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  • Writer's pictureCOY! Communications


Updated: Aug 5, 2022

“One of our speakers has dropped out due to Covid, what are you doing on Saturday?” - That was Dan from the B.D.F. (That’s Birmingham Design Festival a few weeks back).

He wanted me to jump on a train to Birmingham and do a talk (obvs). Now, usually I’d be all for it, but I knew for a fact that I’d scheduled some important TV-watching that coming Saturday. Bought some new batteries for the remote and everything.

Even so, I had a quick look at the BDF website to find out more… They had some famous big-name speakers signed up: the super-talented Morag Myerscough with her monumental, graphic, super-colourful installation pieces, wonderful Kate Dawkins with her symphonies in light, Mr Bingo…

I thought, “I’ve never met Mr Bingo - he’s hilarious. I’d reeeeally like to meet him.” So I called Dan back. “I’m in. Where do I sign?”

It was only afterwards that I was informed Mr Bingo was the covid-suffering speaker who had had to pull out. Bollocks.

“Also, it has to be about freedom,” Dan said, “that’s the theme of this year’s festival.”

What? They not only want me to ditch my evening with Ant and Dec, they want me to write a whole brand new talk about freedom… in a DAY?!!

Well, I’d agreed now, so I had to do it. I set about securing a ticket to Birmingham, and packing my lucky trousers (just in case).

I was wringing my brain when - ‘Aha!’ - I thought - ‘I’ll use an existing talk that I’ve done before and put a slide at the front that shouts, ‘FREEDOM’ in bold type… Then I’ll explain (v. seriously) that freedom has always been extremely important to me, especially as it’s allowed me the freedom to give an old talk that’s NOT about freedom at such short notice. Brill.’

"Settle down now"

The lovely audience laughed in all the right places

Strangely this got the biggest titter of the evening

I arrived early on Saturday morning to catch a few talks myself, and saw four in total: all very different, yet inspiring and entertaining in equal measure.

In particular I was bowled over by two smashing speakers: creative phenomenon Sarah Boris who’s work is tres délicieuse, and Tony Brook and Jonas Zieher of the magnificent ‘Spin’ design agency. They all touched upon their design work (which was terrific) but what really knocked me out was their works of ART.

I was chuffed by how well-attended they were, too. I was really hoping for the same kind of audience later that evening…

Turns out I had nothing to worry about… The place was completely rammo.

Something was troubling me ‘tho; I had a 30-minute time slot in which to wedge an hour-long talk.

Fortunately, I had another brainwave and enrolled a member of the audience to give me a ‘secret signal’ 20 mins in. (Actually, it wasn’t just any old audience member… it was the very popular previous speaker, renowned risographer Gabriella Marcella of ‘RISOTTO’.) The plan was, after 20 mins she would call out, ‘Ka-Kaw! Ka-Kaw!’ I could then go into hyper-drive mode and speed up the end.

As it turns out, the talk went so well, (with the lovely crowd laughing in just the right places) that I ignored the ‘Ka-Kaws’ and just ploughed on and enjoyed meself.

I think they must have enjoyed it too, because a big gang of them invited me for a drink or two afterwards.

I had such a fabulous time, I’m definitely going for the full four days next year!

So bloody well done Dan and Luke. A fantastic festival on every level. Educational, inspirational and super-sociable - I was only there for 24 hours and met so many lovely people that I ran out of business cards!

So next year, I’m taking a case-full, and who knows, I might even be lucky enough to hand one to Mr Bingo!



Luke Tonge & Daniel Alcorn (@designfestbrum)

Photographer: Thom Bartley (

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