Taking place at Manchester's Hallé St Peter's on Friday, 21 April, BCNMCR will be a one-off design event with innovative individuals and agencies due to take to the stage, including Lo Siento, Javier Jaén, Ingrid Picanyol, Pràctica and Cabeze Patata.
Designers with long memories will recall that BCNMCR has visited the second city before. In fact, the upcoming event takes place a full decade after it first amazed audiences. So what made organiser and StudioDBD owner Dave Sedgwick decide to revisit it one final time? Put simply – it sounds like the time was right.
Having started a family in 2014 – coincidentally the last year in which there was a BCNMCR event – Dave reveals he became busier and busier with his own projects in his career, forcing the conference onto the back burner. "The idea of doing anything more than the work I had to do (while raising a child) was completely off the table, and I felt I had succeeded with simply doing two," he tells Creative Boom.
But as the years went on and the global pandemic intervened, Dave felt he needed another challenge to rekindle some of the adrenaline and passion he had felt while organising the first two BCNMCR events. "I wanted to prove myself again as I was beginning to worry that maybe there was a bit of 'treading water' going on in my career," he reveals. "We all work for many clients, and that's great, obviously, but I wanted to do something for me again.
"I enjoy meeting different people and putting on events like this, so I decided to do one final instalment. And what could be a better time than exactly ten years after the first one?"
Dave's clear enjoyment of hosting BCNMCR is rooted in his passion for Barcelona, which can be traced back to the 1990s when he went there as a young art student. After instantly falling in love with the city and its narrow streets and graffiti, he visited many times armed with just a camera and old-fashioned paper maps to experience it. "I felt like it was such a creative city, and as my career as a designer started to take shape, I became increasingly interested in its design scene."
During one of these trips, Dave decided to visit some of Barcelona's agencies and learn more about them. "I contacted the likes of Hey and Lo Siento, and thankfully they were happy enough to meet up," he explains. "During one conversation about the similarities between Barcelona and Manchester, the idea came to me to consider an exhibition of design work from Barcelona but here in Manchester, and maybe they would also come along."
Thankfully they said yes, and then it was up to Dave to start organising the event, which would become BCNMCR. No mean feat considering he had never done anything like this before. "In 2013, a few months after I'd been over to Barcelona, I flew over four leading agencies, put them up in a hotel and hosted a night of talks alongside an exhibition of their work.
"Thankfully, the people of Manchester appreciated the event, and we had hundreds come to visit. Tickets sold out in less than 30 mins, and the entire night was a huge success."
A second BCNMCR event took place the following year, this time in a bigger venue and with even more agencies such as CLASE, TOORMIX and Laura Meseguer taking part. "Again, the event was a success with over 250 people coming to the talks and hundreds more seeing the exhibition of work."
Enthusiasm for BCNMCR doesn't appear to have dimmed over the years, as the event has already sold out despite tickets only going on sale last week. Dave puts this popularity down to Manchester's relative scarcity of design talks. "There's not lots of them here in the city, and so when something like this comes up, I think people do not want to miss out," he says. "I also think the idea of creatives visiting from a different city with perhaps different values and ways of thinking really interests people."
As well as their city of origin, another theme tying all the creative talent on display reflects the last decade. Lo Siento, who appeared at the first event ten years ago, will be making a return, and Dave is certain they will want to consider how the intervening years have changed and shaped them.
Meanwhile, Javier Jaén will be talking about a new book they have just completed with Counterprint – as well as selling a few signed copies – and Cabeza Patata will likely touch on how they have continued to work over the last few years whilst travelling the world in a camper van. Then there's Ingrid and Anna, who have started their own agencies in the past decade. "I think that there will be a real breadth of different conversations and talks taking place, which helps to make it such a great event," says Dave.
When selecting the speakers for this year's BCNMCR event, Dave says it was important to him to offer variety. "Cabeza Patata, for example, don't do the kind of work that I personally do, but what they do is amazing, and I know it excites people," he explains. "I always find that hearing from speakers who work in various ways helps with my own creative practice, so I wanted to ensure this year wasn't just 100% graphic design studios.
"I also wanted to make sure that Lo Siento came back because, in many ways, they are the reason BCNMCR started. But the rest were curated from looking at different styles of design and creativity."
Accompanying this year's BCNMCR speakers is a casebound book specially designed to commemorate the event. Printed by TEAM IMPRESSION with a foiled cover from FOILCO, Dave says it will carry a sense of longevity distinct from the exhibition that traditionally accompanies the event.
"It will feature work and interviews with over 50 designers, illustrators, makers and creatives from Barcelona, including all the previous speakers and attendees plus many more new ones," he says. "I have already started to receive work for the book, and they are all fantastic and original pieces.
"The book will exclusively launch the night before the talks (20 April, 6pm-8pm) at UNITOM in Manchester and will be available for just £20 a copy. If there are any remaining, we will be selling them at the BCNMCR event the following day, and if there are still any left, they will be available online using the BCNMCR website as a means of a shop.
"We are only making 500 copies, and I want to make sure the contributors get a copy, so I imagine we will have about 350 copies available in the end."
Considering BCNMCR is so consistently popular, is it never coming back? "Well, I am never going to say never!" laughs David. "But I think three is a lovely number to end on. The truth is, putting on events like this takes an awful lot of work behind the scenes. Emails, meetings, organising and planning, and any design work needed. It's a full-time job, and only me does it!"
With his studio to run and his responsibilities as a father, Dave says he has no real plans to do anything like this again. "I also feel that I have cemented a design relationship between the two cities, and so if I ever find myself looking to put on an event like this again, I think it will be maybe a new city," he adds.
"I like the idea that it's always a 'second' city, much like Barcelona and Manchester," he concludes. "So New York, Munich, Porto or Rotterdam, keep your eyes peeled!"