An Insider’s Guide to the London Design Festival, Courtesy of the V&A’s Victoria Broackes

Artsy Design
Sep 16, 2013 9:47PM

Artsy Design Specialist Alex Gilbert spoke to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Head of Festival, Victoria Broackes, who gave us an insider’s guide to the London Design Festival—including a sneak peek of its grand entrance and a Dinner Party not to miss—and a shortlist of her favorite spots in her hometown city.

Artsy: Since 2009, the Victoria and Albert Museum has held court as festival hub for The London Design Festival. What is special about this year?

Victoria Broackes: 2013 marks the fifth year of the London Design Festival at the V&A. The relationship between the LDF and the V&A has been growing stronger each year, and each year our programme has become bigger, better and more exciting. This year’s festival is themed around the concept of design ‘here, there and everywhere’, and we are delivering a program that will bring visitors into contact with bold, exciting new design in every corner of the V&A building as well as highlighting that we live in a ‘designed’ world.

Artsy: Are there any events, shows, talks, or installations that you are personally most looking forward to?

VB: There are several highlight installations that will make this year’s festival very special indeed, for example the breathtaking lighting installation 28.280 in the Grand Entrance. This installation is made up of 280 individual, hand-blown glass lamps in a myriad of colours. Designed by Omer Arbel for Bocci, a Canadian glass manufacturer, this installation will really wow visitors as soon as they step inside the Museum. Another favorite of mine is The Dinner Party by Dutch design duo Scholten and Baijings. This theatrical installation recreates a sumptuous dinner party setting in the gorgeous surroundings of the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room, and is complemented with a specially composed musical soundtrack, played on the cups, glasses and plates that are featured in the dinner table setting. I’m also really looking forward to some of the events that we have lined up. This year we have themed the programme so that each day focuses on a different design discipline or subject matter. The first weekend is themed around graphics and paper, and features graphic designers such as Domenic Lippa, Michael Johnson, and Jonathan Barnbrook.

Artsy: Last December the V&A opened their first-ever dedicated furniture gallery. What has been the response from visitors to this gallery?

VB: Public responses have been overwhelmingly positive, in conversation, formal visitor evaluation, and in published reviews and notices. This has been particularly the case from students, designers and makers, a key constituency of the target audience for the gallery. The “Friday Late -Furniture” (February) and a symposium, “Furniture: Making and Meaning” (May), both of which were directly linked to the gallery, were enthusiastically attended events that demonstrated the interest excited by the gallery.

Artsy: Why is London known as the “design capital of the world”?

VB: London is just a fantastic city for design. Look at the designers that have emerged in London—Sir Terence Conran, Sir James Dyson, Jasper Morrison, Tom Dixon—but also at the number of designers, architects, and artists from other countries who have chosen it as their home and place of work. It adds up to a truly exciting mix that we celebrate in this Festival. The V&A, one of the greatest art and design museums in the world, was set up in 1851 to acquire and display design, and to educate and inspire creativity amongst its visitors. Since then, many designers have used the V&A as a source of inspiration, in fields that range from Product Design to Rock and Pop, such as John Pasche who designed the Rolling Stones Tongue and Lips logo whilst a student at the adjacent Royal College of Art. The London Design Festival now celebrates design by hundreds of designers, from the most established through to students and new graduates. There are nearly 300 events this year, at the V&A and across the city. It’s an incredibly exciting and eclectic mix, full of fresh ideas, creativity, and inspiration.

Artsy: This past May, the design-related events scheduled around ICFF were newly branded as NYCxDESIGN. Given London’s experience and success with the London Design Festival, what advice can you offer for New York?

VB: The thing about design is that it is really is all around us and therefore everyone has a role to play and an opinion to offer—we can all get involved. NYCxDESIGN will obviously involve a huge number of people both as participants and as audience. Theirs will run for longer than LDF which has benefits in terms of being able to do ambitious projects. On the other hand our nine-day run allows us to do things in a very different way that is separate from the everyday—that’s the beauty of a festival.

Artsy: A visitor has come to London for the festival. What local spots could you suggest (accommodation, cafes, sightseeing, nightlife) that are absolutely not to be missed?

VB: There are a wealth of exciting places in London to explore during LDF. The Ace Hotel, which has just opened in Shoreditch, is perfect for exploring the Shoreditch Design Triangle, while for sightseeing Kew Gardens, The Soane Museum, and Kensington Palace are all fantastic. For restaurants, try Hutong at the Shard, which offers views from the tallest tower in Europe, Grain Store at Kings Cross, or Flesh and Buns; just opened in Covent Garden, the focus of the menu is hirata buns. A U.S. interpretation of a Taiwanese street food, the sweet and fluffy dough is  folded then steamed before being brought to the table. Diners then stuff these pockets with their choice of ‘flesh’. And for an unusual cafe experience, The Attendant is a former public lavatory now converted into a cafe.

London Design Festival 2013 at the V&A, 14 – 22 September, www.londondesignfestival.com.

Follow the V&A on Artsy.

Images of 28.280 and The Dinner Party courtesy of Ed Reeve.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019