Murray Bell, founder and director of Semi Permanent
InterviewBy Thomas Dahm,
How is Semi Permanent different today from the festival you visited in Spain in 2002? Which let to organizing your own event.
Significantly. The event I attended in Spain was the OFFF, and it's great. Although we have a great friendship with Hector who runs that event, we've both steered our events and companies in different directions.
Semi Permanent started in 2003 as a pretty traditional conference – people sitting in a convention centre listening to artists on stage. Today we host our Sydney event at Carriageworks, a contemporary arts centre, across 5000+sqm and along with the talks, host exhibitions (like our Stanley Donwood / Radiohead retrospective), Innovation Labs, Workshops, Installations (we're hosting JR's Inside Out Project), networking functions, parties and more. And instead of speakers on stage talking about their work, they are unpacking subjects like the Future of Design, Technology, Travel and Innovation.
What has been the most challenging thing about developing the Semi Permanent platform over the years?
Time and resources. We've chosen not to be a company with huge numbers of employees, because we never wanted to compromise on the quality of partners / sponsors we have, and also wanted to return as much value as possible back to our audience and partners.
I personally bought back the company a few years ago and since then have started evolving the brand and business into new areas which I'm really excited about, and hopefully with each of these new pillars we'll reinforce Semi Permanent as a destination for the design and creative industries.
You don’t show sponsors/partners on your website. Why is that?
We have sponsors and partners linked to each event, but yes we don't have overall partners so they dont sit on our homepage. But the more important point is that we work with brands to create real value exchange moments. We create things with them. Its not about logo placement for us, its about building something with these modern exciting companies that their brand is wrapped into the fabric of the experience.
With the entree ticket comes the Semi Permanent book. Can you tell a bit about how the book started and what kind of content it has?
The book is a gift to our audience. A snapshot of the global design and creative community in 200+ pages. Something to sit on your coffee table or as a library of resources at your office. It chronicles our history and highlights great talent. Our latest book is designed with M35, and we collaborated with Ace Hotel and Printed Matter.
What are you most proud of or excited about if you look at the Semi Permanent program?
For this Sydney event, our Future State sessions, which we're collaborating with Qantas on. We're bringing together the Design Directors / Founders / Creative Directors of Facebook, Airbnb, IDEO, Uber, Netflix, Atlassian to really unpack some big topics. These individuals and companies are really shaping the way we design and the value of design – so there won't be many better rooms to be in if you want a new job or to collaborate.
What do you want your audience to take home after a Semi Permanent visit?
I want them to not only be inspired, but enabled. I want to help give them the keys to unlocking their future. We're hosting a great workshop with the National School of Dramatic Arts, to help teach people how to build confidence in front of a crowd – to pitch ideas – to put your best foot forward. Those kinds of experiences, combined with inspiration puts you in a powerful and exciting position.
What is the most memorable moment or unexpected surprise that can be linked to your event?
Ha. No marriages, that I know of. I had to basically tackle Mr Brainwash off the stage a few years back. The man loves to talk, and love.
Neon Moiré looks forward to:
The sessions with Dav Rauch, futurist at IDEO (see his Future UX Reel); dutch graphic designer Michael Lugmayr of Design by Toko; curator Jess Scully and Kate Shaw head of talent design & learning at Airbnb. Next to that we like to see design film Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, the installations and our masterclass on using your craft to build and nurture a community. Have a exciting experience!
May, 26 - 28 2016, Sydney, AustraliaAugust 11 - 14 2016, Auckland, New ZealandTickets $ 340 - 1215. Get yours semipermanent.com