Monday, 6 October 2008

Creative Review

UHC has been mentioned for our work with Climate Camp in Jody Boenhart's article, In The Front Line in this months Creative Review (October 08):

Design at the Climate Camp

Each year the camp has worked with the Manchester-based studio Ultimate Holding Company (UHC) to create an integrated campaign (website, posters, flyers, stickers, etc.). The leading image for the 2008 camp was a Swiss army knife, out of which all the tools of activism extended: here is a wrench, book, wind turbine, loud speaker, rubber boot, carrot, and flower. The camp also produced a newspaper, You Are Here, in an edition of 20,000. Subtle headlines, text and images draw you into the issues slowly. Climate change is not even mentioned or alluded to until several pages into the paper. John Jordan worked on the paper and is one of the key design activists at the camp. The intention, he claims, is “to make publicity materials which have the slickness of corporate media yet the punch of rebel flyers, the poetic writing of literature yet the political analysis of radical theory, the desirability of capitalist design, yet the subversiveness of anarchist thinking”.

The crisp design produced by the Climate Camp is removed from the typical anarchist/Marxist/revolutionary visual codes of earlier activists movements. The Climate Camp’s graphic identity aims to be attractive to everyday people; it is accessible and asks everyone to participate. Gone are the stencilled or dirty grunge fonts that are identified with your counter-cultures. In an era when our rebellion has been sold back to us for so long that the aesthetics of rebellion are virtually meaningless, the Climate Camp has avoided positioning itself with any of the counter-culture based identity politics of earlier activists movements that could never escape the anarchist ghetto. So far, the camp has stayed clear of old ideology-based rhetoric and imagery, but is a constant battle to maintain a fresh perspective and communications strategy.

How does the relationship between the designer and client differ from a commercial situation? Here the client is the networking group of the camp. UHC describes the dynamic: “We begin from their starting point, that is to say – the brief is ‘to save the world now’ and the target audience is ‘everyone’. It can be hard pleasing everyone, with such a vociferously non-hierarchical, decentralised, voluntary and deeply committed group. Every year we nearly have to start building relationships from scratch, because the client is a shifting group. After three years we now have a good relationship with one or two people who have remained constant and are design savvy.”

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Independent

Included in the The Independent's special supplement for the climate clinic at the Labour Party Conference is our "e.on" slogan as used by activists in their battle against the company's efforts to paint itself 'green' whilst building an unsustainable coal power plant at Kingsnorth in Kent.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Water Table on BBC

UHC's Water Table, commissioned by national arts organisation Metal, was beautifully showcased in the BBC's footage of the Hampton Court Flower Show. As a common point of interest for all involved, the garden took climate change and its effects as the starting point of the design, but also aimed to reflect the social potential of a shared space.

The table, which first appears at 0:27 seconds in the youtube video, takes a leaf from the low water brassica family as the central design, and imagines it as an abstract map of the Thames Estuary. The veins of the leaf feature three very different sets of information: names of key foods in the Brassica family, the hidden underground rivers of London and the names of the Vicotian engineers that provided the ideas, the skills and the labour, to make access to clean water possible.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Creative Times: Best of Manchester - shortlist announced

Debbie Smith

Published 31.07.08

After an eight week competition, hundreds of entries and a panel of judges led by Peter Saville, Urbis reveals the shortlist for the Best of Manchester Awards 2008.

The annual awards – now in their second year – celebrate innovation in three fields: art, music and fashion. Entry was via an open competition, with entrants encouraged to submit work that was genuinely new, exciting and innovative. Over 250 creative professionals entered – an increase of 65% on last year’s inaugural awards.

Some of the biggest names in art, music and fashion joined Peter Saville at Urbis to sift through the entries, including the broadcaster and critic, Miranda Sawyer; Luke Bainbridge (Observer Music Monthly); Caroline Elleray, Head of A&R at Universal Music Publishing; the Castlefield Gallery’s Kwong Lee; David Mallon, the fashion brains behind Ringspun and Elvis Jesus; and Tim Thomas of Manchester’s Blueprint Studios.

Together, the judges agreed a shortlist for each category:


Music promoter Richard Cheetham is the brains behind independent label, club night and fanzine, High Voltage. Cheetham began High Voltage as a student and, over the past five years, has gone on to publish music by bands including The KBC, The Answering Machine and Nine Black Alps. It’s this entrepreneurial spirit – and his support of new music in Manchester – that won Cheetham praise from the judges.

Taking a similar entrepreneurial tack is Duncan Sime. At the forefront of the folk scene in Manchester, Sime developed the club night and independent label, Red Deer Club. Sime has published twelve releases by artists such as Sara Lowes, Sophie Pigeons, George Thomas and David A Jaycock. Red Deer Club is now attracting attention from music lovers across the UK – it was recently feted by Word magazine as the ‘Manchester hub’ of the nu folk scene – and it is his commitment to new music that ensured Sime a place on the shortlist.

Jasper Wilkinson, as part of multimedia collective I Am Your Autopilot, fuses music, animation and visual art to create visually and musically arresting new work. In the shortlisted entry, a music video entitled Smokescreens, I Am Your Autopilot blend hard-edged electronica with choral sounds, using synthesizers, guitar and multi-layered harmonies to create what Wilkinson describes as ‘sonic landscapes’. Smokescreens was produced in collaboration with Manchester-based TV and film producer, DeathtothePixels.


Artist Paul Harfleet’s practice combines installation, photography and an interest in the peculiarities of everyday urban life. His work includes The Pansy Project, a series of interventions at sites of homophobic attack or abuse. Beginning as a small-scale autobiographical work in Manchester, The Pansy Project has gone on to appear in London, Liverpool, EgilsstaĆ°ir (Iceland), Berlin and New York. Harfleet is also behind The Apartment, an artist-led exhibition space inside a one-bedroom council flat. It is his contribution to the arts in Manchester that secured Harfleet a place on the shortlist.

Conceptual artist Naomi Kashiwagi has long been interested in obsolete technological objects such as manual typewriters and gramophones. Her past work includes turning gramophones into record turntables and employing a piano as a drawing instrument. The work for which Naomi was shortlisted is ‘||: Repetition :||, Fugue No.1 in QWERTY for 8 Typewriters’, a music and text score composed for typewriters that saw four pianists and four percussionists ‘playing’ the typewriters. Kashiwagi’s originality won particular praise from the judges.

Jai Redman is creative director of artists’ collective and design studio UHC (Ultimate Holding Company). UHC first came to attention thanks to the 2003 project This Is Camp X-Ray. Here, UHC installed a fully operational, life-size replica of the US internment camp at Guantanamo Bay – in Hulme. Fusing Redman’s interests in politics, direct action and contemporary art, This Is Camp X-Ray was followed up by other projects including the Thin Veneer of Democracy, a 16-foot table whose surface is decorated with a ‘power map’ of Manchester’s corporate and political movers and shakers. Redman’s role as director of UHC particularly impressed the judges.


Fashion entrepreneur Simon Buckley runs vintage boutique Rags to Bitches. Much more than a run-of-the-mill second hand store, Rags to Bitches offers a bespoke dressmaking service; has its own label; runs sewing, pattern-cutting and dressmaking courses; counts celebrities such as Celine Dion among its fans; supports up-and-coming local designers and was recently voted by The Daily Telegraph as one of Britain’s best boutiques. It was the venture’s potential for expansion that won high praise from the judges.

Nabil El-Nayal is a designer whose dramatic, monochrome collection immediately caught the attention of the judges. A graduate of Manchester School of Art, El-Nayal designed a seven outfits inspired by the Elizabethan era. While the clothes are visually arresting, El-Nayal’s work is also commercially viable, with his collection ranging from the extreme (a dress with six sleeves, for example) to outfits that are capable of making the leap from the catwalk to the high street.

Another graduate of Manchester School of Art, Hasan Hejazi has focused his creative energies on establishing his own womenswear business. As well as creating beautiful, bespoke clothing, however, Hejazi is an experienced stylist and offers a personal shopping service for his Manchester-based clients. It is Hejazi’s entrepreneurial spirit, alongside his talent as both a designer and a stylist, which secured his place on the final shortlist.

The nine shortlisted entrants’ work will be shown in a special Best of Manchester exhibition at Urbis, which opens on 8 August. The category winners will be revealed live at the Best of Manchester awards ceremony at Urbis on Thursday 7 August.

Winning the Best of Manchester 2008 Award is about more than accolade: each of the three winners will walk away with a cash prize of £2000 and a tailored professional development package, drawn up by the judges, designed to help further their career and ensure they become Manchester’s future art, music and fashion stars.

See the article on the Creative Times website.