Back to the future – September 2008

Nokia hosted our eleventh event ‘Back to the Future’. We took over the top floor of the design studio of one of the world’s most well known brands to ask the question is true creativity achieved by standing on the shoulders of giants or by ignoring all past precedents.

Mark Miodownik, director of the Materials Library at King’s College compered the event transporting us back to 1960’s Britain to witness lvor Smith and Jack Lynn’s utopian vision of the future – Park Hill estate in Sheffield. We were then jettisoned into the ‘Jelly Bean culture’ of the future as perceived by the Future Laboratory, sampling the sounds of retrofitted 80s electronic toys and the evolving craft of the artisan chocolatier along the way.

David Bickle, director of Hawkins Brown, the practice tasked with the job of rehabilitating the largest listed building in Europe to make it a positive housing asset once more, kicked off the proceedings delving into BBC archive voxpops of Park Hill’s original tenants. Love it or hate it Park Hill was radical at the time of its conception and remains a seminal housing development to this day. The challenge is to extend the life of the original architects’ work whist bringing it up to today’s housing standards. The aim is to strike a balance between its historical significance and its future survival.

From retrofitted housing stock to retrofitted toys, Stu Smith of ASMO gave us a recital of his circuit bent ‘Speak and Spell’ and other unusual instruments, managing to simultaneously dumbfound and delight the crowd. Stu handed over to Gerard Coleman, chocolatier and co-founder of L’Artisan du Chocolat, a small family run company, which has learnt its craft from traditional techniques and draws on technological innovation of industries such as car manufacturing to refine and innovate their product.

Miriam Rayman, representing the Future Laboratory, a forecasting company who track changes in consumer needs and behaviour to provide insights into the future, rounded off the night with a refusal to look back. “Fuck the past” she said, taking us through the forthcoming trends from the new artificiality of the jelly bean culture advocated by the new millennials to the humanization of the web and the empowerment of female consumers through the proliferation of the new referral sites.

The ‘Back to the Future’ goody bags were as desirable as ever, including delicious tasters from L’Artisan du Chocolat, a big glossy Park Hill publication, a copy of the smart ‘THE’ quarterly by The Future Laboratory, charmingly retro Nokia rock and ASMO’s latest sampler CD. And checkout what Stu Smith did with his ‘at abrahams’ time capsule.

James Doyle photographed ‘Back to the Future’ using out of date film stock and Toby Triumph illustrated the event in situ, making full use of the huge blackboard in the cafe.

DJ Simon White played an appropriate selection of soundtracks to compliment the ‘Back to the Future’ theme, taking in Jacques Tati’s ‘Mon Oncle’ to Frangois Truffaut’s ‘Fahrenheit 451 ‘.

‘Back to the Future’ was recorded by Resonance 104.4 fm with edited highlights and live discussion broadcast on the Clear Spot, a special one hour show presented by Simon Sholl.

Listen to the broadcast.