Exciting plans for an international festival and a trade mission to one of the world’s largest arts conferences were revealed this evening in a special event to mark the first anniversary of York securing its UNESCO City of Media Arts status.

In a launch event at the new Hiscox building in York, project leaders, Marcus Romer and Stuart Goulden, revealed ambitious plans for the inaugural ‘Mediale’ in 2017/18, a biennial festival involving 100,000 people over 20 days.  The festival will bring together digital artists, schools and performers to create 25 new commissions including major light displays, interactive pavilions and exhibits that use the backdrop of York as a canvas for cutting edge technological displays.  Also planned is a brand new internationally-recognised set of awards highlighting the world’s top digital artists as part of the festival.  Over one third of the festival’s budget has already been pledged by local organisations and companies, with a fundraising programme now in place to source match funding and sponsorship.

The UNESCO City of Media Arts team has also secured funding for a UK Trade & Investment mission to Austin, Texas, for the renowned South by South West (SXSW) Festival, where representatives of York will meet with key global players in the media arts sector, and offer advice and guidance to the US city’s team who are also hoping to secure the prestigious UNESCO designation.  The funding is part of the government’s support for the Northern Powerhouse, aiming to unite companies across the North to create a collective force to rival that of London and the South East, driving investment in the region and redressing the North-South economic imbalance.

York has a vibrant media arts sector, with many individuals and companies across the city applying technology to a wide range of art forms, from computer gaming to digital imaging, film making or creating stunning projections,”

“Our UNESCO designation helps us to bring those people together under a common banner to better promote the skills that we have within York to a global audience – and this means not only taking our expertise out to the wider world, but also bringing the global focus onto our historic city.
— Chris Bailey, acting master of York’s new Guild of Media Arts, which has been set up to drive projects forward

By embracing its UNESCO City of Media Arts status, York will sit alongside Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull and Leeds in the Northern Powerhouse.  Indeed, the globally-recognised UNESCO status, which joins York to a network of 69 connected cities in 32 countries across the world sharing expertise and knowledge, combined with the latest announcement of York Central securing ‘Enterprise Zone’ status - potentially unlocking £100 million of investment – will garner international attention to support the city’s economic development plans.

York is a city with a high quality of life, where culture and heritage draw millions of visitors per year, yet it is also one of the best connected cities, with technology like the CityFibre ultrafast network providing gigabit internet connectivity speeds across the city. This combination makes it ideal for those working in the digital creative sectors who look to their environment for creativity, and do not want to be stifled by a large city mentality – York is probably the most attractive and inspirational city in the country.
— Jane Lady Gibson, chair of Make It York, the city’s destination management organisation

Today’s announcements have widespread support locally and nationally.

The UK National Commission for UNESCO welcomes this excellent initiative from York UNESCO City of Media Arts to establish a new international festival.
— Tim Williams, chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO
York is leading the way in its support for innovation and creativity in the digital arts and it’s great to see how they are showcasing this growing industry through its status as the first UK UNESCO City of Media Arts. A new international biennial is a hugely exciting prospect that will champion the next generation of talent and cement York’s place on the artistic map.
— Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, Media & Sport, and Business, Innovation & Skills (Digital Industries)

Local businesses and artists have also pledged their support by signing up for the new Guild of Media Arts, York’s first new trade guild for 700 years.  This group of professionals from across the arts, culture and education sectors will be responsible for managing projects coming under the York UNESCO City of Media Arts banner, taking a focused approach to inspire a new generation of digital adventurers in the city and drive continued growth in the sector.  The Guild is open to anyone in the city with a personal or professional interest in media arts.