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Dominic Wilcox visits Saudi Arabia with British Council

Find out about our Chief Inventor Dominic Wilcox's recent trip to Saudi Arabia, in his own words:

'This October, the British Council invited me to speak at Saudi Design Week in Riyadh. My talk focused on my practice as an artist and designer and also about Little Inventors, the organisation I started last year. At Little Inventors we encourage children to use their amazing imagination to think up and draw invention ideas with no restrictions. The most ingenious invention ideas get made into real things by professional makers and designers. The response from the design community at SDW was tremendous.

The design week showcased some of the best work from local designers together with some interesting international projects. It was a brilliant opportunity to meet some of the most prominent designers, artists and educators from Saudi Arabia - and understand a lot more about the country and the direction society is moving in.

Saudi Arabia is a very traditional and religious country with very strict rules. Our visit was not long enough to get a full picture of life there. Among the people I met there was an air of optimism for the future and a feeling of things changing rapidly in terms of freedoms. A few weeks ago it was announced that women will be allowed to drive. The women I met were thrilled at this and talked of how it will transform their lives and allow them to work and do things without relying on help getting about.

I didn’t know what to expect from my visit but I left with a better understanding of their culture. It surprised me to learn that 60% of the population is under 30. The internet, whatsapp, instagram and facebook are hugely popular and contribute significantly to the lives of the young people. Those I met, young and otherwise, were hugely enthusiastic for doing positive things and exploring new avenues that I think came with the sense of things changing in the country.

The story we get in the media about the Middle East is all about war, terrorism and religion, but in my short time at the Saudi Design Week, meeting people in the creative community, I left with thoughts of the amazing, strong, ambitious women I'd met, the positive changes that were underway, and the enthusiasm of the people to show what they can do. I really left with a feeling of hope - and hopefully we can come back to Saudi Arabia in the near future and see how we can support and encourage creative, innovative thinking through the Little Inventors project.'