This year I have been invited to the Southbank Centre to hold my second Vintage festival, showcasing the best culture from decades past and showing how the past informs the present. Over three days, we’re transforming the iconic Royal Festival Hall into a giant playground celebrating music, fashion, film, art, design, dance and food from the Twenties to the Eighties.
Last year, my team and I held the first Vintage festival in the beautiful grounds of Goodwood. But when I was invited to use the Southbank on the 60th anniversary
of the 1951 Festival of Britain, a milestone from the golden era of our beloved
mid-century design, it made complete sense to take our carnival there. (And we’d hate to be predictable.)
But just what is vintage? Put simply, vintage for me is great design that stands the test of time and deserves to be enjoyed by generations who weren’t around when it first came out.
People ask whether, by embracing all things vintage, we are making something of an anti-consumerist point. But we try to strike a balance between the two. Nobody has proved to me yet that not consuming anything and going back to the bones of survival is better. While over-consumption is crass, under-consumption robs the economy and people’s enjoyment of current design.
Designers often come on our website asking why we promote ‘design of the past’, thinking we should be looking forward all the time. I think the mark of a good designer is knowing what has come before you and letting it inform what you do.
In the same vein, you could suggest children shouldn’t learn Shakespeare at school because it “isn’t relevant to modern life”. Yet my kids worship the Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo & Juliet and I think that’s a great example of what vintage is about: telling great stories and being able to put them in a modern context.
It’s much the same with music. I love vinyl but the great thing that digital music has done is to open up the history of music to everyone. I hear a lot of disco records on Radio 1 these days yet if young people were to search ‘disco’, they’d find things like Donna Summer. I love that breadth.
Certain things move on at an absolute pace, and technology is one of them. Technology changes our lives, but it doesn’t change what we can enjoy in our lives. Human beings aren’t changing at the pace that some designers would have us believe. Yes our bodies have changed a bit; we’ve got a bit taller and a bit wider. But we’ve still got two arms, two legs, two eyes and two ears. We’re restricted within a sphere of what we can accept, and that sphere means we have to dip back and accept what previous generations have accepted. Mainly because it was great.
Find out more about the festival on Wayne Hemingway’s Vintage website
Update 5 August 2011: watch our video of this year’s festival