Middlesex University's 2019 Arts and Creative Industries degree show drew crowds to a buzzing Private View at the Old Truman Brewery, and there were further big attendances at a series of events over its four-day run.
Final year projects from students on BA Animation, 3D Animation and Games, Fashion Communications, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Design Crafts, Interiors and Photography courses were on display, and there was a rolling video of last month's Middlesex BA fashion show at Somerset House.
"The Collection", the name of this year's show, relates to the studio ethos promoted by the industry-acclaimed lecturer-practitioners who lead the University's creative courses, informed by industry trends and a sense of social engagement, and also to the interdisciplinary character of Middlesex art and design teaching. Signs encouraged visitors to collect catalogues and student-designed postcards and business cards as they went round the displays.
More than 180 alumni registered for a reception on the evening of the private view, reinforcing the networks that are crucial to opening doors in the creative industries and which have already helped some of this summer's graduating cohort find jobs and placements.
There was standing room only for an animation panel chaired by MDX lecturer Lilly Husbands. Nexus Studio's Johnny Kelly, filmmaker and animation artist Katerina Athanasopoulou and Tom Box of Blue Zoo Animation Studio presented recent work and gave students practical advice about getting into the industry. In his talk, iconoclastic comics creator, graphic artist and writer Woodrow Phoenix recommended students to be uncompromising and "try and do stuff that is crazy" as they started out.
The event space hosted Transformations, a conference of graduating students who presented their dissertation research, while on the final day it was given over to MA students for workshops and presentations.
MDX Cinema played showreels from across the faculty, including work by students on the Film, TV, Animation, Dance, Interiors and Fine Art courses. Industry panels viewed graduate portfolios for a number of courses in the show.
As well as art and design professionals, figures from creative industry policymaking were among the 1200+ attendees at the Private View.
Among the students exhibiting, BA Animation student Solomon Triffitt has flourished at Middlesex despite coming with no formal art experience and a meagre portfolio. When he spoke to course leader, double BAFTA winner Jonathan Hodgson, "we connected on a different level. He just saw my vision, what I was trying to do".
"One thing this course holds high is individualism. They really let you do what you want to do", Solomon says.
Installation artist Poppy Veall says the University's art and design facilities in Grove building are the best of anywhere she's seen, including universities across continental Europe. She values the support she's had from her tutor: “I email him most days and he responds immediately. I couldn’t have got any more help”.
3D Animation and Games student Tom Wilkins was attracted by the focus and the direction of the MDX course compared with rival programmes. "It was more with the art, much more what I wanted to do. It seemed like [the tutors] really understood the course well."
The University's location and connectedness to London's computer games industry is another big plus. Since arriving there have been a whole number of opportunities to attend conferences and events to meet people working in the field, Tom says.
BA Illustration student James Webb has relished working in a studio environment and thinks the University had the perfect location - "not too close to central, not too far away". His coursemate Naima Ramanan found the breadth and openness of the Illustration programme appealing. "They're very good at listening to what you do what you wanted to do, your style, your approach," she says. Photography student Cristina Volpe picked MDX because of how caring the tutors were towards interviewees, and their wealth of industry contacts.
Interior Architecture student Savanna Nelson-Murray, who attended lots of Open Days, says she felt comfortable with the mix of people, the course and the tutors she found at Middlesex. Her coursemate Lucinda Hekneby, who designed a fashion recycling workshop, store and community space for her final year project, likes having tutors "that really question your work so you're constantly being challenged. It's taught me to be a lot stronger. I feel more confident about my work".
Fashion communications student Emma Harries values her tutors for simultaneously being really supportive, and for pushing her.
"It's always been like you have to work hard, get your name out" she says. "You need to be the person to put yourself out. All the projects have been really incredible. [When looking round] I found Middlesex was the most project-led university - definitely more hands-on. I've absolutely loved it.”