Gallery: Unit X Festival 2017

Images provided by staff from Manchester School of Art

Following a truly fantastic week of events, below is a gallery of images from this year’s Unit X Festival, along with photographs from activities and events that happened during the Unit.


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Images Motion Connection Workshop

Words & Images: Poppy Cartwright

On Thursday 9th March, our Level 4 Fashion, FAD and Interactive Arts group got together for a workshop.

Based on themes of motion, each group was given a word to creatively respond to, such as loop, weave, and twist. They were asked to think about a physical action as well as a process that could be used when making their work. Supplied with a vast choice of recycled materials such as ribbon card, rope so on, they had to creatively collaborate together to make a costume that would be used in an impromptu performance.

The workshop was a great icebreaker and encouraged them to be free with ideas and explore. The performance took place over in the Benzie building and all students participated and enjoyed performing!

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Fashion Protest

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Words: Susan Atkin

Images: Ilona Gill 

On Tuesday 7th March there was a Protest event which showcased Fashion Level 4 students’ garments made under that heading. Themes ranging from the miners’ strike and Stonewall to free the nipple and black power were covered, all of which held resonance for the students who chose those themes.

The show itself marked the beginning of a cross-collaborative project with Fashion, Fashion Art Direction and Interactive Arts. All students’ specialist skills were utilised as they worked together to present garments within a traditional catwalk setting with a protest tableau forming as models gathered post catwalk through the show.

An impromptu collaboration with graphics occurred as their own one day  workshop on protest produced a series of banners.

Unit X Exhibition 2016

Words by Ayah Alshami, Ayesha Mirza and Houda Kaddouh

We have just celebrated the fifth year of Unit X in style with a truly fantastic exhibition of our student collaborations. The exhibition was held at London Scottish House, an ordinary office block transformed by inspirational work ranging from the modern era to classic renaissance compositions.

The students’ work was displayed using an array of techniques, each uniquely developed to the subject matter. From compositions to full office installations, the building was brought to life in the most brilliant of fashions.

Second year students from Illustration with Animation, Creative Multimedia and Fine Art Curating collaborated with renowned composer Peter Byrom-Smith who composed incredible short pieces for each student, which were played live by a 12-piece orchestra. Each animation spoke an intimate story, from the threats of biodiversity, to a Native American folk tale about a grasshopper and a cricket, produced with puppets! Each live performance felt like a personalised experience, as though you were being let into a little secret. It was definitely not one to miss, the energy in the room was incredible and the performance set a wonderful tone for the rest of the evening.

‘I was challenged to work in disciplines that I wouldn’t usually consider exploring’

Tapping into Manchester’s Year of Science, first year Textiles in Practice and Three Dimensional Design students were involved in a project entitled ‘Art Meets Science’. In groups students deliberated on how science and technology have reformed methods in representing the body. Visitors were encouraged to look at every detail within the various fabrics. The embroidered pieces were particularly delicate and intricate. Students also strategically laid out their sketchbooks next to their exhibits, and it was lovely to see the creative process from start to finish.

‘Working with people with other skills gave me the opportunity to produce a product that looks more complete. My ceramic vessels look a lot more interesting with the textiles features.’

On the second floor, work by Filmmaking, Animation and Photography students, expressed their brief with pieces relating to the English National Ballet, thereby accompanying the world premiere of Giselle, choreographed by the renowned Akran Khan, which will be performed in September. This had the audience walking through a series of projectors, much like an American drive-in movie theatre, except that one was able to navigate through many different movies in the same space.

Property developer Bruntwood asked students to develop original ideas for hoardings to surround the new Circle Square development on Oxford Road, and reimagine spaces within Blackfriar’s House.

As we become infatuated with the advancement of Manchester’s development, it is crucial that we are able to reassess how we occupy the city.

By working on this brief, students had to pitch, create proposals and liaise with Bruntwood representatives to develop their own ideas.

Unit X has continuously proven to be ingenious and resourceful.

The work produced was extremely professional and I could easily see any of these designs being cultivated in Manchester.

Another enterprising brief involved developing 12 looks for client James Long, who has quickly become one of the most sought after fashion designers. Long has recently won the Fashion Forward Award, an initiative set up to promote emerging design talent, a wonderful opportunity for those who selected to undertake the Fashion brief for their Unit X project. Students experimented with different materials such as foam, and produced sample pieces alongside sketches. The exhibit attracted many visitors who came to marvel at all the bright colours and exaggerated shapes. The students curated each outfit with aesthetics very much at the forefront of contemporary fashion.

Out of the four floors of installations and art, it would be impossible to choose a favourite, however first year students from Fashion, Fashion Art Direction, Interactive Arts and Interior Design definitely came close. This collaboration played with ideas of temptation and escapism, creating environments that heightened your senses and immersed you into alternative surroundings. Students experimented with different materials and delved into themes surrounding the question ‘Can space affect your behaviour?’. Each installation evoked feelings from the public, be it tranquillity, or an unsettling sense, as each atmosphere was unpredictable, flicking quickly from one emotion to another.

‘It was challenging to work with courses that work in a completely different way to how we work. I am doing Interactive Arts and working with Fashion students that are used to strict timescales and deadlines, I felt pressured in a productive way. I had to make quick decisions and be selective with my ideas.’

For me, the highlight of the evening had to be the educator workshop. A student who had worked on this project explained that students from a variety of courses had worked together to develop and deliver engaging workshops in public settings. Most of the students who chose this option would like to go on to work in schools.

It was therapeutic to escape from the busy exhibition, have a chance to unwind and make pompom key-rings, and visitors were able to create their own collaborative piece by throwing darts at paint filled balloons.

Overall, I was exceptionally overwhelmed with the high standard of quality, professionalism and how the eclectic mix of courses harmonized. It was truly interesting to see how everyone approached each notion in a different way. Students have raised the bar, and expectations next year will be high. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Unit X 2017!

‘As an alumni of the Three Dimensional Design course at Manchester School Of Art, the Unit X exhibition is always a highlighted date in my calendar. It is just incredible to see how the students developed their unique approaches to the collaborative briefs this year resulting is this phenomenal transformation of the London Scottish House in the city centre. It is notable that the standard of the work across all courses is creeping up each year. The experience from the initial introduction to the unit through to the final exhibit is invaluable for the students careers beyond university.’

‘From the inspiring talks, trips and workshops to the opportunity of engaging with an external organisation, Unit X offers the perfect package for students to experience working as a creative in the real world.’  

You can access a gallery of works from the exhibition here.

There are also lots of posts detailing the processes our students went through to get to the exhibition here.



Gallery: Unit X Final Show 2016

Images provided by Staff & Students from Manchester School of Art, and visitors

This year’s final exhibition was a perfect end to a truly full on ten weeks for our students. The standard of collaborative work produced seems to improve year on year, and we are incredibly proud to share their results with you.

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Option 3: Fashion Industry

Words: Abi Goodman

“What’s good about Unit X is that it’s collaborative. It is more like industry. It gets students to think about their strengths and how they can combine those as a team.” (Sarah Easom, Senior Lecturer, Fashion)

Still to do

Last week we caught up with second year BA (Hons) students from BA (Hons) Fashion, BA (Hons) Textiles in Practice and BA (Hons) Fine Art who have selected to undertake the Fashion brief for their Unit X project.

Students selecting this option were able to choose from two briefs:

  • To design a fashion collection for James Long
  • To design costumes for the forthcoming play ‘Cuckoo’.

James Long has fast become one of the most sought after design talents in London. His fan base ranges from Alister Mackie (Creative Director at Another Man) and Luke Day (Fashion Director at GQ Style) to Lucas Ossendrijver who cites James as his favourite young designer.

Students working on the James Long brief were thrown straight into coming up with a concept in the introductory week. After a presentation by Tom Norcombe from James Long, groups of students worked together on initial ideas. They then had to test these ideas with Tom before the first day was up!

The brief involves working as a group on a range of 12 menswear or womenswear looks for the James Long customer to be presented back to Tom on his next visit. Students are encouraged to use experimental techniques with varied fabric weights and produce samples and illustrations of their collection.

We were fortunate to speak to four groups who spoke to us about their underlying concepts, what it is like to work as a group (especially one made up of students from different disciplines), and whether what they have learned will inform their future practice.

“We are learning a lot. Textiles works a lot differently from fashion. Textiles is about texture. Fashion have knowledge of finishing and fabrics.” (2nd year, Textiles in Practice)


“Fashion is more about technical sampling and learning. I have learned a lot more about experimental ways of working from textiles students. We can be more experimental as we are sampling rather than making a full garment. You can mix genres. You can go crazier.” (2nd year, Fashion student)

“Unit X is different. It is very fast paced. When you start you are more used to working individually which means you think you have to do everything. You get used to delegating. Working with 6 other people can be hard, sometimes it’s hard for us all to get together, but it does mean you can do several things at the same time.” (2nd year Fashion student)

“Group work is challenging but collaboration is probably something you need to get used to for the work place. It certainly makes it easier to come up with ideas within a group and to get work done.” (2nd year Fashion student)

“I have learned a lot. I mainly work in 2D but think I will take from this more 3D ways of working.” (2nd year Textiles in Practice student)

Themes arising from the groups we talked to include: Botanical Glamrock, 70’s tennis wear combined with rust references, Dirty Kitsch inspired by 1990s’ derelict towerblocks & hotels, and Sci-fi horror mixed with sportswear. We look forward to the presentation of the final outcomes of the project at the exhibition next month.

Meanwhile those engaged on the Cuckoo brief have been contextualising their work, drawing out and about in Manchester with some initial costume ideas.

Why We Love Manchester School of Art

Words: Abi Goodman

There was a real buzz around the School of Art this week.

By Thursday, Second year students from the Whitworth Threads project were developing their team-working skills by accepting the challenge of building a support structure to carry an egg through the air, to see who could ‘fly’ their egg the furthest and whose egg would survive the trip intact!

Meanwhile First year students from BA Hons Fashion, Fashion Art Direction, Interactive Arts and Interior Design were working in cross-disciplinary teams to produce a wearable museum. This day long workshop was led by former Interactive Arts graduate Aliyah Hussain who is a visual artist and performance artist. In her practice she works with costume, performance and audience reaction.

She challenged the students to think of the body as architecture and to make costumes relating to different themes. Students were encouraged to experiment with a DIY approach to see how simple materials such as paper could be manipulated and transformed. The day was finished off with an impromptu portable gallery opening.

We, at the blog, were fortunate to get talking to one group of students at the big reveal in the Benzie foyer. They said that they had not known what they were in for and the day had proven to be really creative. Most importantly the day had helped them gel as a group and gain different points of view as they were all from different disciplines.

Also this week, intriguing large-scale cardboard objects and characters started to appear with First year students from BA Hons Graphic Design and Illustration with Animation who had been undertaking a workshop with Lord Whitney (who gave an Inspirer Lecture earlier in the week). More detail to follow on the Inspirer speakers next week!