THE autumn sun is out to greet the start of York Mediale 2018, York’s first digital media arts festival.

Creative director Tom Higham is in suitably upbeat mood as this ten-day event with the inviting slogan of “Art, meet the future” opens with a media launch at York Art Gallery.

It was a chance to ask him once more what exactly is York Mediale? “Mediale is a celebration of...there are so many angles to it,” he says, gathering his thoughts over a glass of water.

“It’s a festival to mark the city’s UNESCO status – the first and only UK UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts – and it’s a city-wide event that combines art, music, theatre and technology, and its aim is to showcase, accelerate and be a catalyst to the creative sector in the city, which is already here and growing.”

York Press:

"There's more willingness in the city to be bolder and more experimental," says York Mediale creative director Tom Higham 

Hitting his stride, Tom continues: “From the perspective of business and jobs, the arts are the fastest-growing industry in the UK and we’re really good at creativity in this country, both in the traditional and experimental artforms.”

He came on board for York Mediale after York was designated the first British UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts, but has relished picking up that baton. “York was really progressive in applying for that status in 2013/2014; it was a bold move to tell the story of York’s living creativity, in a city that’s always told the story of its living heritage, but this festival is a story of what’s happening now, what could happen in the future, rather than what’s happened,” says Tom.

“York has been really good at celebrating its ‘dead culture’, but not so much its living culture, so it was a progressive move to get that UNESCO status and we’ve created a festival that’s wide-ranging, accessible and stimulating.

“We want this festival to be fun and engaging and playful and have many routes to discover, whether it’s attending a two-day conference on video games and culture in The Hospitium, or you bump into Matthew Plummer Hernandez’s 3D printed sculpture, Token Homes, in King’s Square, or attend a concert by the most contemporary jazz artist around.”

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Light and shade: Lauren Masterman and Lee Clark, from York Museums Trust, silhouetted against Worlds In The Making at York Art Gallery at Thursday's York Mediale launch

Tom acknowledges that “art”, let alone “digital media arts”, is “a word that can put people off”, but says: “We’ve not dumbed anything down and we’re definitely not against ‘deep works’, but there are also works in this festival that are fun and will hopefully stop you in your tracks and make you say, ‘What on earth is this’ and let it intervene in your life at any of our 21 venues, with 113 local, national and international artists and 70-plus events across the city over ten days. So there really is something for everyone.”

Should your interest be sparked, Tom says: “What I’d love for the York audience is that even if you feel ‘it’s a bit odd’, or ‘I don’t know what media arts is’, we’re running York Mediale In A Day each day, all free stuff to see, where you can try it out,” To find out more, visit

Reflccting on the potential impact of YorkMediale, Tom says: “The real shift that we are starting to see already in York is more willingness in the city to be bolder and more experimental and to invite these digital artists to the city.

“Around 90 per cent of the pieces for this festival are new, most of the work being installed for unique premieres, and they will then go on to tour the world, having been made for and in the city of York.”

York Mediale 2018, York’s festival of digital media arts, runs until October 6, Visit for full details.