MMU Official Unit X Blog Site

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Students were asked to produce a manifesto for a design festival in Manchester and pitch the concept  to Manchester City Council.  ‘Blue sky thinking’ encourages students to come up with the most creative solutions to a design festival without being weighed down by too many constraints, as the focus remains on the process of exploring ideas rather than the co-ordination of the festival itself. This way the Council gets to experience forward thinking solutions which are likely to be innovative and novel suggestions of how a festival could be run.  One such concept was a secret ‘Dark Festival’, celebrating a counter culture – an underground voice to the commercialised design festival during the day. This grass roots festival would take place at night and concentrate on making people explore different senses to interact with the city space, rather than observing it.


There were novel explorations of how an audience would physically navigate a festival and many of the teams thought about the movement of people around the city as an integral part. A day time festival concept focussed on community, local business and sustainability where students envisioned breaking down the physical and physiological barriers that exist between the bustling Northern Quarter and Ancoats, which sits quietly only a few meters away. Taking note of the many car parks in great locations across the city, this group also explored these banal spaces that seem to be a statement of our reliance on cars and the city’s need to continue to improve it’s public transport and festival goers would be guided across the city into these ‘pop-up’ exhibits.   In contrast the previously mentioned ‘Dark Festival’ was concepted to be fluid and unstructured, with no programme, and no set ‘route’ for its participants, instead, being centred on intrigue and discovery.


Through the mixture of 3D designers, Graphics, Textiles and Interactive students, you can see how each student brought their own skills and students feed off one another. Through choice of space, branding and Identity, structures acting as pop-up spaces, the interaction of people when in the space itself and more,  it was clear there was a melody of complimentary skill sets.





Unit X – Blue Sky Thinking Exhibit

A sweep through the Unit X Blue Sky Thinking exhibition…..

A collection of work from the Manchester School of Art- Unit X: Design Festival Project.

Blue Sky Thinking is the product of Manchester School or Art (MMU)’s Unit X project at the Bench Self Made Gallery. The exhibition showcases their plans for the ultimate Manchester Design Week festival.

The students use innovative and unexpected media and materials to plan the concept demonstrated via the models, audio, film and textile samples on show.

Delving into the local community to find out what the people of Manchester would like to see in a design festival on their doorstep. Students filmed and recorded interviews with residents and businesses creating the great video and audio footage collated in the gallery.

Plans include a proposed footbridge to connect Ancoats to the Northern Quarter, a night festival to run in conjunction with daytime events and community workshops. Models of pop-up structures to be built to house events at the festival will also feature. Throughout April and May Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, have taken over the Bench Self Made Gallery with their Unit X Design Festival, as one of its external studios.

The evolving backdrop of exhibitions, music and events that have been running at the Bench Self Made Gallery alongside the project have encouraged students to focus on experimental ways of thinking and working, which can clearly be seen in the outcomes of the project.

Exhibition Preview Night

The culmination of the Unit X project was the exhibition in ‘self Made Gallery’ in the basement of Bench in Manchester. The evening was a great success with a packed space, lots of positive feedback and celebration.

I got so much from the project especially working cross course with students from Textiles in Practice, Interior Design and Graphic Design. The level of cooperation and collaboration was high with much skills sharing and creative energy.

College 3 was a ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ college. We formed three teams to work with a proposal for a Manchester Design Festival. And one team to work on a proposal to develop the Manchester of Science and Industry. The exhibition showed all four groups.

A video sweep round of our ‘Umbrella’ group section of the exhibition:

Images from the preview night:

Preparing for Exhibition

Following the pitch to the Council, City Co. and tutors from Manchester School of Art we had a couple of days to set up for the big exhibition in the ‘Self Made Gallery‘ in the basement of Bench.

Preparation day 1:

Preparation day 2

Preparation Day 3:

Ancoats Map Modifications

Using a map of Ancoats showing the redevelopment areas, I modified the map and made prints:

Ancoats Map polar coord(2)(72) Ancoats Map polar coord4(72) Ancoats Umbrellas & Textures2(72)Ancoats Map polar coord 2Printed onto canvas using fabric printer:IMG_4247

Pitching to Manchester City Council and City Co.

The three design festival teams presented and pitched to reps from Manchester City Council regeneration team, City Co and tutors from the Manchester School of Art. We did a good 25 minute presentation followed by Q&As and apart from some audio issues with our videos it went well. We received very good feedback from the panel.


Slides from our powerpoint presentation:

Creative Greenery

Our team was concerned with the greening of the city. How to bring more plant life and vegetation into such an industrial urban environment? The idea of hanging gardens and wall gardens seemed an obvious route to go.

For the final exhibition of the Unit X project we developed these ideas, creating lovely green installations with live moss, potted plants, fabric planters. We also covered our projector plinth in moss and decorated some of the display table with moss. This created a   visual uniformity and flow in our exhibition area.