Clerkenwell Design Week – The Festival in Focus (22-24 May)

It’s here – the third annual Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW) opens on 22 May, and brings to EC1 three days of buzz, big names and brilliance.

It’s Clerkenwell Design Week from 22 to 24 May. It’s an event that celebrates EC1 and all its historic quirkiness, as well as top design talent from around the world. It sees our streets come alive with people, weird and wonderful installations, pop-up stalls and a unique vibe. Because it is such a key local event, half this issue is dedicated to it; what’s happening, who’s coming, where to visit. You’ll find it sometimes referred to throughout as “CDW” (short is sweet). It was during the last CDW that this magazine launched. We’ve had a brilliant first year, and thank you for all your support.


It’s here – the third annual Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW) opens on 22 May, and brings to EC1 three days of buzz, big names and brilliance. This year, there are more exhibitors than ever, hence the addition of a third, unique historic venue. This means that you can now see plenty of creative talent on show at the Priory Church of St John in St John’s Square, as well as at the Farmiloe Building on St John Street and the House of Detention in Sans Walk. The church’s medieval crypt is a standout in itself and certainly gives the House of Detention a run for its money in the atmosphere stakes.

Besides all the exhibits, the festival, which is free to attend and sponsored by Jaguar, includes a host of talks, product launches, fringe activities and parties – and, of course, buying opportunities. Head to the Farmiloe to find pop-up shops from the likes of Etsy, Phaidon and, a new, Clerkenwell-based design venture.

Don’t miss out. To register for entry, and to find out more about what’s on, visit



One of the reasons you know it’s Clerkenwell Design Week, apart from the swarms of people, is that strange sights spring up in the area. We’ve had an inflatable doughnut, a life-sized pin-up game and giant lamps in the past. This year, St John’s Square will boast a Solar Tree (pictured) – a radical, eco-friendly take on street furniture by well-known designer Ross Lovegrove. There’s also going to be a “forest” of umbrellas on stilts at St James’ Church, a tiny theatre on wheels touring the area (see page 17) and, at the Frameless Gallery in Clerkenwell Green, a contraption that automatically makes baskets – but only when it’s got an audience. Oh, look out for the red teapots dotted about, too, courtesy of local showroom Zip Heaters.

As we all know, “legacy” is a key part of the London 2012 mission. CDW 2012’s legacy will be the Solar Tree, which will stay put till the end of the Games in September.



This year marks the centenaries of two locally based brands: Steelcase and Poltrona Frau. To celebrate, the former is looking back over its Frank Lloyd Wright collaboration of the Thirties. The latter is showcasing the work of young designer Benjamin Hubert; it’s also hosting the CDW closing party, with Icon magazine.


Admire a prototype of the Olympic torch at Vitra on Clerkenwell Road, and hear its designers, Barber Osgerby, explain all in a talk on 23 May. Attend the debate “Retro Design Crimes”, hosted by London Design Festival deputy director Max Fraser, at Milliken in Berry Street, also on 23 May. Listen to “Clerkitect” Piers Gough wax lyrical on two of his favourite subjects, buildings and food, at the Farmiloe Building on 24 May.


Craft Central’s summer “Made in Clerkenwell” open-studios event runs alongside CDW, from 24-27 May, at its two buildings, in St John’s Square and Clerkenwell Green. On 22 and 23 May, its “Makers in Residence” initiative with onoffice magazine will see designers giving live demos in its St John’s Square windows.