In 2003 the Design Council’s international travelling exhibition Great Expectations: new British Design stories toured to the Powerhouse Museum ‘ as part of Sydney Design Festival. Will Knight co-ordinated the tour, on returning to England he joined the London Design Festival team.
CS: How did the Festival come about’ Have you worked with Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans right from the start’
WK: John Sorrell had the original idea in the mid 1990s, at that time he was chairman of the Design Council. He’d had a long and distinguished career in graphics and communication with his company Newell and Sorrell and became involved in promoting UK creativity. Ben helped shape the concept from the very beginning. My role has been to shape the concept and turn it into actuality as it’s grown.
We had quite a bit of a shake up of London government in the late 1990s. We had for the first time in almost a generation a single figurehead, the Mayor of London and a strategic agency aimed at the promotion and support of London. The festival came about just at the point when London was beginning to think of itself as a creative city. We had other activities taking place in September – 100% Design had been going for about five or six years and things like Designersblock were attracting visitors. In those times, there were probably about 10 to 20 different design weeks or festivals across the world.
CS: How would you describe the Festival’ What was the vision’
WK: I like to talk about a platform, it’s about presenting. We are one of a few activities that are genuine city-wide showcasing activities. Others in autumn are: Fashion Week, Freeze Art Fair and London Film Festival. There’s a kind of quartet, of key cultural and commercial moments for the creative sector around that period, which have had either political or financial support from London’s government.
The vision at that time – we still remain very true to it – is to absorb, reflect and include all of the design disciplines that manifest in London. We set out to have a democratic approach to presenting the content and retain a neutral perspective.
CS: Going forward how do you think the Festival will develop’
WK: We don’t really want to grow the Festival. It’s much more about refining it, making a good experience for a variety of audiences.
For the third consecutive year, London Design Festival will be in residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). A range of specially commissioned installations throughout the museum and across London will be complimented by events, workshops and talks. Designers, curators and contributors spoke about projects at the V&A in May.
Sir John Sorrell referenced the Chancellor’s budget speech in March in which he indicated the creative industries as an area for UK growth. He said: ‘London Design Festival will promote design not only as absolutely central to society and to culture ‘ but also to the economy, to growth and the future’. The UK’s £60billion creative industries sector employs over two million people and produces nearly 6% of GDP.
The V&A’s exhibition Postmodernism coincides with the festival, as will their joint exhibition with the Crafts Council – The Power of Making. Curator Daniel Charney noted, ‘This exhibition is about that universal thing that we all share, the ability to make. It has the power to make us ingenious, to make us expressive, to make us very, very innovative.’
The museum’s Cromwell Road entrance is to be transformed by Amanda Levite Architects (AL_A), with Timber Wave, a 3D, 12 metre high, timber latticework spiral. They have responded to the vast, decorated entrance with a simple, dynamic gesture. Berlin-based design studio Beta Tank will also transform the V&A’s tunnel entrance.
Murray Moss, New York-based design entrepreneur and curator, will present a series of works created with a 3D printer. Ron Arad will create a temporary installation in the V&A’s John Madejski Garden. Works by graduates of the University of the Arts, London will pop-up in the British Galleries and Google are supporting a series of design-performance events.
Danish textile manufacturer Kavadrat work, along with contemporary international architects and designers have supported Textile Field, designed by the French Bourolec brothers. Their aim is to transform the perception and sensation of the Raphael Cartoon gallery. Visitors will be able to walk and lie on a 30 metre padded, fabric landscape, to relax and view the 16th century masterpieces in a new way.
The wider festival program includes REDDRESS, designed by Aamu Song and has been created with 550 metres of fabric which is 20 metres in diameter. One person will perform in the dress, while 238 people will be seated in and around its hems. People can meet in this intimate space for performances and discussions presented by the Finnish Institute.
London-based graphic artist Noma Bar focuses on negative space. He says: ‘My work is very simple and in each image there is another story inside’. Visitors to Cut it Out at the Outline Editions Gallery in Soho will be able to make cut-outs of his images.
John Pawson, one of the UK’s leading architects is creating an experience inside St Paul’s Cathedral. This project uses a lens and reflective surfaces to transform views of the west tower’s spiral staircase.
Australia and New Zealand’s design and café culture will be present at Matilda at Design Junction, Victoria House basement, Bloomsbury Square.
The Festival’s programme takes place across six design districts, each celebrating their own particular contribution to design in London: Brompton Design District, Pimlico Road, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Clerkenwell Design District and Shoreditch Design Triangle. The Festival website includes a Design calendar of events.
London Design Festival 17’25 September 2011. For more information visit: www.londondesignfestival.com