Pupils hailing from three local secondary schools – Hanson Academy, Beckfoot, and Beckfoot Upper Heaton – gathered at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery to commemorate their accomplishments in the DesignLab Nation project. This initiative was conducted in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and Bradford District Museums & Galleries.

DesignLab Nation constitutes a segment of the V&A’s National Schools Programme, which seeks to motivate the upcoming cohort of designers, creators, and pioneers, while also broadening the scope of the V&A collections.

The scheme unites secondary schools with regional museums, designers, industries, and the V&A itself, aiming to involve students and aid educators through thorough design ventures. Pupils embarked upon a four-day design challenge, collectively formulated by head educators at the secondary schools and local designer/maker Zahid Rauf. The task centred around the theme ‘Textiles for Traditions’.

By touring Bradford Council’s Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford Industrial Museum, and the V&A in London, students had the chance to draw inspiration from the opulent textile legacy of the Bradford district.

Additionally, the comprehensive collection of Islamic Art at Bradford District Museums and Galleries enriched their creative perspective. A visit to Melrose Interiors in Wibsey was also arranged, providing an opportunity to witness how the design skills honed during the project could translate into innovative careers.

To provide encouragement and guidance for students during their design endeavour, the V&A loaned a Nylon rainbow sweater and trousers from the 2018 Vamata Collection by Lebanese fashion designer Tatyana Antoun. This loan to Cartwright Hall for the academic year 2022/23 aimed to bolster the students’ creative pursuits.

Tristram Hunt, Director of V&A said: “Congratulations to this year’s brilliant cohort of DesignLab Nation students in Bradford, who have drawn on the rich heritage of the Bradford district’s textile and Islamic Art collections to celebrate creativity, bound in local resonance. We are proud to continue our partnership with Bradford District Museums & Galleries that is enabling so many of this district’s young residents to explore and build their creative capacity.”

Kate Kennedy, Learning Producer, V&A said: “It has been fantastic working with students from Bradford district as part of the V&A’s DesignLab Nation project. Over the course of the project, we have seen students develop their passion, enthusiasm, and confidence for design through engaging with national and regional museum collections and DLN designer, Zahid Rauf. We hope this experience will encourage students to select a creative subject at GCSE and become the next generation of designers, makers, and innovators!”

Sue Jacques, Purchasing & Creative Manager at Melrose Interiors said: “Being involved in the DesignLab Nation project has been such a rewarding experience all round. Our aim was to show the students the reality of design in the workplace and offer a broader perspective of the product journey (from a commercial viewpoint). We were really impressed with how the students took this on board and related it to their designs. As a long-standing Bradford business (55 years), we are in full support of preserving local textile heritage and improving job prospects in the area.”

The students created their own textile pieces, designed to enhance or support a routine, ritual or tradition they take part in.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for Bradford District Museums & Galleries said: “The students have produced some fantastic final pieces of work. It was great to see them taking so much inspiration from our venues at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery and Bradford Industrial Museum as well as the V&A (London) and you could see this reflected in their final designs.”

The students’ finished work will be on display at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery until September 2023.