Belfast Design Week x Turf & Grain


Hi everyone,

Just wanted to share something really cool with you all - we are partnering with Belfast Design Week to create a podcast and a limited run magazine for BDW 2019!

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the festival, Belfast Design Week is an action-packed week each November full of design events, exhibitions and experiences designed to inspire Belfast's creative community, while opening up conversations and changing the perspectives of those in Belfast not normally exposed to such things. It is run by an amazing team of volunteers who work so hard to bring the festival to life each year.

Since it started in 2015, I've been attending events and reading the blog and loved what the festival was about, and even had the chance to speak at last year's BDW on the theme of Future Heritage. Rachel and I really love what the team there is doing - propagating a scene of possibility, creating a space where people can realise that there are great things going on in Belfast and showcasing the skilled and hardworking people doing their thing in the creative industries. Projects like this really resonate with us, and with the things we want to achieve with Turf & Grain.

So when Karishma asked me if Turf & Grain wanted to come on board to partner with the festival on their media, I was really flattered, and delighted to say yes.

At that time it wasn't really clear exactly what that would be that we would be doing but we set up a meeting, and I went away and had a bit of a think about the festival and how we could be of service. Karishma felt that while Design Week was really great at doing events, they wanted to reach more people beyond their usual audience.

I love to collect publications, and one of my favorites is the lifestyle magazine Monocle. Monocle have a well-oiled multi-platform approach to their offering which is amazing and a little ridiculous in terms of its scope and quality. In addition to their ten information-packed magazine issues a year they run a 24/7 radio station, a podcast and several limited run newspapers. And they make films. While we could never provide such a diverse offering to Belfast Design Week, I took inspiration from this approach - multiple layers of overlapping, complementary and quality information that people can pick up and mix up on the as and when.

So why not apply a similar approach to Belfast Design Week? - the team already had a blog running over the last few years called Design Stories, which offered a glimpse into the minds and workplaces of people working in the Design Industry in Belfast. This was already really similar in tone to what we do at Turf & Grain - so why not transition this into a limited run print magazine for the people that come to BDW in November. It could be a really special take home object for those that get their hands on one and can help the team at BDW continue to grow the identity of their festival?

While BDW is a festival primarily for the people of Belfast, there is a lot of international interest in the festival - not least south of the border. Podcasts are increasingly popular and are a really flexible and powerful medium - that can be played, paused and repeated on the commute, at home or in the workplace. It is a cool way for us to offer a window to what is going on in Belfast to the world at large and provide people a chance to hear design stories straight from the horses mouth, which is ideal in my books.

Each year at Belfast Design Week the team employ a theme to challenge people to think about different aspects of Design. In 2018 the theme was Future heritage, which sparked a fascinating discussion amongst designers of all disciplines about Belfast as a design city, what it is like in its current condition and what this city could become. This year, the theme for Belfast Design Week is Power - be it the power dynamic that shapes the design industry, the power of effective and beautiful design, or the negatives and positives of struggling with our own sense of powerfulness. Why not use the blog to let people freely submit what Power means to them - be it through the format of a story, an essay, a video or even a haiku.

I floated these ideas to Karishma and Ronan at our first meeting - and things got exciting really quickly because they were super onboard with the concept. We pretty much immediately started discussing who we wanted to feature which was eye-opening for me - Ronan and Karishma are both designers, far more in touch with the landscape of Belfast Design and its individuals than I am so I was very excited that there were lots of people on ur shortlist that I hadn't heard of yet. The vision that they put forward was of a representative population of the design community - as a large part of the project is to open people's eyes to what is going on in Belfast, we should try and share the stories of people not normally associated with design.

Equally exciting was how we were going to collaborate to make it all happen and what our roles would be. We decided that me and the rest of Team Turf would pull together the content for the print zine and record the podcast interviews, while Ronan is going to design the publication. Ronan is the designer behind Two Digs, and is a really talented guy. Having designed the previous four issues of Turf myself, I am really excited to see how he uses what I have done as a reference to make a publication that is entirely its own thing while remaining faithful to Turf & Grain and BDW's respective brands. I have no doubt it will be very special. Karishma is pretty busy running her own studio as well as organising much of Design Week but in addition to coordinating, pitching in her ideas and setting an overall brief she is going to produce the project.

Together, we agreed on a really great shortlist and reached out to our interviewees. At the time of writing we have recorded two of our podcast episodes and interviewed everyone for the print magazine. Already it has been such a great experience to work with the BDW team and to meet the interviewees, all from really different Design backgrounds. Thanks to Seán from Radio YNP for letting us use their studio and to Nathaniel Myers for composing our podcast music.

Belfast Design Week runs from 4 - 10 November and we are hoping to release all the content in November to coincide with the festival. I really recommend heading down to the festival to take in a talk, an interactive event or even just to feel the buzz - I've really enjoyed it year on year. See below for a few preview shots from our interviews. Thanks for reading guys.

Ciaran Hurson - shot by Kalie Reid

Lily Bailie - shot by Simon

Peter Strain - Shot by Simon