You might have noticed a focus on the city of Leeds on Tech Talks this week, but given most of our listeners are now from the USA, you might be wondering; where is Leeds, and why do we care?
To the uninitiated Leeds is the biggest city in Yorkshire, England’s biggest county, and a major university town two-hours by train from London. In terms of pure distance you might think that’s a short trip – but not to us Brits. There is a huge cultural divide in this country somewhere between Nottingham and Sheffield, and it matters.
London (and the South-East) sucks talent from the regional areas of the UK. I am from Newcastle. I love the North-East of England, but settled in London because career opportunities are more diverse and plentiful here. Nothing too revealing so far… however something is changing.
Even before we became familiar with the terms Covid, r-number, lockdown and ‘herd immunity’ business was looking at Leeds as a location worth paying serious attention to. As with its near-neighbour Manchester there is a wealth of young talent, if the region could just hold onto it! The countryside is undeniably beautiful (the native’s refer to it as ‘God’s Country’) and accessible, and the city has much to offer. Channel 4, SkyBet, Asda (to name a few) have located themselves in Leeds and there is a booming start-up sector.
So we went to the 6th edition of the Leeds Digital Festival to talk to businesses on the ground and find out why they were so passionate about the city and area. Here are 3 quick take-aways!
I’ve already mentioned it, but talent is in rich supply. You don’t get job creation on the scale we’re seeing unless businesses are confident they can attract the people to fuel growth. Yes, the links to location are weaker than prior to the pandemic, but hybrid working models demand people have access to the office even if that’s less frequent. Leeds has a student population of more than38,000 and they’re choosing to stay in the area when they finish studies. Those that do leave home for education are coming back too! Will Smith, Tred CEO, came home because of the work/life balance the surrounding area offers.
Story-telling and passion are key and Yorkshire has a rich history of provoking narratives(the Bronte sisters for starters..!). Jonny Ross tells us to ‘bring the real you’ in our chat with him, and people will always buy from people. There is a reason that many TV adverts looking to build trust adopt a northern English accent, and this is a region increasingly confident of its own voice.
You can have clubs, factories and forums, but Leeds has a Guild. The Coder’s Guild represents the community you find in regional cities. London is a collection of a number of areas and struggles to feel cosy. Leeds Digital Festival has been able to tap into the local community and it’s a passionate one. Their open source platform has encouraged organisations to come together and set their own agenda in a very organic way. The Ahead Partnership is a wonderful example of a project that taps into a desire of local leaders to give back.
It was a pleasure to go up, meet so many folk and talk to Stuart Clarke, festive director. All five episodes are now on Tech Talks – we’re inviting you to listen and find out for yourself just why Leeds is drawing so much attention.