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Six of the UK’s best designers are to be recognised for their outstanding contribution to design and society by becoming Royal Designers for Industry (RDI) at an award ceremony held at the RSA on November 17.

Neville Brody, Margaret Calvert, Andy Cameron, Mary Restieaux, Peter Saville, Michael Wolff, will join a select group of designers who currently hold the RDI. Regarded as the highest honour a designer can receive in the UK an Honorary RDI award will also be given to Canadian designer, Bruce Mau.

“2011 marks the 75th Anniversary of the RSA’s Royal Designer for Industry. As an organisation we are committed to encouraging and rewarding outstanding designers who challenge convention and improve our quality of life,” commented Matthew Taylor, RSA Chief Executive. “The work of these seven individuals is varied but they share a common link of having made a significant benefit to society as well as demonstrating design excellence.”

The title ‘Royal Designer for Industry’ (RDI) was introduced by the RSA in 1936 to honour designers of excellence and promote the important contribution of design in manufacturing and industry.

The RDI award that began as a means by which to enhance the status of designers today remains the highest accolade for designers in the UK and is conferred to those who have shown sustained design excellence, work of aesthetic value and significant benefit to society. Only 200 designers may hold the title at any time.

Since it was introduced, recipients of the honour have included Eric Gill, Gordon Russell, Barnes Wallis, Jonathan Ive, Vivienne Westwood, and Marc Newson. Royal Designers are responsible for designing the Millennium Bridge, the iPod, the Rolls-Royce jet engine, the Harry Potter film sets and the miniskirt among other things.Outside the UK, a limited number of designers are given the award of Honorary Royal Designer for Industry (HonRDI). These include Dieter Rams, Milton Glaser, and Yohji Yamamoto.

Following the announcement of the new Royal Designers, Dinah Casson RDI, exhibition and interior designer and incoming Master of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, will give the annual RDI lecture.

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Sky diveIn our mission to raise £3,000 for Claire House Children’s Hospice this year, five very brave individuals from Claremont took to the sky to do a tandem skydive.

Last Friday, Mike Gardner, Ken Bundy, Jenny Durbridge, Hannah Howard and Marc Toomey nervously arrived at the Black Knight’s Parachute Centre near Lancaster, where they received training ahead of the big jump.

Two hours later they were 12,000 ft in the air on a beautifully clear day, where they all successfully threw themselves out of the plane! All landed safely, and thought the experience was amazing.

Our brave five have raised about £3,000 for Claire House which is a fantastic achievement and has exceeded our target, enabling us to raise even more money for this wonderful cause.

For more information about Claire House, please visit their website;

Claire House

Claremont has decided to support Claire House Children’s Hospice over the next 12 months.

Claire House is a fantastic charity to support. They look after children from birth to 23 years old with life limiting and life threatening illnesses and their families from Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and The Isle of Man. They offer respite, palliative and end of life care and offer a ‘Hospice to Home’ service, where nurses visit their family homes as and when it is needed.

The fundraising got underway this morning with our Realisation Team making Bacon Sandwiches for staff, an initiative which is going to continue every Friday!
We have given ourselves a target to raise £3,000 – continue reading our blog to keep up-to-date with our progress!

The Government Art Collection has asked seven public figures to select works from the paintings, sculptures or drawings that are either on display in their place of work now – or had chosen when they were in office. The works are on show at the Whitechapel Gallery, London E1, until September 4

The Government Art Collection (GAC) was established in 1935, its purpose is to ensure that the art on the walls of buildings the British government owns both at home and abroad is of the highest quality. Art tells the world who we are and the values we share – and anyone who doubts it should visit a foreign embassy or consulate where otherwise bare walls are adorned with the country’s national flag or a photograph of its supreme leader. Because it acquires, conserves, displays and interprets the works of art it owns, the Government Art Collection is, in effect, a museum – but one in which the contents are dispersed throughout the world. It displays something like 13,500 works in 400 locations ranging from 10 Downing Street and the Foreign and Home Offices to our embassies in Paris, Cairo, Moscow, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.

Tea by David Tindle chosen by Nick Clegg

courtesy of the UK Government Art Collection/© David Tindle

A major exhibition of the collection would therefore be logistically impossible, but over the course of the coming year the GAC is staging a series of five small exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery both to showcase some of its highlights and to give the public a better idea of how it works and what it does. There are, for example, surprisingly few rules about what the GAC can and cannot acquire. It always buys British, of course, and will try if possible to place works of art in places where they have a particular relevance. And a little painting by Bob and Roberta Smith simply declares in multi-coloured lettering “PEAS ARE THE NEW BEANS” and is apparently a favourite with the bean counters at the Treasury and the Cabinet Office.

© Bob and Roberta Smith / courtesy of the UK Government Art Collection

This small exhibition looks at the endlessly fascinating question of the choices politicians and diplomats make when they take up their posts. The GAC has asked seven public figures to select works from the paintings, sculptures or drawings that are either on display in their place of work now (culture minister Ed Vaizey, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg) or had chosen when they were in office (Lord Mandelson, Lord Boateng). Samantha Cameron picks four works from No 10 including Lancashire Fair by LS Lowry.

Image: L S Lowry. Lancashire Fair. Good Friday. Daisy Nook . 1946. Oil on canvas; 72 x 92 cm © The Estate of L S Lowry, 2010/courtesy of the UK Government Art Collection  

This brings up the one aspect of the GAC’s work that catches the public’s imagination: when a minister takes up a new post, he or she is entitled to ask the GAC to change the art on the walls of their office to reflect their own tastes, politics and interests. Every time you see a minister being interviewed on TV with art work in the background, remember that the GAC put it there, that the minister knows it’s there, and that he or she may want to be seen standing in front of it to send out a message.

More information at

posted by Ann Clarke

The first manned spaceflight caused a sensation across the world and today Russia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin completed a single orbit of Earth. It will be marked by ceremonies and a 50-gun salute at the Kremlin in Moscow.

On the morning of 12 April 1961, the 27-year-old Gagarin was waiting to be launched into space atop a 30m-high booster at the Tyuratam test range in Kazakhstan (now the Baikonur Cosmodrome). Standing 5ft 2ins tall, Gagarin was better suited than some for the cramped conditions of his space capsule. He was able to consume food through squeeze tubes and kept mission control updated on his condition using a high-frequency radio and a telegraph key.

According to a transcript of the communication with ground control, Gagarin was struck by the view through the capsule’s window, commenting on our planet’s “beautiful aura” and the striking shadows cast by clouds on the Earth’s surface.

But the cosmonaut had no control over his spacecraft during the historic flight.

“”It was decided right from the beginning that he would not be allowed to control the spacecraft, it would all be done from the ground. No-one knew what effect zero-g would have on the astronauts when they were up there. They were so concerned that he might be disorientated and disabled once he was in weightlessness,” says Reginald Turnill, the BBC’s aerospace correspondent from 1958-1975.

Gagarin’s achievement earned him instant global stardom, and dispelled fears humans could not survive beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and since his flight in 1961, more than 500 men and women have followed in his footsteps.

Before Gagarin, no-one knew for sure if a human could withstand the conditions in space; some believed weightlessness would induce madness, that the G-forces on take off and re-entry would crush the body, and there was concern over the effects of radiation. But when Gagarin’s face and voice were beamed down from space, the world saw that the cosmos was not to be feared – it was to be explored.

“The most emotional moment was when we heard he was walking and waving; his arms and legs were whole. We understood in one sigh that our five to six years of hard work had paid off and we had achieved something huge,” said veteran cosmonaut Georgy Grechko, now 79, who worked as an engineer on Gagarin’s space capsule.

Natural rattan belongs to the design classics and it is making a comeback in design circles. Unfortunately, conventional forestry practices may damage tropical forests when the rattan is harvested. To avoid this forest destruction, WWF has set up a European Union funded programme for sustainable production and processing of rattan in the Mekong region.

WWF is working with Swedish designers, graduates from Lund University, in cooperation with local companies, to develop rattan products that are suitable for the international market. These products range from doormats made of rattan waste to foldable baskets, and a unique rattan lounge chair. In addition, the WWF has analysed the worldwide trade flows of rattan, the major buyers are the EU and China with Vietnam playing an essential role for the EU market, exporting mainly to Germany and France.












The objectives of the programme are to manage the tropical forests containing rattan in accordance with the Principles and Criteria of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), and to promote and implement the United Nations’ principles of “Cleaner Production”. These include the optimisation of material and energy flows, minimising waste and water contamination, and reducing emissions.

Rattan species are members of the palm family and grow climbing and winding themselves around other vegetation and some varieties can grow to lengths of more than one hundred metres. “Forests with such a wide variety of flora and fauna, which have disappeared in other regions of the world, still exist in the Mekong region,” said Thibault Ledecq, WWF Sustainable Rattan Project Manager. “More than 1,000 new animal and plant species have been discovered in the Mekong region in the last ten years alone.” But many of these rattan resources are being overexploited, leading to a decline of many rattan species, prompting WWF to create the Sustainable Rattan Programme in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam five years ago.

“Sustainable rattan only has a chance if there is a market for it and if the forests where the rattan grows are still standing,” explained Ledecq. He is convinced: “With credible forest management, responsible trade, and consumer awareness we can ensure that this fascinating natural raw material has a future.”

The WWF Sustainable Rattan Programme receives 80 percent of the programme’s total budget of € 2.4 million from the EU SWITCH-Asia Programme of the EuropeAid Development and Cooperation. SWITCH-Asia aims at scaling-up environmentally friendly production and consumption practices. The Sustainable Rattan Programme is successfully serving this purpose by reaching-out to all participants in the rattan value chain and encouraging certification. IKEA co-finances the WWF Sustainable Rattan Programme.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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Best wishes from everyone here at Speakeasy@Claremont