This June, people joined us for the start of our PRESENT design talk series. The first of these season talks took place at the Root & Branch Roastery in Portview Trade Centre, where we whiled away a quiet Saturday morning with a talk from illustrator Paul Ryding. 

We've relived the event by writing the below but before you read through, we want to share a message of appreciation to everyone who helped us bring PRESENT to life. To Ciaran Hurson for designing the series' visual identity, Root & Branch for hosting us and indulging us with delicious coffee, Paul Ryding for taking the time to give the talk, Matthew Skelton for volunteering at the event itself, and to all the lovely people who joined us at PRESENT.


The Speaker

Paul Ryding's first collaboration with Belfast Design Week was in 2017 when he spoke at the festival's annual Design Dinner. We were glad and grateful to host Paul as our headliner for the summer edition of PRESENT. 

Paul's presentation was "fascinating", to quote from one of our guests. Not a beeline projection of his portfolio, Paul instead focused for the most part on demonstrating the difference between art and illustration and bridging the gap in our understanding of illustration as a functional design discipline. 

Bringing us through the earliest examples of illustration through to the present day. We experienced a snapshot of legacy works from illustrative forebearers such as Hokusai, Norman Rockwell and Ralph Steadman. The presentation then shifted forward in time to profile contemporary illustration with examples from Mr Bingo and Kate Gibb, as well as works from other local illustrators like Peter Strain. 

A favourite subject of ours and of our guests, Paul discussed the path taken to his career as a professional freelance illustrator who specialises in portraiture. He clued us in to his inspiration, from films and the photorealist portraits of Chuck Close. Paul explained the twists and turns to carving out a place for his niche illustrations and the conviction required to make his signature style a viable way of making a living. 

We can't thank Paul enough for giving up a Saturday morning no doubt to be enjoyed with his lovely family, to spend it with us and our community. Thank you Paul.  


The Space

The Root & Branch Roastery at Portview Trade Centre can only be likened to stepping inside a photo set from a design magazine. A warehouse-style space, the Roastery could easily be mistaken for a studio in California or Copenhagen. A place to explore coffee, the Roastery and Brew Bar is designed to harbour creativity, experimentation and regular new roasts and coffees. 

A great space to escape to for working or for just some quiet you-time, the Root & Branch Roastery is effortlessly cool with the extended ceiling, open plan layout, and relaxed playlist. With all of the coffee roasting apparatus visible form the brew bar, there was a unique satisfaction of being able to see and hear about your coffee's journey from bean to cup.

One of Root & Branch's founders, Simon Johnston, welcomed us on Saturday with an introduction to the new roastery and how Root & Branch came to be. Simon discussed the real-time  environmental and ethical challenges facing the coffee industry at the minute and the innovations currently underway at Root & Branch to address these. 

Root & Branch curate a number of their own events throughout the year and this month they're hosting their SOLSTICE events at the original Root & Branch on Jameson Street. The event will host a five course tasting menu from their wood fired kitchen.  


The People

We were joined by a mix of interesting folks from across Belfast and beyond for PRESENT. The event attracted people from all walks of design including graphic design, architecture, illustrators, publishing and more. But we also welcomed people from non-design backgrounds including accountants, legal professionals, and students who simply wanted to enjoy an intriguing talk and great coffee.