Sleepy old Yorkshire, eh? That’s what some people think. Sleepy old Yorkshire, with its hills and its sheep and its ales and its cricket (a game that lasts a day, if not more), with its pride in quaint traditions, and its dependable, fad-free, steady-as-she-goes nature. Sleepy old Yorkshire, some people think. But not everybody.
Sky for example. Sky don’t think Yorkshire is sleepy. Earlier this year, when Sky were looking for somewhere to base their new tech centre, they were impressed with Yorkshire’s forward-thinking ways. So they’re basing their tech centre in Leeds – 400 skilled jobs. And Google, when they opened their first digital pop-up workshop outside London, they chose Leeds. Likewise, earlier this year, when global IT firm FDM relocated from Manchester they moved to... Leeds. That’ll be 500 skilled jobs within a couple of years.
Yet there are some who think we’re still not shouting loud enough about what Yorkshire has to offer in terms of the digital, creative and marketing industries. That’s prompted three entrepreneurs to set up a new organisation, Media Yorkshire, which is designed to bring together people and companies across sectors, and help Yorkshire achieve even more.
Stuart Clarke, 49, is one of those entrepreneurs. He was born and raised in Wakefield but spent over a decade in the South East as a marketing manager in financial services, before returning to Yorkshire in 1998 where he now advises startups, is a member of the new Leeds Digital Board (a Council-backed body that promotes the city’s IT potential), and is on the steering committee of the Leeds Digital Festival (which returns next April). His co-founders at Media Yorkshire are Nathan Lane, who runs a marketing firm called Campfire PR, and David Parkin, who founded website TheBusinessDesk.com.
‘Myself, Nathan and David have all worked in Leeds for many years, all of us in various parts of the media and marketing world,’ Stuart explains, ‘And we’d just sit in the pub moaning about the state of the world and how lots of the media and marketing spend goes outside of the county, and even companies within Yorkshire will engage agencies in Manchester or in London. We moaned about it for a long while and then someone challenged us and said, “Well bloody do something about it,” so we did.’
Media Yorkshire was announced this summer, and the website was unveiled at the end of September. The organisation will be funded by members and will comprise a deliberately broad range of sectors, its definition stretching to fit in whoever wants to join, though generally members will be from the digital, creative and marketing industries, who’ll all be encouraged to collaborate.
‘I think that sometimes Yorkshire may lose out because we don’t have a huge world class leading agency that they have in London and Manchester,’ says Stuart. ‘If we collaborate more as a sector, so a media agency collaborates with a digital agency collaborates with a PR agency and we come together and shout more, I think we’ll do better as a region.’
Stuart says the three men intend to use their connections and those of their members to help give a greater voice to the range of industries that fall under the umbrella of media, not just letting those around the country and world know about Yorkshire’s skills, but also making young people, particularly graduates, more aware of what the county can offer.
‘We have a real skills gap,’ Stuart tells us. ‘If you look at some of the statistics at Leeds University, they lose so many students from the region once they’ve graduated, a big chunk of whom move down to London, because they feel that that’s where you need to go to build a career. You think, “How can we keep those people from the great universities in York and Sheffield, Hull, Bradford?” There’s plenty of opportunity in this region, but industry needs to work closer with the universities.
‘So we’re going to put on regular events to meet the interns and meet the agencies, so if you’re a second or third year undergraduate you’ll realise that, although you thought there were only four agencies in Sheffield, actually there are 70. Or perhaps you thought there was nothing going on in the digital sector in Hull, but there’s actually tonnes going on.’
The fact that there’s ‘tonnes going on’ in places like Hull and Sheffield and Leeds is a key message as the North strives to compete and become the powerhouse it’s being trumpeted as being, and those at the forefront of the industry, like the tech companies, already know. Stuart points to the recent news about Sky as a clear sign that the cluster effect works – they used data from LinkedIn to choose their new location.
‘And they’re doing the right thing, he explains, ‘Putting apprenticeship schemes together, putting graduate schemes together, and they’re working in real collaboration with other companies in Leeds to say, “Look, we’re not a threat, how can we build this infrastructure together?” I think it’s such a great way of doing it.’
As a member of the Leeds Digital Board, Stuart will be working with companies such as Sky, but also with organisations such as Tech North, which is promoting the North’s digital capability as a whole. When Living North asks if Yorkshire can become a big rival to other clusters such as Manchester, Stuart says their intention is in fact to the contrary.
‘I don’t think it’s a case of competing, I think it’s being complementary. There’s probably more of a digital edge over here as opposed to a media edge in Manchester, and I think the two regions working together can be a credible alternative to London.’
The future’s bright, the future’s Yorkshire.
For more information about Media Yorkshire go to their new website, www.mediayorkshire.com.