Digital festival and a US trade mission – City of Media Arts reveals global plans

Shooting for the stars… people gather at the Hiscox building to hear about the plans. Photograph: City of Media Arts on Twitter
1 Dec 2015 @ 9.43 pm
| Business, News

York plans to host a 20-day digital arts festival involving 100,000 people, it was announced on Tuesday (December 1).

And project leaders are off to Austin, Texas, to visit the renowned South by South West (SXSW) Festival.

At an event to mark the first anniversary of York securing its UNESCO City of Media Arts status, project leaders Marcus Romer and Stuart Goulden revealed ambitious plans for a ‘Mediale’ in 2017/18.

The festival will bring together digital artists, schools and performers to create 25 new commissions including major light displays, interactive pavilions and exhibits that use the backdrop of York as a canvas for cutting edge technology.

Also planned is a new set of awards to honour the world’s top digital artists.

People gathered at the new Hiscox building on Peasholme Green were told of plans to run the festival every two years.

Over one third of the first festival’s budget has already been pledged by local organisations and companies. A fundraising programme is underway to source match funding and sponsorship.

Trade mission

The UNESCO City of Media Arts team has also secured funding for the trip to South by South West, one of the world’s largest arts conferences.

York representatives will meet with key players in the media arts sector, and offer advice and guidance to the US city’s team who are also hoping to secure the prestigious UNESCO designation.

The funding is part of the government’s support for the Northern Powerhouse.

York has set up a new Guild of Media Arts to drive projects forward. Its acting master Chris Bailey said:

York has a vibrant media arts sector, with many individuals and companies across the city applying technology to a wide range of art forms, from computer gaming to digital imaging, film making or creating stunning projections.

Our UNESCO designation helps us to bring those people together under a common banner to better promote the skills that we have within York to a global audience – and this means not only taking our expertise out to the wider world, but also bringing the global focus onto our historic city.

Britain’s most inspirational city

York – connecting the past and future
York – connecting the past and future

“York is a city with a high quality of life, where culture and heritage draw millions of visitors per year,” said Jane Lady Gibson, chair of Make It York, the city’s destination management organisation.

“Yet it is also one of the best connected cities, with technology like the CityFibre ultrafast network providing gigabit internet connectivity speeds across the city.”

She added:

This combination makes it ideal for those working in the digital creative sectors who look to their environment for creativity, and do not want to be stifled by a large city mentality – York is probably the most attractive and inspirational city in the country.

Government support

The announcement won support from Tim Williams, chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, who said: “The UK National Commission for UNESCO welcomes this excellent initiative from York UNESCO City of Media Arts to establish a new international festival.”

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said:

York is leading the way in its support for innovation and creativity in the digital arts and it’s great to see how they are showcasing this growing industry through its status as the first UK UNESCO City of Media Arts.

“A new international biennial is a hugely exciting prospect that will champion the next generation of talent and cement York’s place on the artistic map.

Local businesses and artists have also pledged their support by signing up for the new Guild of Media Arts, York’s first new trade guild for 700 years.

This group of professionals from across the arts, culture and education sectors will be responsible for managing projects coming under the York UNESCO City of Media Arts banner.

The guild is open to anyone in the city with a personal or professional interest in media arts.