From drawing board to Festival Square

The Mancorialist The Mancorialist

Over the last few months, we’ve been working closely with students from the Unit X programme at Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University. With guidance and support from Manchester-based design and making agencies Ferrious and OH OK LTD, the students have designed the interiors, seating areas and furniture for Festival Square.

You can see the students’ work for yourself when Festival Square opens to the public in Albert Square on 30 June. For a sneak preview, we spoke to two of the students involved in the project: Laibah Bakhtiar, who’s designed some of the Festival Square furniture, and Thomas Noonan, who’s designed the lighting for the Festival Pavilion.


Have you had previous experience of taking a design project straight into the making process?

LB: I have – but not at this scale.

TN: Never, and I’ve loved the process. It’s gotten me so excited to enter the real world and begin working in industry.

What has been the most enjoyable part of the project?

Laibah Bakhtiar (LB): The fact that it was a ‘live’ brief. I also loved working as a group and building in the workshop as teams.

Thomas Noonan (TN): The whole project has been enjoyable – but the final three weeks, working at PLANT in NOMA and developing the projects, designing the exhibition and seeing everything finalised, has been the best part.

What has been the most challenging moment? And the funniest?

LB: The most challenging was probably the Dragon’s Den pitch, but the response we got made it one of the best experiences.

TN: The funniest was the unveiling of a chair I produced in PLANT. After producing seven chairs with my partner Ria, I thought I could tackle the construction for one on my own – but I was wrong. The angle of the back was so out – like a deckchair…

Tell us about getting involved at the workshops.

LB: It got stressful at times when we had to take key decisions, bearing in mind how it would impact the users – but it was an amazing experience building furniture at a workshop for an actual client.

TN: Working in PLANT, and learning from Joe [Hartley] and Ben [Young] of OH OK LTD in the studio, has been an invaluable experience. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and will struggle going back to uni and working at a desk.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned? And what will you take away from the project?

LB: I’ve learned how to take strengths from every individual in the group, and how putting effort into a design you believe in makes it so much more successful.

TN: I’ll take away so many things: a great body of work, new skills and ideas, new relationships and, most importantly, a new-found excitement for my career ahead.


You can see the students’ designs in Festival Square from noon every day between Friday 30 June and Sunday 16 July.