Plans revealed by Dundee Design Festival for one of the world’s most sustainable design festivals 

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Festival Creative Director Dr Stacey Hunter reveals how every festival action and decision is assessed on a festival sustainability matrix as new partnerships are developed for renewable energy, transport and exhibition staging

 – V&A Dundee and Bard donate materials from exhibitions Tartan and The Grit and the Glamour to help Dundee Design Festival meet target of no more than 30% of new materials in the festival build

– Festival venue Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc (MSIP) powered by green, and sustainable energy sources and electric bus company Ember will provide emissions free public transport to the festival 

Copyright – Grant Anderson / www.grantanderson.me / @grantandersondotme

Dundee Design Festival have revealed their commitment to creating one of the world’s most sustainable design festivals ahead of the 5th edition of the festival which takes place from 23 – 29 September. 

Partnerships with V&A Dundee and Bard to repurpose exhibition materials, Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc to power the festival site with a mix of green and sustainable energy sources , and Ember to provide electric public transport, are the first stages for the festival which also has a commitment to using no more than 30% of new materials in the festival build. 

Dundee Design Festival 2024 (DDF 24) will celebrate the city’s 10th anniversary as a UNESCO City of Design by working with local and international partners to present an ambitious and optimistic programme of design-centred exhibitions, events and projects. Dundee was the first and remains the UK’s only UNESCO City of Design, one of a global network of 49 cities around the world. This status recognises the city’s diverse contributions to design in fields including comics, textiles, medical innovation and video games. In addition to hosting public facing design events like the biennial festival, Dundee is the only city in Scotland to have its own dedicated design museum; V&A Dundee as well as two leading art and design universities and Dundee & Angus College who co-founded the UK’s first Service Design Academy with Open Change. The city has a thriving Creative Industries sector with a variety of design related businesses. 

Speaking ahead of the festival Annie Marrs, Lead Officer at UNESCO City of Design Dundee said:

“We are surrounded by a strong and successful design community here in Dundee. One of the reasons Dundee was designated a UNESCO City of Design is the city’s commitment to design and innovation driving our commitment to sustainable development. It’s natural for us to want to create one of the world’s most sustainable design festivals and ensure that the best in design is showcased to as many people as possible. 

Our festival’s Creative Director,  Dr Stacey Hunter is committed to applying a design process to every element of decision making around what we do and don’t include in the festival. By creating a matrix for decisions around sustainability Stacey has helped us to centre our core values and work towards achieving our sustainability goals.

There is lots of great work being done in this field, but the impact of temporary festivals can be significantly negative on our environment. I believe that DDF 24 can be a case study in how cultural organisations and businesses can collaborate to lower their collective carbon footprint. 

Everything we do is shaped by the values of the UNESCO Creative Cities mission statement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Whenever we embark on a project, we ask ourselves ‘What difference will this make?’ and we consider how what we do locally helps to achieve a global impact.” 

Copyright – Grant Anderson / www.grantanderson.me / @grantandersondotme

Creative Director and festival curator Dr Stacey Hunter said:

We are developing partnerships with a variety of organisations who share our values around sustainability and the value of design. It’s been a really exciting phase for us as we, as a team, push ourselves to minimise waste and maximise opportunities. 

As details have emerged about our amazing site at MSIP and our sustainability goals, design-centred organisations like V&A Dundee and Bard reached out to us with generous offers of materials and infrastructure. For me as a designer and a curator this is a natural way of doing things in Scotland. We are a tight-knit community and Scotland has always been known around the world for its capacity for frugality! Any kind of waste is something that most people working in design are always keen to eliminate and the partnerships we are developing are symbolic of that urge to be efficient. 

One of the biggest insights I have taken away from working with designers who are tackling sustainability through all sorts of lenses – from toxicity to circularity – is that sustainability is a journey. Eco-shaming is holding people back from trying to improve and taking risks. It’s important to think about a project holistically and stay flexible. Our decision to hold the festival all under one roof at Scotland’s biggest innovation parc was the first step; underpinning all activities at MSIP is a collaborative approach to achieve the goal of net zero so it’s the perfect environment for us to learn and grow. We are working with designers who are pushing the boundaries of their own practice and through conversations with them about their work we’re able to strengthen our knowledge. 

Specifically for DDF, I have been mapping potential materials and manufacturers in Dundee to determine the most viable materials, in terms of availability, infrastructure, and the lowest carbon options for constructing our festival infrastructure. Transforming low value available materials into something beautiful sometimes takes longer but thanks to MSIP I have the longest install period for a show I’ve ever had! Material choices and production will be as sustainable and non-polluting as possible – including designing for deconstruction and onward reuse. That means we will be designing in a way that maximises the possibility for us to reuse our displays at future festivals.”

As well as a drive to re-use as much material as possible, Stacey has developed a materials palette guiding the festival’s overall aesthetic from items which can be borrowed or reused such as breeze-blocks, Heras fencing, scrap timber and bricks. All of which will help Dundee Design Festival achieve their sustainability goals of using less than 30% virgin materials. 

Speaking in more detail about the collaborations and process involved in developing one of the world’s most sustainable design festival, Creative Director Dr Stacey Hunter also said:

“The beauty and the challenge at MSIP is the scale of the spaces. We need to use all of the available infrastructure and lighting conditions to our advantage whilst ensuring we have a harmonious and exciting balance of dark and light, height, density, volume, massing and porosity.

We are working with renowned lighting designer Emma Jones to use lighting to demarcate vantage points, cluster areas and quiet zones which will enhance visitor experience and encourage a sense of anticipation, hospitality and conviviality. These are all techniques that are regularly employed by interior designers and for me, they demonstrate how you can design a space with far less consumables like paint, mdf or acrylic. 

When I received the Tartan exhibition infrastructure from V&A Dundee, I had to reimagine it in a completely new configuration for our festival so that it feels fresh and original. I’m working with an excellent designer and fabricator Louise Forbes – she is great at devising the minimum amount of framework required to add to the structures we have. 

Festivals are the ideal platform to experiment with more sustainable approaches. I feel confident that our visitors will fully support the decisions we are making as a team and will hopefully feel empowered to make more sustainable choices for themselves whether it’s DIY at home or a gardening project.”

Caroline Grewar, Director of Programme, V&A Dundee said: “It was extremely important to us from the outset that the Tartan exhibition infrastructure was designed and built to have a life beyond its initial 9-month run at V&A Dundee. We are delighted that the exhibition materials will now have a second home at this year’s Dundee Design Festival less than 5 miles away from the museum, and we can support the festival team in achieving their sustainability goals of using less than 30% new materials.”

Copyright – Grant Anderson / www.grantanderson.me / @grantandersondotme

Adam Parry
Author: Adam Parry

Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.

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