Dublin design and media festival looks to the future

Event has the potential to fill more than the tech/start-up gap left by the Web Summit

A vacuum may have been left by the departure of Web Summit from these shores, but since then various folks in event management have been out to fill the gap. The Future – a two-day live design and creative festival – may be more focused on design, media, creativity and culture, but the role of each will be explored within the context of how they impact the future business landscape.

So think less start-up networking event where attendees focused principally on making a buck shoot business cards like ninja stars around the RDS for two days straight, and more the meeting of diverse, creative minds looking to expand more than just their bank balances. Waiver: there may still be business cards.

At last count, some 72 speakers on four stages will mingle with attendees in a macro networking event that curator and presenter Richard Seabrooke hopes will inspire conversations and debates leading to synergy across various disciplines.

"We want you to think 'I could do that', or 'Why not?', and to satisfy our never-ending creative thirst for more," he told The Irish Times.


“It’s not often such a talented and influential group of people are under one roof – and sharing their own views on what’s now and what’s next.”


Speakers include: Adrian Newey, chief technical officer with Formula One's Red Bull Racing; editor, designer and founder of the Man and Well-Being Department at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands, Ilsle Crawford; strategic director at Modern Green Creative Experiential Agency, Jonny Boyle; co-founder of graphic design studio Workgroup, David Wall; fashion director Aisling Farinella; and the co-founder of female social networking outfit, GirlCrew, Elva Carri, to name but a few.

“Every single person on the agenda is a futurist,” says Mr Seabrooke. “They get out of bed with a fire in their bellies to go out and make new things, change the status quo, which is massively exciting. These are my heroes, and no matter whether they’re young or old, experienced veterans or fresh-faced young bucks, they’re all incredibly giving with their insight, knowledge and energy.

“I’m excited by the fact that listening to these speakers will give me ideas that I can apply immediately to my own job. And while I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to design a Formula One car, I’m pretty sure that if I understand how Adrian Newey thinks I can apply that to my own thinking.”

In addition, the RDS will house “Village” – an area where the discussions happening across the three stages will be distilled down for further analysis. Topics expected to surface include Curating Cities, The Gender Gap & Balance, Future Branding, The Rise and Impact of Influence, Cultivating Communities and Challenging Content.

"I've spent the last few years attending different types of conferences, events and festivals all across Europe, as well as having created many events throughout my entire 20-year career, and what I realised is that each type is very specific," says Mr Seabrooke.

Taking risks

"Some events focus on the creative, others on commerce. The Future brings them together, to look forward and really focus in on 'what's next?' Our speakers are those who are excelling in their fields, who are taking risks, who have the stamina to make their passions happen and fight to keep their ideas alive… we stitched together the best international speakers in their respective fields along with our own home-grown, world-class talent, to illustrate just how much innovation there is worth celebrating right here in Ireland. "

Promotional material for events like The Future are often awash with trendy but vapid terms like “vibrant ecosystem”, “future collaborations” and “positive synergy” to describe the potential impact of bringing so many great minds together. But can anything truly unique and long lasting be fostered during a two-day event?

Yes, says Mr Seabrooke, unsurprisingly. “The new world we live in is collaboratively driven,” he says. “Brands around the world are harnessing the talents of diverse groups of people and seeking out opportunities to collaborate and create. We can play that out in the halls of the RDS, where there are no delegates and speakers, only participants.

“There won’t be a green room or VIP area, everyone will be in the festival mix. We will break down the traditional conference borders between participants to promote conversation, which in turn creates opportunities. So from the get-go we’re fostering a dynamic, positive, collaborative and social ecosystem, using those two days as a springboard to strike up new relationships and foster long-term opportunities.”

Small enterprise

Like any new festival – be it music, commerce or design focused – The Future is still a relatively small enterprise. But assuming it can get off on the right foot, it has the potential to expand and perhaps fill more than the tech/start-up gap left by the Web Summit.

Mr Seabrooke is reluctant to draw comparisons. “While Web Summit was very successful in Dublin, I think it served a different need and audience brilliantly, so isn’t really comparable.

“However, I do believe that this event has the potential to fill a gap in the market about what’s next, as that’s applicable to all industries, themes and disciplines. Marketing, media, culture, design, art, interaction, fashion, automobiles, sport, music – through a Future lens there’s no topic that we can’t tackle. But for now, the most important focus is to make this first event amazing, get great feedback and create an even bigger event next year.”

John Holden

John Holden

John Holden is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in science, technology and innovation