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.

Umbrella Design Festival Promo Film

A University project made to pitch a design festival concept to the Manchester City Council. The film showcases the areas that were chosen to hold the festival, whilst the orange umbrella leads the viewer through the city and to these spaces.

We have collaborated under one ‘Umbrella’, which coincidentally became the concept for our festival.

Our Umbrella Design Festival stands for:
– Branching out
– Connecting People
– Sheltering Manchester

This exhibition shows our journey of ideas exploring ‘Umbrella’

‘Umbrella’ is a design festival hoping to take place across 5 days in June 2014. It will be an outdoor festival aiming to be made up of 21 designed pop-up spaces across Manchester, holding content such as fashion, film, music, 3D design, photography and artists exhibitions.

One of the main emphases of ‘Umbrella’ is to contribute to the regeneration of Ancoats. We aim to bring colours, attractive culture and imaginative design ideas into the area.

Some Design Fest Links


The ‘Spaces’ group met up this morning. We had a really good discussion of ideas. Still quite ‘blue sky’ but with a view to coming up with some more solid proposals.

SAMSUNGWe discussed:
The ‘River of Light Festival’ by Creatmosphere. Use canals and rivers.
Anna Garforth’s ‘Grow’ project (“A self initiated project, searching for hidden, wild spaces around London. This small wilderness was locked away behind steel gates. A disused plot of land awaiting development.”). Can we bring green to hidden spaces?
What about re-designing urban allotments? This links with the upcoming ‘biospheric’ project – part of this years MIF. Design and urban food growing?
A series of designed anti-sensory spaces (in small units, portable?, in shipping containers?): could be anechoic chambers (zero external noise); monochrome spaces (e.g. James Turrell); total black-out space; subsonic frequency space; meditative space; dark touch space (consider disabilities such as deafness and blindness etc); low-stimulus spaces etc….
Digital Vs Non-digital? Digital plus non-digital?
Transitional spaces into and within Manchester : airport, bus/train stations.
How about tents / colour spaces.
Disorientation zones; disrupting patterns. Highlight how we are already disorientated in the city.
Making the familiar unfamiliar; making the unfamiliar familiar.
Can we use roof tops? (The New Build Terrace?)
A disorientation lift: could someone design a lift that went down and yet fooled you into thinking it was going up (and vice versa).
Could we have a theme of messing with the senses, disorientation, changing perceptions, challenging experiences?



Working with local and international artists SEVEN SITES presented a series of performances and installations in different locations across Manchester and Salford. With one installation or performance occurring each month between September 2011 and March 2012 SEVEN SITES developed as an accumulative collection of diverse encounters.

Inviting artists to occupy the differing environments of a domestic flat, a church hall, a hotel room, a roof top and a comedy club the encounters evolved into playful punctuation marks within everyday routines, disrupting the familiar frameworks of engagement that occur between artworks, audiences and the city.

Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 22.14.06

RIBA’s Forgotten Spaces.

This national competition, which every year occurs simultaneously in the north and south, aims to uncover the potential of the neglected buildings and land that punctuate urban spaces as frequently as ferries across the Mersey. This year, designers and architects are being invited to put forward proposals as to how they would transform such places in Preston and London – anything from empty shop units to derelict houses. RIBA, which has run the competition since 2010, says that proposals “can be simple or complex, commercial or public, a piece of public art or a new building,” the only condition being that the designs connect in some way to the local community.

Could this be a MCC / MDF collaboration?