XYZ Events & MPA Panel Stirs Up Debate within Creative & Digital Communities

With temperatures outside in the high 20s, there was plenty of hot air inside Manchester’s arts centre HOME last Wednesday evening; when the Manchester Publicity Association (MPA) and XYZ Events assembled a panel of well-known personalities from Manchester’s Creative & Digital community to debate a potential “collaboration crisis” in the city.

With a cumulative £500m of digital and creative infrastructure investment in Manchester, a proven start-up ecosystem and a pledge for Manchester to become “the UK’s number one city for digital”, the panel debated whether the rhetoric matched the reality and both panel and audience was divided in their opinions.

Christian James, Managing Director of The IF agency said, “We’re a way off collaboration in Manchester. We’re competitive by nature yet we’d achieve so much more if we started working together – no one organization can satisfy every client’s every wish. Something seismic needs to happen here.”

Mark Varley, Managing Partner from Havas Media agreed, “You can’t turn the ‘collaboration oil tanker’ around, it will take a groundswell from Manchester’s Creative and Digital communities to achieve this and trust is a big issue.”

Trust, along with skills, were common themes of the discussion that saw the audience participating as much as the panelists, with both elements being identified as key topics by the graphic artist who made a visual record of the evening’s discussions.

Katie Peate, the recently appointed Head of Digital & Creative and Technology Growth at Business Growth Hub said, “Often companies simply don’t want competitors in the room but there’s evidence that cohorts and communities working together are stronger – an ecosystem of business support.”

CEO and Co-founder of Cyberkudos Michael Hall criticized the silos he said he had seen within Manchester’s creative and digital communities and said that Manchester had to become an “attack brand”.  He added, “I don’t want Manchester be known as The Silicon Valley of the UK or the Shoreditch of The North, a second rate version of something else.”

Michael Hall also questioned the time it took to influence the content on the digital syllabuses of local universities and questioned if North West graduates were up-to-date enough to compete. A speaker from Salford Unversity sat at the back of the room interjected and said it had to be a partnership between businesses and the universities and invited the private sector to come in and see them to address this.

But there was great positivity in the room too. Christian James applauded the co-working spaces cropping up around the city as a positive force for collaboration. Sandy Lindsay, Group Managing Director from Tangerine said she had witnessed lots of collaboration amongst peers in her network for her Juice Academy apprentice scheme and audience member cited Media City and Spinngfields as initiatives that had put Manchester on the map for collaboration.
There was plea from the MPA to create a task list there and then list for the city.
Daniel Nolan, Chairman of the MPA and Managing Director of the Eword set about tasking the panel and audience to create a checklist which included:

1. More positivity around working together

  1. Every company within Manchester’s creative and digital community to commit to meet with their client and a new business once a month
  2. A series of events where collaboration could be explored and positive examples sought
  3. A scale up programme of business support and collaborative cohorts to come from the public sector
    4. A pledge from everyone to invest in giving back to the local community – be that skills, contacts or content 
  4. The exploration of a procurement platform and a forum for the communityMichael Ingall, Chief Executive of Allied London finished the evening with a rallying statement to both the public and private sector in Manchester “It’s quite simple. Collaboration needs to be supported by the public sector but created by the private sector.”Despite being a one-off event MPA and XYZ Events have now committed to carry on the collaboration discussion with a series of future events aimed at becoming the “glue” between the city’s creative and digital communities. If you’re interested in taking part, please contact