Design Story: Simon Worthington from Turf & Grain magazine

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When I think of Future Heritage, I think of Legacy. 

What a loaded term. Especially here, especially now. 

When I think about legacy, I think both of the legacy that we have inherited from the generations before us and reflect on the legacy that our generation will leave behind. 

In Northern Ireland we live in a post conflict era, and the legacy in terms of what has been left to us culturally, economically and politically looms large. The current deadlock at Stormont reflects just how sensitive our political framework is. But what we have inherited from our forebears is both a blessing and a curse.

Over the last decade there has been an increase of creative businesses in Northern Ireland, which can be attributed to many things. However to say that an increase in the amount of creative people in Belfast is what has led to this increased presence is perhaps misguided. 

Over the last thirty years, great cultural things have come out of Northern Ireland that relate to many different aspects of design. That being said, conflict zones are like a desert - people can live there but not much can flourish. During the Troubles,  there was too much distraction and a sense of stoicism in the face of real danger for a sustained cultural movement to develop. 

But that is not our cultural moment. 

Our opportunities are different and it is now our turn to decide how we shape our lives, our towns and cities. After all, it is the responsibility of the young to wrestle with the ideas of those that have come before them - to find a better way.  

As we begin to reawaken and embrace a respect for authenticity and crafted design within our culture, we have the opportunity to get projects off the ground that might otherwise be smothered by competition elsewhere. Unlike in London, Berlin or Tokyo - where anything we can think of has been done and done again, Belfast offers a fresh chance to create. If I had tried to get Turf & Grain off the ground in London I doubt it would have worked. I had too many personal doubts, made too many little mistakes. 

I appreciate that many of you are involved with projects of your own making, and that I am in some ways ‘preaching to the congregation’. But if you have a project you are thinking passionately about - I urge you to take your chance and go for it. There has never been a better time. One of our interviewees in our Makers Issue, Síofra Caherty, told me that it is not necessarily the most talented people that succeed, but the people that persist the most. So if you are in the midst of an ongoing project but finding it difficult I urge you to persist.

Because Northern Ireland needs people like you. 

People that will create something that will inspire people to stay in this place instead of moving abroad for opportunities. People to engage with like minded people in a way that will make us collectively realise how special our cultural moment is. The grass will always be greener on the other side if we don’t water what is around us. 

Simon spoke at Share 6 at Belfast Design Week!