How will the Northern Powerhouse affect London’s creative industries?

The other sunny morning, I re-read a fascinating Campaign magazine article by Sarah Golding, CEO of CHI & Partners. The article was: “To be the best, agencies might need to quit London”. The premise being: as agencies are only as good as the talent they employ, given the high costs of living in London, the talent they need can no longer afford to live in the capital. So for agencies to keep their standards, they may have to move out of London. Thought provoking indeed.


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A day in the life of a Yorkshire Advertising Agency

I gave Sarah’s article much thought as I went out for my morning run in the beautiful sun-drenched Yorkshire countryside. The bees were buzzing around foxgloves, the birds filling the air with their pleasantries. I was still considering the article on the semi-rural commute to our characterful and inspirational office space in a converted textile mill in the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.

I walked through the agency, past teams working on exciting campaigns for Best Western Hotels, The Co-operative Food, OVO Energy, NUS and UCI Track Cycling World Championships to name but a few. Innovative work for fantastic clients, created by talented, passionate people working in a Yorkshire advertising agency 200 miles away from the capital.


What about life and work in the Northern Powerhouse?

The weather is, allegedly, grim at times. And of course we all talk funny. But look at what we have to offer. Let’s start with travel. There are four international airports up here. Travelling north or south by train is a doddle (most of the time!). London is less than two hours away by train from Manchester, Leeds and Wakefield. The motorway network is cohesive, extensive and toll free.

Looking for culture and creative inspiration? Try Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Or visit any of the museums, galleries and theatres in Manchester and Liverpool, starting with the former’s brand new art centre, Home. Music? Too many bands and events to choose from; with Holmfirth’s Picturedrome fast becoming a cult music venue.

And when it comes to eating out, it’s not all chips and gravy either. Manchester House and The Spiced Pear (nestled in the Hills above Huddersfield) are just two restaurants that would make you question London prices. And if you love a little spice, you won’t find a better curry than in Bradford.

But where to live? If you’re an urban type, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Liverpool have it all. If the countryside is your thing, just 30 minutes drive from any of those city centres, you’ll find yourself lost in big skies, rolling hills and breathing the freshest of air.


Does geography influence brilliance?

A premise exists that you are only as good as your geographic location. And that when it comes to creativity, it’s all happening in London. That’s simply not the case, but I would also be naïve to suggest the opposite is true. 

There’s proof that collectives of creative companies create a culture of innovation. We only have to look at Silicon Valley and the history of Madison Avenue to see the truth of this. But examples of the opposite exist. Take Made, the super hot agency in the mountains of Colorado. Those guys seem to have it all and they are 1800 miles from Madison Avenue. And look where the BBC is now settled after its mass migration to Salford Quays. So it’s time to think differently. 

For me, Sarah Golding highlights an emerging truth. Change is definitely in the air… 

Could the Northern Powerhouse become the next Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue with super creative companies existing all along and around the M62 corridor? Companies that are easy to access due to the excellent transport links. Companies with highly motivated creative people innovating in their work lives and living a fabulously varied lifestyle the rest of the time?


I certainly know so. It’s already happening.


The next few years are going to be very interesting and exciting indeed!




Creative Partner