discontent first began to emerge publicly last September, when the London Design Festival was formally warned by its main financial backer – the London Development Agency – that it intended to commission an independent audit of the LDF’s operations.
Out of public view, there had been murmurings that not all was going well for the LDF a whole lot earlier than this. Such was the fallout with certain key event organisers – who, lets not forget, hold simultaneous design events across a couple of weeks at the end of September – that rival bids were mounted for a slice of the LDA’s budget for design festivities. Dangerously, the factions emerged, with the LDF’s challengers making alternative cases to operate some sort of new-look London design extravaganza. The LDF was hardly going to take all this lying down and so it, too, mounted a spirited defence of its own. Something had to give, and plenty did.
This week’s confirmation by the LDA that it is to continue funding the festival will go a long way to restoring some semblance of order (see News, page 5). The three-year funding deal confirms what many have known, or suspected privately, for months: that the future funding for the LDF is now finally assured and we can all get on with business again. The LDF has been told it has to work better with its festival partners, and both the LDA and the LDF have been told (by the auditor) that they need to work better with each other. Dixon’s diatribe, it seems, is apposite.
‘We have to start working together now, there’s just so much more that could be done,’ explains Dixon. ‘London has room for even more [design events], it really does. We could even do them across the whole of the bloody UK. All right, so you may not get to everything, but there’s always a core of things you’ll go to. I just don’t accept that it’s too big,’
This September, London will become the setting for what promises to be the most anxiously awaited clutch of British design shows to date. As well as a Dixon-designed 100% Design London, the finest minds in design are already salivating over the inaugural Tent London show from Rudge and MacDonald, not to mention 100% Futures, plus the reaction from regular gigs like Established & Sons, Designers Block, Design UK and New Designers. The Institute of Contemporary Arts may have some interesting plans for its Design Embassy, too.
Let’s just hope that once order is re-established, we can also restore the peace.