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We’re Stronger Together: Design-Nation’s Cluster Hubs

At Design-Nation we’re known for our national network of individual designers and makers, working as sole traders, in partnerships and sometimes as small companies. These creative businesses stretch across the entire UK, from Northern Ireland to East Anglia, from southwest Wales to Aberdeenshire, and Cornwall to Shetland.

Much less well known is the Design-Nation Cluster Hub network, which enables designer/makers to connect regularly and develop together at local and regional levels. This network has grown from several groups with a East Midlands focus as originally developed by Design Factory, with whom we merged in 2017, to a truly national network in 2020, facilitated by current technology like video-conferencing and social media apps.

Structure & Locations

Wherever there is a cluster of Design-Nation members our aim is to have a local peer-coordinated hub, enabling our members to communicate, explore challenges, ideas and issues, create new work and projects, develop their creative practices and support their business needs. Each group sets their own agenda and develops a suitable structure for regular meetings and catch-ups, which vary from weekly to bi-monthly.

The Design-Nation team actively work with different groups, helping them to developing their focus areas and special projects, and we provide tailored training for the coordinators. We also broker local connections and build ongoing partnerships with organisations and venues that can support, supply and facilitate local projects and developments for each group; partners like Coin Street Community Builders (London), Cultivator Cornwall, Lakeside Arts (Nottingham), Manchester Craft & Design Centre and our sister gallery The National Centre for Craft & Design (Lincolnshire).

Currently (December 2020) there are hubs for Cornwall & Devon, Derbyshire, East Anglia, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, London, Northwest England, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Scotland & Northern Ireland (“the Modern Celts”), South Coast, Southwest England & Wales, West Midlands and Yorkshire, all set up in response to local demand.


Each hub sets their own development path according to the needs and priorities of the members. Activities include maker-hosted studio visits and meetings; maker-led outdoor workshops and themed walks; exhibition and craft fair planning workshops; “Away Days” to major festivals and exhibitions; group critiques and skills sharing.

Significant achievements in the recent past have included a dozen makers on a four night residential creative retreat in East Anglia which included peer mentoring, skill sharing, goal setting, book swap, beach-combing and cooking together; gallery and trade exhibitions in Lincoln; and a programme of  exhibitions and exchange showcases between the Nottinghamshire group and German design organisations in Karlsruhe (Nottingham’s twin city).

Future plans

Several of our groups are working with major national and local authority galleries and museums for exhibition projects in 2021. And with our support at least three hubs are developing external funding applications.

One group is developing a craft vending machine project to produce small ‘talisman’ works which will tour cultural venues in 2021. The Nottinghamshire group are now exploring the idea of a ‘sketchbook swap’ with their German artist contacts. Other groups are focusing on professional development. All groups are looking forward to having the opportunity to meet face to face, many of them for the first time!

Want to find out more about the benefits of membership and belonging to a local cluster hub? Contact our membership team today on [email protected].


Creative retreat in Norfolk 2019; Nottingham hub members; Laura Mabbutt and Stevie Davies working outdoors; Just Got Made weekender; member event at The National Centre for Craft & Design.

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Liz Cooper


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