Computer ArtsFeature

Discover London Digital Week!

We catch up with organiser Rob Corradi to find out more about the inaugural London Digital Week event, which starts on 21 September.

On the week beginning 21 September seven days of conferences, workshops, meet-ups, awards and exhibitions will be taking place in the capital under the umbrella of London Digital Week. The event will centre around Shoreditch and Brick Lane, but also encompass other creative areas of London such as Soho.

We caught up with Rob Corradi, one of the London Digital Week's organisers, to find out more about the inaugural event.

What is LDW?
London Digital Week is about bringing together, celebrating and strengthening the digital community in London. It gathers the diversity, innovation and creativity of everyone involved in a tech and digital focussed activity with an aim to encourage sharing, growth and innovation.

Who is behind LDW?
London Digital Week was founded by Chester Chipperfield, Jimmy MacDonald, Rob Corradi, Collyn Ahart and Richard Buchanan. We all work in related but different areas of the digital industries covering design, advertising, architecture, fashion, development and interaction design. As a result we all know first-hand how much scope and possibility there is for cross-industry pollination through digital technologies.

Five years ago this was only just beginning to happen. Now it's impossible not to see the fundamental changes taking place. Industries involved in using, producing and engaging with digital technologies have witnessed an amazing evolution. So much so, that it is impossible to ignore the impact it has had, not only on how we create, but on how we do business, access talent and make the most of new markets.

Why did you decide to launch LDW?
We saw the digital industries had many separate things happening throughout the year, but under no unified banner, and with next to no cross-over between them. There was nothing that brought us all together, enabling us to help ourselves or to celebrate London's achievements in digital as a whole.

The London Design Festival, with whom LDW runs alongside, does this for traditional design, but the number of digital events in their week is minimal. So it was clear there was an opportunity here to create something to fill this gap. As a result London Digital Week was founded on the belief in, and desire for, a community-based festival which would bring all the many disciplines focussed in digital together.

How does it work?
The week should be seen as everyone's platform to get things done, try new things and to create new relationships. We are a lightweight organisation, most of the time that has gone into the week so far has been volunteered by a core group of 6 or 7 people, and the week is not run for profit. Essentially, we have tried to create an environment in which anyone with an interesting event can sign up and participate, and we do what we can to facilitate, support or input into it for it to be a success.

From the very beginning we all shared the belief London Digital Week should embrace its openness: open-source, open to change, open to anyone who wanted to get involved. Many of the events this year, such as This Happened and Digital Architecture London would not have happened on the scale they are, or at all, without London Digital Week's initiative and support.

However, the week depends on industry involvement to be effective. We hope brands and companies see the week as a real opportunity, a chance to showcase their own role within the digital community by giving back and getting involved through sponsorship, partnerships, events, venues and the resources to help it happen.

Why should people get involved?
Companies and individuals can really get a lot out of the week in so many ways, from creating and encouraging discussion and learning new skills to networking and developing new relationships. It's about sharing and absorbing. As a platform for exchange, the more people get involved the more everyone benefits.

What are the main aims?
When we started thinking about London Digital Week we first looked at the challenges and opportunities the industry faced and how we could create an opportunity for it to debate them. We wanted to create a forum for face to face discussion and also to shine a light on digital, primarily in London and more widely the UK.

Another aim has been to get us as an industry to take inspiration from elsewhere, collaborating with fashion designers, film-makers, architects, artists and such. It's in these cross-industry exchanges that some of the most interesting and effective innovations are taking place, and it is only through digital that this is possible. We believe in embracing this industry cross-pollination, London and the rest of the UK is positioning itself as a creativity and innovations leader, forging not just new businesses and industries, but whole new ways of generating change.

Education as also central to much of what we are doing. Whether that's for people already in digital looking to expand their knowledge or skillset, or people pre- and post-university who are considering a career in our industry.

What has been the biggest challenge?
It's definitely been raising the funds needed to plan, organise and put on a week like this. Obviously the time-frame we set ourselves made it a challenge in itself, but the financial climate has not helped either. It's been a difficult year for everyone and obviously as a result money has been difficult to find. This has to a degree been compounded by the importance of digital still not being fully understood by both national and local government, so there haven't been any open doors for funding from those sources despite all the Digital Britain talk this year. Similarly big digital and tech-related business have not been especially forth-coming in supporting their industry. We had expected them to see the value of supporting something like London Digital Week, but they often turned out to be the ones least able to help, which has been a shame.

Thankfully, small businesses have helped immensely, with digital companies such as recruiters Digital Gurus, digital production company unit9, A/V specialists Alive and Sound and many more stepping up to give us the much needed financial and practical support to put a great Week together. We've developed relationships with businesses like these and partners such as Future, which we'll be taking forward into the new year, which is brilliant for us and our audience.

That said, we still have plans for this year's week that we want to and can action - and as a result we're still open to new discussion with any businesses, institutions or individuals who want to support the Week. Don't be coy in coming forward!

What are the highlights of the Week?
There's so much going on, that will appeal to so many different people, that it would be wrong of us to pick out any specific events! There are around forty events, covering short, full-day and multi-day formats under the LDW umbrella now. The aim from the start has been to work hard to ensure the Week is full of events that cover a broad range of topics and formats. Whether people are looking to learn something, share their own views, meet like-minded people or just have a good party, it's all in the Week, with much of it absolutely free.

What are the plans going forward?
London Digital Week has always been planned as an annual event so as soon as this year's is over, we will be moving straight into planning for 2010. We've learnt so much in the last six months, so it is great to be able to apply all that going forward. Also having the luxury of a full year to put it all together is an exciting prospect!

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