York Mediale, meet the future — York Mediale


York Mediale, meet the future

Creative Director, Tom Higham reflects on 2020 and sets out the vision for the future 


At the opening event of York Mediale 2018 I nervously, and proudly, announced that we’d be back again in 2020. Bigger and better, making our play for establishing York, and our festival, as an internationally significant media arts biennial. What a two years it’s been. 



We’re lucky in many ways, we’re a small and productive organisation, without a building or a large staff team, and we’re incredibly lucky to work on projects, and with people, we believe in. The whole landscape for culture has changed, of course; the world will want and need something different. Funding that was almost guaranteed has gone, sponsorship and partners are much harder to find. 

YM2020 looks to explore, challenge and reflect on what connects us. At a transitional time of social distancing, climate emergency and social and political upheaval, we look to shine a light on how we connect with loved ones, with our community, with nature and with our culture. We’ve been developing projects about now, about how we live, what we value, and what we might benefit from reflecting on.

Trying to plot a future for our organisation during these times has not been easy, and is something the entirety of the cultural sector is struggling with. We’ve had to adapt to be as agile as possible, and you might notice that while the ‘festival’ starts on 21st October, it runs into 2021. Festivals are about critical mass. About the serendipity of connections and conversations. The inspiration of when things (and people) rub up against each other. Exactly what we can’t, and don’t want to, do now. So we’ll be presenting a series of projects, in the streets, galleries, cathedrals and zoom accounts of our audiences when they make sense, and over an extended period. 

Taking a longer term view has enabled us to secure some very, very exciting projects into 2021, so watch this space. We’re not moving away from festivals completely, but will be a much more year round presence, and are developing projects nationally and internationally. Now, more than ever, we need to be flexible and dynamic enough to go where the opportunities and energy takes us. 

Our ‘why’ hasn’t changed. We still believe in the power of art to transform, enrich and positively impact our lives. We still believe that art has a crucial role to play in the development of our society, our places, our communities, and in its capacity to delight, illuminate, provoke and inspire. One of the silver linings on the massive cloud that has been 2020 so far has been an opportunity to reflect on the opportunity we have, refocus, and clarify our why. We are an agile network of high quality collaborators who commission and produce ambitious digital art projects. Nothing more, nothing less. In other words:

“We are the agent provocateurs of the York cultural scene, the unruly younger child who doesn’t follow the rules. Bridging the gap between the new and the traditional we will challenge and inspire York. Year-round we will bring new media art of undeniable international quality to the city. We will be the catalyst for inspirational work that travels the world bearing York’s name as its home.”

York Mediale Vision Statement

The York Mediale Team

So, YM2020 is here. We are excited to present six major new commissions, five world premieres and one UK premiere. Starting on October 21st and continuing into the new year, YM2020 is a cacophony of cutting edge experiential digital art, conceived and influenced by 2020, for 2020. 

We want to help kick start the cultural heart of York and the UK with a world premiere loaded, digitally engaged, mentally stimulating, adrenaline shot of a festival. We will continue developing these projects over the coming months and years – this is the opposite of a flash in the pan.