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The juggling act

by Anthony Goodey

Anthony Goodey, show manager at Clerkenwell Design Week, on the challenges of putting on the multi-venue event. 

There is something comfortable about working inside an exhibition hall. My role across the last 11 years in the industry has taken me to most in the UK, and each follow a very similar format with the operation.

You want cleaning to move something? Just make a call. You need a Wi-Fi boost? Just call IT. You have someone stuck in a traffic queue? Well…good luck with that.

Our Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW) features none of the above. No purpose-built toilets, no IT team, no fixed floor and certainly no fixed roof or residency. But that right there is why I love it; the nervousness of managing Media 10’s only UK outdoor event!

Any outdoor event is always held to ransom over the same thing – the weather – and over the last few years of working on CDW I can give you one piece of advice…Trust no one! Don’t trust the BBC, don’t trust your weather app, don’t trust ‘the experts’. When you get up in the morning hang your head out the window – look up – and see what you’ve been given for the day ahead. If it’s sunny – happy days! If it’s not, then you better have laid enough trackway.

CDW has 115 showroom partners, 11 pop-up showrooms, 25 food and drink partners, 25 fringe partners, seven exhibition venues and a programme of street sculptures and installations…all dotted over a square mile site.

All the above are top heavy with content, as the design world unites to celebrate London’s creative heart, attracting in excess of 35,000 visitors to the streets of Clerkenwell.

But that’s not all. The exhibition venues are far from conventional, as we transform prisons, churches and nightclubs into usable exhibition spaces, juggling complex relationships and agreements that break the ‘norm’ across the board.

Fabric Night Club is home to our ‘Light’ Exhibition. Working around Fabric’s busy schedule is always a challenge – but the space provides the perfect backdrop for the most beautiful lighting installations (installed in a small window of 16 hours).

We adopt the churches and crypts of St James and St. John – working within the most historic, prestigious, and therefore protected spaces. We build outdoor structures in two of Islington’s biggest residential parks too, which were clearly not built with the intention of ever being exhibition venues.

And then there’s the ‘House of Detention’, our secret, under-ground, abandoned, prison. A prison that still has the metal cell doors, Grade Two protection and leaks when it rains!

CDW is only possible with the support of the local council and residents, this in itself is an involved, delicate, juggling act to ensure that we don’t cause any disruption to the local community. We continue to support local programmes through schools and community centres to ensure that CDW is offering more than the three-day takeover each May. CDW takes time and commitment from everyone involved, it’s an utter labour of love. I feel like I am uniting the Avengers when I take it on, from our operations team (Miriam of Ways & Means fame) to our hand-selected pool of floor managers to our stand contractor (Proj-X). You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t love it – so hats off to them all.

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