Major arts festival launched in York – as organisers vow to overcome funding setback

The famous South by South West arts festival in Texas. York aims to stage something similar. Photograph: York UNESCO City of Media Arts
2 Mar 2017 @ 9.08 pm
| News

Organisers of a major new arts festival for York have vowed to make it a spectacular success – despite suffering a significant funding setback.

The International Media Arts Festival – or York Mediale – will take place in October 2018, it was confirmed today (Thursday, March 2).

Designed to showcase our creative talent in areas such as digital art, gaming, film and computer animation, the Mediale will build on York’s UNESCO City of Media Arts status.

Make It York has been working behind the scenes on making the festival a reality.

The organisation’s original target was a budget of £1.5 million, and it applied for £425,000 of funding from the Arts Council.

But that was rejected at the end of January. “We were advised that the funding bid had ‘strongly met’ all criteria,” Make It York managing director Steve Brown told YorkMix.

“However, on this occasion it had been decided to allocate money elsewhere in the country.”

Working harder than ever

A digital city

Steve said they were disappointed by the decision – but it had brought a positive response.

“It is a setback rather than a showstopper.

“There will be other funding bids we can make, including to the Arts Council, and we have been really encouraged by the galvanising effect it has had on other partners across the city.”

Those partners include York St John University, York Museums Trust, the National Railway Museum, the University of York and Science City.

The new target budget is £1 million, Steve said.

The result of the bid means we’ll be working harder than ever to develop partnerships across the city to create this new international festival for York.

Get involved

Members of the Guild of Media Arts at a meeting in the Hiscox building to mark a year since UNESCO designation. Photograph: Jim Poyner

The festival will now be developed by creative director Tom Higham through a new community interest company, working closely with the York Guild of Media Arts.

Tom has big ambitions for the event, describing the Mediale as “a celebration of digital art, performance, visual art, and everything in between”.

He added:

York provides a stunning backdrop for a cutting edge celebration of media art.

The Mediale will highlight the creative technology sectors of film, TV, visual art, digital art, theatre, transmedia and multimedia performance, showcasing a quality of work never before seen in York, or in some cases, the UK.

Already on the drawing board are exhibitions at York Art Gallery and installations at the NRM. But they really want to hear from anyone with a great idea for the festival.

There are lots of opportunities for city businesses and organisations to get involved.

Bigger prize

The bright lights of York. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr

Although the focus is on the first festival in 2018, there is a longer-term aim too.

Every year UNESCO holds a conference for the 116 designated world creative cities and York will be bidding to be the host city for the 2020 conference – to coincide with the second York Mediale festival.

If successful, this could raise awareness of York’s digital creativity to an international audience.

Steve Brown said: “York is unique in having been awarded the City Of Media Arts designation in the UK and it would be negligent if we didn’t make something of this and use it to sell the city as a dynamic place to do business, to live, to visit and to study.

“The new Guild of Media Arts and the York Mediale are tangible developments for the opportunity York has been given through UNESCO.”