Northern Media Summit 2018: Creative Clusters Don’t Grow Alone

Shelley Langan
May 4, 2018 · 6 min read

Earlier this year Nesta produced a report, “Creative Nation, How the Creative Industries are powering the UK’s Nations and Regions”. In the punchy Exec Summary, Nesta highlights how fast growing the Creative Industries are and how closely aligned they are with technology. Unarguably creating creative businesses and creative careers within the human workforce is becoming increasingly more important. These creative jobs being the ones automation, AI and tech are currently struggling to replace. This industry is an important part of any countries economic growth for the future, and present.

‘Fact 4’ of Nesta’s analysis of open data states:

“ Regional rivals should work together to grow their creative industries”.

They calculated the average growth in creative employment and business count in an area’s direct neighbours and compared it with its own.

Figure 11 shows the results. It compares the proportion of TTWAs that grew when mean
growth in their neighbouring areas from 2011–2014 to 2015–2016 was positive (red bar in the
right of each chart) with the proportion that grew when mean growth in its neighbouring
areas was negative (red bar on the left of every chart). If the performance of an area’s
neighbours was unrelated to its own, we would expect the size of both bars to be the same.
If, in contrast, growth in an area’s neighbours was detrimental to its own, the bar on the right
should be lower.

Nesta’s Fact 4 conclusion:

“Creative clusters do not grow on their own: what happens in their neighbourhood is also important.”

This was the backdrop to the this month’s Northern Media Summit, where startups and global businesses from across the Northern Powerhouse showcased their innovative projects and demonstrated why they have chosen to startup and grow in the North. Three very different organisations, Isle of Media, Barclays and NorthInvest combined their skills, knowledge, connections and passion for building growth in the media industry to pull together this inaugural two day event — giving the Northern Creative (Media) Industries, including the Isle of Man, an opportunity to grow together and share in the successes of each other.

If you weren’t able to make the event, or didn’t know it was on, below are my top takeaways from this showcase of Northern Media business growth.

A key theme across a number of the companies was that human experience is still key to content creation. Even if the media industry is using the height of technology, it’s still all about a well told tale.

As the historian and author Yuval Noah Harari, points out in the international bestseller Homo Deus (READ IT, if you haven’t already, thank me later) humans telling and engaging with stories helped us advance the homospaiens species to where it is today:

“Fiction isn’t bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. We can’t play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can’t enjoy the benefits of markets and courts without similar make-believe stories.”

No wonder storytelling is so important. And, whom better to tell a story that the media industry.

Lee Hicken from The City Talking, found the art of well told stories to be the catalyst for growing their businesses, be that through print, online or video. At the first event in Leeds for the #NorthernMediaSummit he shared his view that all media mediums can be successful IF you’re

telling the right stories…

to the right people…

in the right way….

The City Talking was born from the founders’ annoyance of hearing the same stories emanating from Leeds — ones told by city banks and big corporate machines . The dynamic and progressive media company, now spanning multiple cities across the country, The City Talking came to life by telling what they felt were ‘real’ stories of art, culture, music and creativity.

Lee Hicken from The City Talking speaking about why Leeds, and the North, will always be part of their story.

On day two, Pete Woodbridge from Immersive Storylab took storytelling to another level, using Augmented Reality (AR). Showing how story making can become a new world of engagement and interactivity through the use of AR technology, allowing stories to merge reality with fantasy.

Engaging Emotions

Nearly all the Northern Powerhouse businesses showcased were using some form of innovation in ‘Media Tech’. This opens a whole new world of immersive possibilities where all your senses are involved in an impactful and immersive experience, but they have content challenges. How do you direct people to where you want them to see the story unfold? Could they miss a key part part of the narrative?

Experiencing content in new ways means new advances technological story telling need to be both visual and auditory. Garry from startup Kinicho educated the us about how their company is using cutting edge Virtual Reality (VR) sound, how it can make or break the VR experience. Sound can help tell and direct a VR narrative as well as adding to the heightened emotional experience of being in a virtual story.

Rosie Summers, VR freelancer, spoke passionately to the Leeds audience about her VR study findings, where 100% of the participants said they left the experience feeling an emotion was elicited. Rosie was a powerhouse of enthusiasm, and really hit home the point that engaging with VR technology can help communicate depth in any story you wish to tell. (As an aside: she also paints in 3D live…unreal!)

Myself (left) Rosie Summers VR (centre) and Jon Wagstaffe from event sponsor Barclays (right) at the Northern Media Summit on Day 1.

Collaborative Conurbations

“Our neighbours grow as we grow.” Nesta, Creative Nation 2018.

It’s almost logical to see that if you are working together to achieve a common goal you’re able to have better chance at success as a whole rather than in part. That could be to give an industry a voice or even to attract a pool of talent to an area. Some of the businesses that were showcasing the Northern Media Summit had already worked together, with others gaining inspiration from their fellow creatives/techies.

Shannon Harvey, speaking on behalf of Production Park, blew everyone away sharing with us how Production Park have helped some of the biggest and brightest in the almost the music artist and business brands. Especially engaging was how they used the latest media technology to build touring sets for the likes of Beyonce, ITV and Nike. The audience, including myself, were amazed by the work this global powerhouse in a secure facility not far away from them. What a gem of a company to be introduced to; an amazingly successful business using cutting edge robotics, creative media and state of the art music technology.

Emma Green, Digital Marketing at Northern Powerhouse, tweets about Wakefield based Production Park.

Highlighting successful businesses, just shows the capabilities of Northern businesses and what can be achieved.

This whole event goes to show what collaboration can achieve, even from the event sponsors. It put some meat on the bones of the ‘Fact 4’ from Nesta’s report and the Northern Powerhouse story. And, embodied the idea that people and companies supporting the growth of a wider area than just their own can come together and do something powerful. The Northern Media Summit organisers (two of which are not-for- profit) brought together the Isle of Man, Leeds and Manchester with a common aim: to grow the businesses in the media sector from the Island and across the Northern Powerhouse.

It was a learning experience for the audience in cutting edge media tech, the power of 21st century story-telling and also who’s doing what across the Northern Powerhouse. This event dipped it’s toes in to what is clearly a thriving sector in the North spanning creative industries communities, technology and media business, as well being as an amazing opportunity to network with media-minded individuals.

Jack Culpan, founder of Sponsor My Society, and I catching up.

There are definitely more success stories to be told further than the seven speakers showcased. It will be, and is, the media industry who give a platform for others to tell their stories, so it was awesome to see this event give a platform for them to tell of their own journeys.

More info about the event and speakers here:

Isle of Media

Isle of Media -the national development agency for the thriving Isle of Man video, television & film sector. Set up as a not-for-profit Public Private Partnership with the Isle of Man Government to drive inward investment in Digital Media and foster the indigenous industry.

Shelley Langan

Written by

Weekend rockstar.

Isle of Media -the national development agency for the thriving Isle of Man video, television & film sector. Set up as a not-for-profit Public Private Partnership with the Isle of Man Government to drive inward investment in Digital Media and foster the indigenous industry.