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Meet the stars of design in Birmingham

Birmingham is a UK city with plenty going for it – more canals than Venice, some amazing architecture and a young, multicultural population. But unless you lived there, it's not somewhere you might automatically associate with design.

However that's about to change with the launch of the Birmingham Design Festival (opens in new tab). Taking place from 7-10 June at venues across the city, it's planned as a celebration of the local, national and international design industry. And it's lined up an incredible collection of speakers to inspire you, no matter which part of the wide world of design you're from, or whether you're a junior designer (opens in new tab) or an art director (opens in new tab).

Headline events 

Around 80 speakers (opens in new tab) are expected to be sharing their wisdom and insights, with the festival recently announcing its exciting its headline events. And boy, have the organisers excelled themselves with this line-up. 

Kicking the festival off on Thursday evening, cream of the crop of the design world, graphic designers and illustrators Rejane Dal Bello, Craig Oldham, Astrid Stavro and Anthony Burrill will take the stage for 'An Evening Extravaganza of Printed Passion! (opens in new tab)'. 

Friday the design party continues, with an amazing line-up of thinkers, designers and creative maestros who are all experts on branding and advertising. An Adventure into Advertising & Bighearted Branding! (opens in new tab) will feature award-winning designer Jack Renwick, BMB co-founder Trevor Beattie, design guru Jim Sutherland and Pentagram's Marina Willer.

Friday will see an amazing line-up of thinkers, designers and creative maestros who are all experts on branding and advertising

Friday will see an amazing line-up of thinkers, designers and creative maestros who are all experts on branding and advertising

If all of that wasn't enough to tickle your creative taste buds, Saturday will see a special screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story (opens in new tab), with an introduction from Andrew Booth, Creative Director BLIND Ltd and Laura Dishington, Lead Designer on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Blade Runner 2049.

On into Saturday evening the third and final celebration in the Graphic District, An Illuminating Celebration of Colour, Craft & Creativity! (opens in new tab) will take place at the impressive Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The evening will showcase visually exciting work from The Yarza Twins, Eva and Marta Yarza, helloMuller aka Tom Muller and graphic designer Aaron James Draplin. 

Tickets for all of these headline events are on sale now (opens in new tab), so don't miss out, grab yours today! 

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It's not all design celebrities, though. The festival's organisers have taken care to involve local studios and individuals in a carefully curated programme based around the theme 'Forward'. And if you have a great idea for a talk or workshop, they'd like to hear from you (opens in new tab); download the festival submissions pack and send in your proposal by 27 April.

The Birmingham Design Festival is taking a clever approach to organising its many workshops, talks, exhibitions, demonstrations and screenings so that you're a lot less likely to miss out on something relevant to your interests. 

It's gathering everything into three distinct Design Districts – Graphic, Digital and Product – so no matter what your place in the design industry may be, you'll have no trouble seeking out inspiration over the festival's four days.

Free for all

While the headline talks are ticketed events, much of the rest of what Birmingham Design Festival has to offer is totally free. Directors of the festival Luke Tonge and Dan Alcorn explain why:

"We want to make BDF as accessible as possible in lots of ways – that includes not pricing out the young designer with slim disposable income, the student struggling to make their loan last till the end of term, or the out-of-work creative that just got restructured out of their ‘job for life’ and is now tentatively freelancing," says Tonge. 

"In fact, these are exactly the kind of folk we hope will be packing out our events – and they make up a significant part of the scene here in Brum. None of us have several hundred quid spare to drop on a design event ticket, and neither do most folk we know – so to ensure we have a packed festival we’re keeping it all as cheap as possible."  

Dan Alcorn continues: "We’ve been really fortunate to wangle a lot of favours and help from both our amazing speakers and our generous sponsors to make BDF viable – we’re not in this to get rich quick, we're all about supporting, encouraging and equipping people by exposing them to amazing people, stories, events and experiences. We believe cost isn’t always proportionate to quality, and if we can put on a great festival without compromising our aims we absolutely should. We want people to be left with a sense their time, attention and enthusiasm was valued and rewarded."

Birmingham Design Festival has a variety of workshops and seminars that are totally free to attend - hurrah!

Birmingham Design Festival has a variety of workshops and seminars that are totally free to attend - hurrah!

It's all adds up to a compelling design destination for the summer. "Our beloved city is currently undergoing an exciting period of evolution and development," says Alcorn, "and over the last few years these changes have also been evident in the creative industries. Brum is starting to act and feel like the creative powerhouse it has always had the potential to become."

You can find out more about the Birmingham Design Festival here (opens in new tab), and keep up to date by following its Twitter account (opens in new tab).

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Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.