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Amy McKeogh does not wait around for things to happen on their own.
Having returned from a year securing her final qualification at the esteemed PRP architectural firm in London to teach at the Cork Centre for Architectural Education at University College Cork, the UCC alum launched Fíor Studios, a multi-disciplinary design collective, in the spring of 2018.
But there was another itch to scratch.
Inspired by the rich and diverse neighbourhood design festivals of Clerkenwell and other European cities, Amy had an idea brewing; Cork would be the perfect canvas for a rival creative event.
This May, Design POP will see six designers join forces with six Cork-based food and drink producers to create bespoke spaces that celebrate the ethos of each brand.
The festival (May 17th-19th, 2019) runs in locations all over the city, from Emmet Place to Elizabeth Fort, together with a series of fascinating lectures on design, architecture and illustration (book your €7 tickets here) and a panel discussion with Czech architect Eva Jiricna, Frank O’Mahony and Valerie Byrne in the Sculpture Gallery at Crawford Art Gallery (tickets €5 here).
Here, Amy takes us behind the scenes on an average Design POP day, revealing how the support of Cork City Council and ticketing company Eventbrite has helped to turn her vision into one of the most hotly anticipated events of the year…
“I start my day before 6:30am, I am most definitely an early bird. I do my best to meditate for 10-15 minutes in the morning before I hop out of bed, have a coffee and go for a run. When I run – I think. I plan my day, prioritising what I need to tackle first. I like to be sitting at my desk answering emails by 8am, my emails tend to dictate my mornings and afternoons are for more creative work.
I graduated from CCAE in 2014 and started working in Heneghan Peng architects in Dublin where I got to work on incredible projects like the National Gallery of Ireland. In architecture you have to become qualified which means you have to do your Part 3 which has a case study (a building project), so you have to be working in a firm for this. The Part 3 was something I did as quickly as I could to gain me that freedom to go out on my own. It was harder to get the Part 3 case study in Ireland at the time so I went to London and worked for PRP architects who could promise me a project for my final qualification. Ensuring I have that creative freedom is what motivates me.
I have my own architecture and design studio called Fíor studios, so I am in the position where I can manage my own time – this really helps. I also hired the right people very quickly; people who had experience putting on festivals, which meant they were ensuring everything got done when it needed to be. For a long time, the festival work was done in the evening and on weekends so that the day job wasn’t affected, but now since the festival is drawing closer I am pretty much full time on Design POP.
I love what I am doing and I am passionate about architecture and design, so it is really motivating to do what you love. The freedom to work on projects that bring me joy completely outweighs the hard work and late nights.
Design POP came about after I experienced Clerkenwell Design Week. Clerkenwell was this explosion of creativity and excitement around the city, it was infectious. These design weeks give a city and the designers a global platform to celebrate and showcase their work and I wanted to do something that, in time, would be the Irish version of these design festivals.
The timeline of the first Design POP was quite short; I pitched the idea to Cork City Council in October and the first festival is happening in May. The involvement with food came later; I thought of a hybrid festival, one that merges two disciplines together. Cork has such an incredible reputation for food and food production so it made sense to have design and food collaborating for the inaugural event.
Time management is by far the biggest challenge – knowing when to switch off. It is really important to know when to rest and ensure that you have the energy to juggle everything. I have begun to get better at walking away from the laptop if I find myself struggling to focus.
Eventbrite has made ticketing the event really easy and efficient. I had intended all the events to be free but I got good advice to charge a small amount for the events with limited capacities, as it discourages no-shows when people exchange money. Book tickets for Design POP here.
My advice to another would-be event creator would be… know when your potential sponsors finalise their budgets. I cannot stress this enough! I did not know companies finalised their budgets a year in advance so if you need funding and sponsorship you need to begin securing this so much earlier. What I was told (and what I had to keep reminding myself) was to keep it small, execute it well and then grow the festival in time. There were a few times when venues suggested we do something in their space and I was so excited about expanding the festival I really had to reign it in.
I have learned how to directly ask for funding. This was something that really did not come naturally and I am still trying to develop this skill, but if you don’t ask you don’t receive. I found looking for sponsorship to be the hardest part, but it was so important to ensure that this event is free to everyone. I also learned how to delegate and how to do communicate tasks clearly.
The three things I’m hoping to achieve with Design POP are:
- That everyone involved gains something positive from the experience and that the event shines a light on the amazingly talented people involved.
- That it goes brilliantly, therefore ensuring its existence for the future!
- That people, especially children, have fun and that seeing these creative structures brings joy and creativity into the city.
I want Design POP to be an annual event and to grow into something that rivals the other design events in Europe. The ambition is that Design POP collaborates with other industries so it could be design and food again next year but maybe design and tech or design and film the following years.
For me, I am looking forward to getting stuck back into architecture and really focusing on Fíor studios. I have some amazing projects coming in the summer and I am really excited to get working on them.
I enjoy being surrounded by other people and having a sense of community when I work so I’m based at the Tara building, which is co-working space, when I am in Dublin. I try to finish up around 7pm, relax at home and have dinner. Bedtime is around 10:30pm – I use meditation as a way to fall asleep.”
Check out the full list of ticketed events on during Design POP and start planning your festival weekend now.