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Why Manchester is becoming a global centre for digital creatives

The red-brick northern giant, the home of Oasis, the set of Shameless and the birthplace of the industrial revolution. The city today is as iconic as it is infamous, as gritty as it is cosmopolitan and as northern as it is global.

Manchester has always been a rule breaker and a thought-pioneer. The city and its inhabitants like to do things on their own terms and in their own way, which has inspired ground-breaking inventions and an outpouring of creative spirit. From the invention of the computer, the discovery of the electron and the creation of graphene, Manchester has never been afraid of using science to create innovative technology.

From the ashes

Manchester’s regeneration after the IRA bomb in the 90s catapulted the dormant city onto the global stage once again. Huge reconstruction and historic investment were pumped into the Northern Powerhouse. The city was rebuilt, re-modelled and transformed until it inadvertently had everything it needed to become the global tech hub it is becoming today: strong economy, cultural heritage, historic innovation, and a surplus of creative people and ideas.

The tech revolution hit the Mancunian streets like a fish to water and took the city on by storm.

Innovative start-ups, digital collectives and tech entrepreneurs filtered into the once empty red brick warehouses and old Victorian buildings. Modern offices, co-working spaces and freelance friendly cafes are now popping up more quickly than quirky restaurants or independent boutiques. And as the city’s architects plan to build up to the sky, similar plans are set in motion for the Manchester digital scene.

What’s all the fuss about?

Manchester is currently the largest tech cluster outside of London, it has the UK’s second largest GVA growth and has the 4th highest digital turnover at £2.2 billion.

Local and national government are intent on keeping this momentum going to ensure that Manchester realises its global digital potential and has recently granted Manchester £4 million to create a tech hub centre which will nurture start-ups, be a place of digital mentorship and help ingrain digital collaboration across the city.

Away from government investment, the city is receiving masses of ex-Londoners as part of the historic exodus from the capital, and is also importantly retaining northern talent who no longer feel the pull to move down south to be able to realise their professional goals.

Welcoming companies as they decide to relocate, open a branch or be based in the northern city is also becoming a common affair. Companies and organisations such as Google, the BBC and Bohoo.com have all decided that Manchester is the place to be. There is even tongue-in-cheek talk of moving the capital up north.

Cobbled Roots

Whether you believe that Manchester will become a totally transformed global digital mega city, that it will cling to its northern-rooted creative identity from yesterdays, or that it will be a mash up of both identities, one thing is irrefutable: Manchester is going through a phenomenal metamorphosis.

The risk with such a dramatic push towards a ‘better’ Manchester is forgetting the city’s history. We risk, like many cities, favouring gentrification instead of accepting our imperfect but real identity. We risk doggedly pursuing global recognition and lobotomising what made us famous in the first place: being Mancunian.

There is however something that will always save us from ‘growing at all costs’ and that is our thirst for originality and our intransient need to navigating our own way through anything, including  becoming a global centre for digital innovation and talent.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

How social media and the digital world are inspiring social movements

The concept of society has always existed in some form and has been social at its heart, but what is different now is that we are simultaneously living in two different social worlds.

World Wide Web

The internet was at first very separate from the physical world and a means to finding and disseminating information. We then very quickly became active participants in evolving it to a collaborative interaction between individuals and their digital device.

Every personal interaction is now uploaded onto a connected worldwide network which transforms how the network is used and interacts with others, an ever-evolving framework of communication. A platform that grows and adapts with every emoji we send, every article we skim read or cat video we share on Facebook.

Our innate social nature is what has inspired us to create a digital world in the image of how we see society and ourselves. And so as soon as we invented the internet, social media was inevitable.

We have slowly but surely let the lines between the physical and the digital become very blurry, our digital selves are becoming more representive of who we actually are and what we stand for, we are using the internet to achieve our career ambitions and realise personal goals, we are even using it to find love. Our sense of self is now directly affected by both worlds.

The negative side of such a rapid change in how we interact and communicate is that we become too engrossed in what is happening on our smartphones and stop engaging in the physical present.  Zombie smartphone walkers, your friend who is on the phone while listening to you, rising anxiety levels and technology compulsive behaviour are just some examples of how we have not yet found the right balance.

Hear me roar

On the flip side, if we are investing so much of our time and ourselves into our devices and on our social accounts, then the power social media holds is unilaterally phenomenal.

We now live in a world where you can tweet a company about your negative experience and they either respond to you and remedy your problem or they lose customers and negatively affect their image. Anyone can now start a campaign at a click of a button which can catch the attention of the public, start a huge online movement and force the government to debate it and in some cases actually change the law.

We can shine a spotlight on an issue when we form digital collectives, the power of the people finally being heard through the internet.

Huge political and historic shifts can be tracked and directly linked to social patterns happening online before an event occurs. The landslide victory of French President Macron who has no previous experience in government, the shock rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K, and the defeat of the powerful far-right in Holland can all be linked to how social media use and article sharing through social media portals affected public opinion. Trump and Brexit are of course the colossal elephants in the room.

No truer word said

If social media has such sway on geo-political events, then propaganda has an even scarier hold on public opinion. The rise of fake news, or propaganda, is now considered a world-wide digital pandemic. From hackers planting fake information on news sites which create political unrest or change election outcomes to baseless viral articles inciting racial hatred, violence and community division.

Information is now quick, readily shared, and easily accessible and we are running the risk of believing manipulations of the truth on a massive and detrimental scale. The problem is now so acute that governments are setting up fake news taskforces before elections and referendums and social media giants such as Facebook are investing in fake news teams and algorithms to try and fight the propaganda tide.

The technological revolution is moving so fast and dragging us along for the ride that we can’t really understand the true ramifications of how it is affecting the world and where it will lead us. Perhaps like the eye of a storm, we need to be prepared to hit rougher terrain before we find a calmer and more responsible way of living with and using social media in the future. And, like most things in life, finding the balance will be key.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

Are Millennials actually 21st century hippies?

Millennials are receiving a lot of, sometimes unwanted, attention in the media. The privileged, digital dream seekers that are shaking up the modern business age.

Millennials though are much more than social media inventors or hipster café owners. They are part of the new technological revolution and are helping to forge a new way of not just running businesses but how society thinks and views itself.

The historic change we are seeing in collective mentality is actually directly linked to how the hippies influenced the 1960s and still have huge relevance to this day.

Power to the flower

The 1960s hippies and the baby boomers in general, were living in a time of social disquiet and heightened war. Hippies were a generation born into a world they didn’t agree with and felt disconnected from, they were misunderstood by the previous generation and felt both voiceless and helpless in the face of injustice.

If we raise a mirror to our own time we see a very similar thing happening now but with a 21st century twist.

The hippy solution was to campaign for the humanitarian ideals of love, justice, and equality. Hippies passionately believed if enough people united on these three common beliefs the government would have to act and the world would change for good.

We all hopefully agree that love, justice, and equality can only do good in the world. But I am sure we also all agree that the hippy dream fell flat on its well-meaning face circa the 1980’s power suit wearing, capitalist mega-boom.

The hippy dream, was in the end just that, a dream; and it lay bubbling below the surface for decades.  Something happened though to slowly re-awaken us, and that something was the world wide web.

Equality Uploaded

The children of the internet and specifically social media were of course the Millennials. This generation grew up with idea that global networks and open, mass communication were not only a norm but a birth right.

Millennials subconsciously wired their brains around accessibility for all and formed their identity around global social connection. Millennials could talk to someone from any country and any background instantly from their dial-up home computer for the first time in human history.

What this openness and accessibility created was the idea that we are not just individuals, forced to be part of an economic dog-eat-dog chain, but that we are in fact a plateaued communication network, which can and does work outside of the current status quo.

This by nature had the hippy fingerprints of equality, love and justice built into the framework. The hippy ideals were effectively uploaded onto our digital world and its main ambassadors were and still are the children of the technological revolution, the millennials.

I am you and you are the internet

Millennials, as a generation, also share that same hippy hunger – to do something good and to make a difference in the world. This innate nature and a digital world at their fingertips, meant that Millennials unintentionally managed to do what the children of the revolution failed to do – they found a practical way to disseminate humanitarian ideals.

Instead of trying to create a shared, ethereal belief to shake up the government, they side-lined the powers-that-be and went straight for tools of the people.  What they helped to create is a living and social hub of connectivity which is so powerful it is now holding authorities, businesses, and social norms to account. It has turned society on its head without the majority of people even realising.

You can see proof of this everywhere. Here are 3 hippy concepts that have been adapted for the modern age, have become mainstream through technology and are widely propagated by millennials:

  1. Conscious Capitalism

Something that sets modern day apart from the 1960s is that we have come to the pragmatic conclusion that necessary evils can’t be avoided. Conscious capitalism was born out of a need to stop the rampant injustices of money over people but also being fully aware of the complexities of overthrowing such a deep-rooted system. Conscious capitalism tries to find a balance between the two, some examples include:

  • Fair Trade
  • Social Enterprise
  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Collectives and cooperatives
  • Ethical marketing
  1. Reinvention of Currency

The idea of currency is changing. The internet has given rise to the question “if we can exchange information freely, shouldn’t we be able to exchange everything else without using money?”

Huge movements have sprung up from this very idea, including bitcoin, streaming, free apps and online courses, skype and even WhatsApp. The very fact that we are trying to find a way of helping each other and running a business at the same time without necessarily paying each other is the modern version of a hippy colony.

  1. Social Media changing Political Landscapes

Social media has inadvertently created a worldwide platform for the common man to be heard. Inadvertently because the main goal of social media in its infancy was to solely connect people. It is now a digital megaphone to shout, debate, laugh about or cry into our opinions, hopes and wishes.

Because major social platforms are free and accessible to all, they subsequently have huge audiences, followings and create immense public awareness. This means that if a social issue creates a buzz or goes viral on the internet it now puts pressure on governments, who need to act because they are voted in by the people angrily typing on their twitter account.

Social media has created the seemingly impossible, it has given a voice to the individual and the government has to listen.

There are of course negatives to the story – fake news being one of the biggest issues of our time and arguably one of the main causes for Trump and Brexit as well as heightened violence and racism in many parts of the world.

However, the overriding point remains that we are now more in charge of our future than we have been before and we are actively using technology to finally push for what society should be – more just, more loving and more equal.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.