Interview: Ben Evans

One of the most influential people on the London design scene and a passionate champion of our creative capital, Ben Evans co-founded the London Design Festival to promote the wealth of design talent in London. Initiated in 2003 and growing each year, the Festival has a world-leading programme which attracts over 300,000 visitors.  Ben is the Director of LDF and also initiates, commissions and curates projects for the event, including Size + Matter.

A governor of  University of the Arts London, Ben is passionate about art and design education. Since 1997 he has been a trustee of Artangel, one of the nation’s leading contemporary arts organisations.

He takes time out to share his favourite haunts, talent-spotting tips and recommendations for this year’s events.

What are you working on at the moment?

Delivering the 2010 Festival with an eye on the 2011 event. We have four major commissions in the V&A and more at Trafalgar Square and the Southbank Centre. These commissions are often the key images of the Festival and so are important to get right.

Outrace launch Trafalgar Square Credit Susan Smart Photography

Stuart Haygarth Framed Copyright Susan Smart Photography

What are your top tips for discovering new talent?

Go to the college shows, follow through on recommendations and trust your own instincts. It is all out there waiting for you to discover.

Who is your one to watch?

Don’t have one, but everyone we are working with this year is doing something interesting. So start with Stuart Haygarth, Oskar Zieta, Paul Cocksedge, Max Lamb, Clemens Weisshaar, and David Chipperfield.

Stuart Haygarth Optical Chandelier (Large Clear), 2007 Design 150 cm diameter 59.1 inches diameter (approx 2 m hanging height)  ©Stuart Haygarth Courtesy Haunch of Venison

Paul Cocksedge DROP LDF 2010 commission

Who or what first inspired you to follow your chosen career?

Nikolas Pevsner, the architecture and design historian, whose grandson was in my class at schoo, so I got to meet him, and Richard Rogers who gave an inspired talk about the Pompidou Centre at a local school. I was about 15 in both cases.

Portrait shot of Graham Stirk, Richard Rogers and Ivan Harbour. Photo Dan Stevens. Copyright the photographer.

What are you most passionate about?

Arsenal football club, red Rhone wine, archaeology, my new bathroom at my new home [sublime detailing designed by my lovely wife], design books, cheese, the list goes on. I like to be passionate about lots of things.

1942 An Outline of European Architecture - Nikolaus Pevsner

2007  Prototile by Amanda Levete for Size + Matter at London Design Festival

Arsenal Football Club

Which piece of art/design/performance/communication/fashion do you wish you had created?

The toughest question of them all. But as a big music fan either the Clash or the Sex Pistols. Shows my age but I was lucky to be out and about in London in 1977/78 and saw both of them both play. It was all the things you suggest rolled into one. What you might call a moment !

The Clash, Oslo, photo credit Helge Øverås

Sex Pistols Warner Bros. promotional picture of Sex Pistols members Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, Paul Cook, and Steve Jones, 1977.

Where is your favourite London haunt?

Hampstead Heath. The bit near the top on the Highgate side. Glorious countryside in the city but virtually on your own. I go there to breathe relax and think. Very therapeutic.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Couldn’t possibly tell you……

Name a favourite book, song or film

The Third Man directed by Carol Read. I have even have a favourite scene when some way into the movie you see Orson Wells for the first time. The look on his face is priceless.

The Third Man

What is your signature dish?

Very rare steak so fresh that it melts in your mouth washed down by a very good claret. Unbeatable.

What’s next for you?

Coming up with new ideas for next year’s overambitious projects that somehow might even come off.

Share