The IGNITE Festival of Creativity showcases student art from campus to community

Creative arts students are poised to transform the City of Plymouth into a living gallery this summer in a ground-breaking project combining exhibition with employability.

The IGNITE Festival of Creativity will use buses and buildings as the blank canvas for artwork created by graduating students at the city’s two biggest creative education institutions – Plymouth College of Art and the University of Plymouth.

With the support of major organisations, including Plymouth Citybus, the City Centre Company, Drake Circus and Real Ideas, the festival will run for more than six weeks, using a variety of venues and digital platforms to showcase the work of painters, film-makers, sculptors, designers, and craft-makers among many other disciplines.

There will be a strong performing arts presence, supported by Plymouth Conservatoire, with organisations such as the Barbican Theatre scheduling music and performance events around the city, as well as creating opportunities for costume and set design.

IGNITE 2021 will also enable businesses and organisations to research and recruit graduates via the IGNITE website, containing hundreds of professional profiles, both enabling the local economy to take advantage of creative talent – and helping to retain that talent in the region.

“The IGNITE Festival of Creativity very much puts a unique spin on the traditional arts degree show,” 

says Dan Howson, project producer. 

“It not only brings together the University and Plymouth College of Art in a genuinely collaborative way, but it takes the art of its students into the community: from the sides of buses to Barclays Bank; from shop windows to Sutton Harbour and the waterfront, this will be a city-wide celebration of creativity. And it is allied to an online platform that will connect that creativity with local industry.”

This is the third staging of IGNITE, which is supported by Plymouth City Council as part of the iMayflower project, and by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund (administered by Arts Council England). The 2021 iteration, however, is the first to be held in the community, in addition to graduate showcases at both institutions.

Organisers have identified a number of locations for artwork to be displayed, along with other activities such as film screenings and live performances. These include the big screen at The Barcode, inside the Market Hall in Devonport and Ocean Studios at Royal William Yard, and in a number of shops in the city centre and within Drake Circus. And from June, artwork will be emblazoned on the sides of public transport thanks to the support of Citybus.

Professor Chris Bennewith, Interim Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business at the University, said 

“Thanks to IGNITE, the city has become the canvas and stage for our students to showcase their work, and their value, to prospective employers. We will be looking to grow and expand IGNITE in future years, with more and more partners coming on board as they see the potential of working with creative and cultural industry graduates to help stimulate innovation in their businesses, create connections with the Plymouth public and contribute to creating a vibrant and exciting city centre.”

The website, which currently has more than 400 students registered, has already created commercial opportunities for students and graduates. This has included Maple Green Property Development, which initially recruited a graduate to work on the branding for a new development – and then returned to hire two more.

“Creative skills aren’t just needed in the arts and media sectors,” 

says Ian Hutchinson, Head of Development at Plymouth College of Art. 

“That is the great value of the IGNITE platform; it’s a portal into the creative talent that can add value to a wide range of industries. It’s an incredibly efficient way of connecting people, whether as a means of generating employment or kick-starting community campaigns.”

The festival is being coordinated by a joint team from the University and Plymouth College of Art, with support from 7RE (who are coaching the team on developing their communication strategy), Atlas Graphics, Just Enough Brave and Altitude. As part of this, the team has also been fostering conversation across the city on the relationship between creativity and everyday lives, and has interviewed businesses, members of the public, and prominent figures such as Caroline Rush CEO of British Fashion Council.

Recognition for IGNITE has been growing, and it has been shortlisted in the 2021 HEIST Awards for Best Student Engagement Campaign or Initiative. The event will run until 19 July, and for more information, visit: