Should there be a Winchester Design Festival?

Liveblogged notes from the WinchBiz session on a Winchester Design Festival. Probe to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be updated.

Wendy Wyatt, our session pitcher, feels we need to find ways of connecting the cultural industries in Winchester. The London Design Festival was a great way of doing that – they divided into districts, had hundreds of partner organisations who put on their own events. It was very much led by businesses. They split it into digital, graphic arts, fashion etc.

If we did a festival, we’d be doing it to give visibility to our creatives. It could be right across the districts. But when should we do it?

So, asks one attendee, why not just get on with it? The majority of Winchester’s festivals were started by two women in a pub with an idea. They work together to stop clashes. In theory, the Design Festival could incorporate some of them. There are so many architects, digital designers and so on who would support it.

A few years ago, some of the attendees had talked about it – and got as far as a community interest company, but it got too unwieldy. It got too committeefied. The model of the London Design Festival is not prescriptive. The main role of the central organisations is to organise and communicate the information about the individual events.

Don’t get the council too involved. It can be a dead hand. It can support it – possibly by co-ordinating meetings and contacts, but shouldn’t run it.

From local to international

The idea of pulling an international audience is a scary thing; do you keep it local, or are you braver and go for something better? Maybe you could scale it – start small in year one, with a commitment to aiming for international status within five years.

Creatives drive the economy in unusual ways. They give buzz and grittiness, and often set up businesses in place your wouldn’t want top walk late at night.

Our competition as a town is often for the London leavers, and they’re looking creative and exciting places. We shouldn’t be London by the Forest or Hampshire’s Brighton, though – we should be our own place. Do we need a Creative Hampshire group? There is a regional creative industries group.

Find the people. Tell their stories. Connect them up. Build something.

Winchester is seen as an affluent area – but that’s only the top. It has its own problems like everywhere else. Winchester is not really tapped into what’s going on at the national level. You need someone in the council who is going up to London all the time to find that out.

If you go into the student union at the WInchester School of Art it’s like entering a different world, an edgy, creative one. Burt it’s not connected up – there’s no one from there at this event.

A design festival legacy

What could the legacy be? A creative quarter for example?

The film festival start small – WInchester, then Hampshire, then national. We got better folks and bigger screenings at every step. Now, it’s international;, with venues all over Winchester, and international guests. But how do you get to the next level? Once you get to a critical mass, you need an infrastructure there to allow you to grow.

The London Design Festival has a weekly e-mail, which means they have a massive database of people interested in design-related things. There’s so much scope for a legacy there. Education is another possible legacy.

The empty bus depot looks just awful. Could we get a great international artists to do something there?

Getting started

We have the ideas. We have the facilities. But we need people with the slack to make it happen. The business model canvas is a good way of starting these sorts of projects.

Could we get the business management students involved? Do we need sponsorship? (Almost certainly.) How curated should the festival be? That’s a difficult one. The quality of the street market is… variable. The design and maker market is not really curated. You don’t want the BBC to see us as a knitters groups that has got together. So, it needs to be curated but inclusive.

We need to be very careful it’s the Winchester Design Festival, and it needs to be bottom up, and left to evolve. Yes, we should involve the university and the school of art, and as for the rest… don’t they say that the Nestor way to get something done is to ask a busy person.

At some level, if an event keeps needing funding, it’s not working. If we can pooling sources from a bunch of local sources, including the architects, and the other groups we’ve discussed.

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