Icon 172 – Presenting some of the highlights of the upcoming London Design Festival, and considering whether the British capital can hold on to its creative community after Brexit.
Icon 172: Five years ago, the New York Times declared London to be the world’s creative capital. It was a particularly giddy time for the city. The Olympics, predicted in some quarters to be a trumpeting white elephant, proved a runaway success. Thomas Heatherwick carried a literal and figurative torch for the power of British design – the defining moment of an imaginative opening ceremony. Much has changed since then. Heatherwick’s golden sheen is now tarnished by the Garden Bridge saga, and the much-touted regeneration of east London has become synonymous with underlying cost-of-living issues. Eulogies hailing the creative panacea were replaced by a slew of articles entitled, ‘Why I am leaving London’. If all this didn’t quite add up to an exodus, there was at least a trickle of talent that packed up and headed to Birmingham, Lisbon or Berlin. And then, looming on the horizon like the Flying Dutchman – crewed by not-so-able seamen Farage, Gove and Johnson – came Brexit. In truth, no one I knew thought we would follow these geniuses out of the EU. But then, like 16 million others, I hail from a metropolitan elite. How could I possibility understand the mood of the people?
After it happened, no one in the creative sector had a clue what to do. But then what could they do? Sulk, as architect David Chipperfield admits to doing in our interview this month, and then, in an impeccably British way, opting to write a letter. Some European designers, former Icon cover star Marjan van Aubel among them, left immediately after the triggering of Article 50. London can be a hard place to live, but until June 2016 it could rightfully claim to be a truly global city. Remove that advantage and the case to stay is harder to make.
The upcoming London Design Festival will see the city once more present its creative credentials to the world. The early signs are that this year’s show will be a good one but, just as before, the event will showcase talent from a host of nationalities – Flynn Talbot, Camille Walala (who designed our cover this month) and Julian Melchiorri among them – all of whom have chosen the city as their home. Will they still be here post 2019?