Two of the South West’s most respected higher education institutions have worked together to create a unique spin on the traditional arts degree show via a spectacular website connecting graduates to industry that has already seen alumni from both universities employed in a recently completed property development project.
The University of Plymouth and Plymouth College of Art accelerated development of their nascent Ignite Festival, launched in 2019, which promotes students to local business and the city as an emergent hub for the creative community.
Part of the city’s iMayflower project, which is supported by the Cultural Development Fund through Arts Council England, the Ignite Festival’s transformation moved beyond simply recreating a graduate show online. It looked towards developing meaningful industry collaborations that would support graduate employment and local economic growth.
Launched in July, the Ignite Futures website acts as a hub to connect emerging talent from the two leading universities with Plymouth’s creative community, industry and the public to spark productivity and employment. More than 400 final year undergraduates completed a profile and submitted highlights of their work to www.ignitefutures.co.uk and city businesses were quick to react.
Maple Green Property Development, for one, was looking to support graduate development, providing an opportunity for artistic input at a new shared housing project in the city. The project provides a perfect example of what Ignite wants to showcase a lot more of, alongside more traditional festival elements.
Managing director Elliot Cox used the Ignite website to first select and recruit Margarita Tsek, who studied BA (Hons) 3D Design at University of Plymouth to work alongside him on initial concepts to capture the brand identity – high-end properties for young professionals with strong elements of sustainability. When Tsek delivered on the brief, Elliot returned to the website and engaged two more graduates, Eleanor Bruce, who studied BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking at Plymouth College of Art and Emma Booth, who studied BA (Hons) Photography at University of Plymouth.
Emma Booth said: “Ignite has connected all the valuable resources locally, promoting what Plymouth has to offer over London and other cities competing for graduates’ attention.”
Elliot Cox, Managing Director, Maple Green Property Development, comments: “I was keen to use local talent, local artists to help make the properties really stand out and the students I found via Ignite were exceptional.
“Margarita was involved pretty much from the start and once we had the look and feel, it was ‘What next’? I went back to Ignite looking at what might fit and three of them have been involved. A really good combination.
“Ignite is genius for building teams and developing people and, in turn, Maple Green provided a safe space for them to practise their art. I will definitely use the Ignite platform again.”
Ian Hutchinson, Head of Development at PCA, said: “The relationships we’re building with Plymouth businesses through Ignite are bigger than employer/employee. It’s about exploring the benefits of a creative input on one hand and providing an opportunity for work ready graduates to learn from working professionals on the other.
“The successes this year, and Maple Green is just one of those, in the face of exceptional odds, have inspired everyone. We’re excited to extend Ignite further still next year.”
Chris Bennewith, Head of the School of Art, Design and Architecture at University of Plymouth, said: “Ignite is a fantastic pitch for business to come and see art projects and the people behind them 24/7 and students are starting to realise how powerful a tool it is for them.”
With life expected to return to some semblance of normality in 2021, the Ignite Festival of Creativity [www.ignitefestivalofcreativity.co.uk] will realise its full potential over the next eight months, and beyond, with showcase events and online technology working in tandem.