Design Manchester Turns 5: What to Expect From DM17

— 5 minutes, 47 seconds read —
design manchester 2017

Light the birthday candles, Manchester’s much-loved design festival is turning five this year.

Yes, Design Manchester is back and, just like the city, it’s done some growing up. A lot has happened to our city since the last festival, and this year’s event is set to reflect upon, learn from and celebrate these changes.


First thing’s first: When is it?

Design Manchester 2017 will run from the 11th – 22nd October, sticking close to the timing of last year’s festival, but with one extra bonus day!


And what is it?

Most arty Mancunians will know all about Design Manchester by now, but for those of you who are new to the city, here’s a quick background…

Design Manchester is a not-for-profit organisation that gives Manchester’s art and design scene the voice it deserves. The organisation is active all year round, but the cherry on the cake is the main DM festival, which always falls in October.

The festival’s creators wanted to give Manchester the opportunity to shout about its talents, and so began talking with sponsors, Manchester businesses, high profile guest speakers and, of course, the local creatives. Eventually, the Design Manchester festival was born, packed with more than 50 events including exhibitions, films, workshops, debates and parties spanning Manchester’s design, art, music, film, architecture, media and sporting scenes.


What’s it about this year?

The theme of DM17 is ‘Reality Reframed’.

While the previous four festivals have focused on themes such as ‘Longevity’, ‘The Science of Imagination’, ‘Know How’ and ‘Design City’, this year’s theme celebrates and acknowledges the changes our city has gone through over the last 12 months, aiming to take the resulting challenges head on. This year we celebrate Manchester’s rich design heritage, its future visions in film, craft and digital fields and, as always, put the very best of Manchester’s creativity on show.

Who’s going to be there?

The Design Manchester team have gone all out this year to bring you one very special festival indeed. There will be many familiar faces popping up, including some of Manchester’s famous locals and, of course, the most influential artists and designers from Manchester, the rest of the UK and beyond.

Keep an eye out for these fabulous folks along the way:

Andy Burnham – Mayor of Greater Manchester

Buzzcocks – Manchester-born punk rock band (as if you didn’t know…)

Naresh Ramchandani – Advertising and communications partner at Pentagram

Malcolm Garrett – Creative Director of Images&Co.

Patrick Burgoyne – Editor of Creative Review Magazine

Gary Neville – Footballer and property developer (as if you also didn’t know…)

Tash Willcocks – Programme leader at Hyper Island Manchester

Colin Burns – Chief design officer for BBC Design & Engineering

DR.ME – Manchester design studio

Lou Cordwell – CEO and founder of magneticNorth

What’s happening?

There are a lot of incredible experiences being packed into these 11 special days, but here are some of the upcoming highlights that we can’t wait to see:

DM17 Film Season: Reframing Reality – Sunday 8th – Tuesday 24th October

Starting a little earlier than the main festival, the DM17 Film Season will look at the way in which film has portrayed different versions of reality and projections of the future. The season will include sci-fi classics such as Metropolis, Blade Runner and A Clockwork Orange, and you can also catch a series of design-led films, which will be screening every weekend throughout the festival. Film screenings will be split across three incredible Manchester venues: HOME, Texture and The Dancehouse. Check out the full details of every screening here.

Guardian Live: The Great Debate – Wednesday 11th October

6.30pm – 9pm – Manchester School of Art

If you’re interested in architecture and the future of Manchester’s public spaces, then this debate is right up your street. Discussing how we can make the public realm better support Manchester’s local communities are footballer-turned-developer, Gary Neville, Dublin city architect, Ali Grehan and partner at Hawkins/Brown architecture firm, Katie Tonkinson. As we all know, Neville caused quite a stir with his plans for new developments in the city centre, so this debate promises to be very interesting indeed.

Life on the Outskirts: Manchester Workshop – Thursday 12th October

11am – 3.15pm – Manchester School of Art

One for the students here. This workshop, aimed primarily at students (both undergraduate and postgraduate), considers how creative archives can be used for education, public engagement, creative and commercial purposes. Led by Dr Rob Knifton (University of Leeds) and Dr Alison Slater (Manchester Metropolitan University), students will use the Helen Storey Foundation creative archive as a case study and respond to its content in creative ways. Almost makes us wish we were students again, as this sounds fantastic!

Design Money: How to grow your creative company – Thursday 12th October

7pm – 9.30pm – The Federation, Federation House

From students to budding businesses now, and what looks to be an incredibly useful seminar from the experts at WEAVE digital and creative network. For any entrepreneurs looking to make Manchester their design business home, this session will look at access to funding and finance for design companies, followed by a panel discussion on ‘How to grow your creative company’. As a Manchester design business ourselves, we know just how important sessions like this can be, so get yourself signed up; it’s free!

Conference: Design City Reframed – Friday 13th October

11am – 6pm – The Principal Manchester

Now it just wouldn’t be Design Manchester without the conference, and this year’s looks to be an absolute cracker. The traditional day-long conference will be full of ideas, inspiration and many influential speakers. Hosted by Creative Review’s Patrick Burgoyne, the conference also features Pentagram partner Naresh Ramchandani, illustrator Emily Forgot and film production designer Alex McDowell. Joining them will be local heroes, Tash Willcocks of Hyper Island, who has taught and inspired many design graduates from the University of Salford including us, and Lawrence Kitson, product lead and service designer at Co-op Digital. There’s also a networking after party with plenty of refreshments, so why wouldn’t you?

Buzzcocks + PINS Live – Thursday 19th October

7pm – 11pm – O2 Ritz, Manchester

Returning to their hometown of Manchester, Buzzcocks will be playing many a classic, including Ever Fallen In Love and What Do I Get? You can also catch two Buzzcocks-centric exhibitions, Fizzing at the Terminals and Buzzcocks: Time’s Up! both exploring the history of this iconic band. Punk fans, this is your year!

Design City Weekender – Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd October

Upper Campfield Market Hall

A great way to round off the festival is at the Design City Weekender, a celebration of Manchester’s creatives, makers and print. Held in collaboration with G . F Smith and Manchester Print fair, the weekender will be packed with exhibitions and affordable artworks for sale, plus a schedule of exciting workshops including screenprinting, stop-frame animation, fashion design, collage and colouring. Excuse us a moment while we calm down.

And this is just a taste of the wondrous array of design treats in store for us during this year’s festival, so drop by the main website at for a run-down of the entire schedule. Get ready to block out a significant portion of your calendar!


Robert Lomas