Mancunian Swagger

9 months ago I took on the role of ‘Community Engagement & Partnerships Manager’ for Tech North, a new Government-backed organisation aiming to galvanise and accelerate digital entrepreneurship in the North of England.

United in our mission to help re-balance the UK economy by shining a light on the amazing tech businesses that already existed ‘up North’ and promote greater collaboration between our major Northern cities, one of the major attractions for me was the chance to spend time in Manchester each week.

Like many people throughout the UK, the music of ‘Madchester’ was the soundtrack to my life as a kid growing up in the early 90s and over 25yrs later, The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays are still my favourite bands. Not only was the music and artwork of Factory Records and other labels breathtakingly exciting, part of the enduring appeal was what I refer to as the ‘Mancunian Swagger’ – a confidence, cockiness and wilfulness that comes with a proven track record of success and a belief you can take on the world and win! (Watch this great interview with legendary designer Peter Saville of Factory Records / New Order / Hacienda fame explaining his ‘Original Modern’ concept for the City of Manchester):

And Manchester certainly is winning. It’s now widely regarded as the UK’s second city (sorry Birmingham) which is borne out of strong leadership at Manchester city council, genuinely innovative and groundbreaking technology coming from the local universities and business community plus a real ‘can do’ attitude from entrepreneurs everywhere.

Not only is Manchester an amazing city, steeped in world-changing history, there’s a real buzz and excitement in the air. I’ve been impressed by just how ‘up for it’ people there are, knowing that they’re on the cusp of great things and that the future is theirs for the taking.

And no-one demonstrates this more to me than Jonny Cadden, the founder and organiser of the Business Rocks tech, music + investment summit taking place in Manchester on 21-22 April 2016. When Jonny came to see me and the Tech North team in August 2015 during my first week in the job he was everything I wanted a young entrepreneur from Manchester to be. Hugely ambitious and tenacious with the ability to dream big for himself and the city.

When Jonny asked us to come onboard as a sponsor we had no real way of knowing whether Business Rocks would really happen but we had an ‘Ecosystem Support Budget’ to support new events and initiatives that others might deem too risky but which we felt would help catalyse more entrepreneurial endeavours in the city. Together, Claire Braithwaite (Head of Tech North) and I believed Jonny was someone worth backing and that with the right support behind him he’d pull it off and I’m delighted to say that he has.

In my opinion we Brits spend far too much time celebrating overseas entrepreneurs instead of supporting our homegrown talent and over the past 9 months I’ve been hugely impressed by Jonny’s perseverance, professionalism and positivity as he’s hustled each day to bring Business Rocks to life. Jonny Cadden I salute you and thank you for giving us this event. It’s now up to us to make the most of this amazing opportunity to show the world what the North is made of. See you on the dancefloor!

Watch my Blab interview with Jonny below and then get your Business Rocks conference pass from just £99 here!

Screenshot of Jonny Cadden Blab

The Next Episode

When I announced I was leaving my role as ‘Community Engagement & Partnerships Manager’ for Tech North last month, I wasn’t 100% certain what I’d be doing other than ‘starting a business’ on 1st April that would continue the work I’d been doing across the North of England since August 2015 but with more focus on my home city of Newcastle and the wider North East.

Despite my best efforts to remain unbiased and support digital entrepreneurship in the 7 cities of Newcastle, Sunderland, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull equally over the past 8 months, it’s become clear that Manchester is edging ahead of the rest. This is a result of strong leadership from Manchester City Council who have embraced the Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’, a local media and business community that is largely supportive of the concept and what I have often referred to as the ‘Mancunian Swagger’ – a confidence and cockiness that comes with a proven track record of success and a belief you can take on the world and win!


However, in my humble opinion, Newcastle still has a stronger and more developed tech and digital community than Manchester – it’s just not as good at marketing and selling itself to the rest of the UK. The North East has all the ingredients to compete on a national and international stage but it needs more people making the connections and joining the dots to encourage greater collaboration and present a more united and compelling offer to people wanting to startup, scale up or relocate in the region.

This is something I am very good at and with a background in marketing, PR and comms plus an amazing network of entrepreneurs and business leaders across the North, I’ll now be using all my skills and experience to help raise the profile of Newcastle and the North East as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity that the rest of the UK should take notice of and work with.


As Sir Richard Leese (Leader of Manchester City Council) said in the BBC Radio 4 panel discussion about ‘The Northern Powerhouse’ in November 2015, Newcastle needs Manchester just as much as Manchester needs Newcastle and the other Northern cities in order to be successful. It’s no longer about how our Northern cities fight between themselves for the meagre scraps that are tossed their way from London and more about how they can come together to collaborate and compete on their own terms to grow their local and regional economies.

There are so many exciting businesses and initiatives in the North East that I am planning to work with over the coming months, especially when it comes to digital, so if you’d like to hear what these are please ‘Like’ my new Facebook Page at and Follow me on Twitter @lordlancaster and @PlanDigitalUK.

First up, I’m delighted to say that the amazing team behind Campus North (the co-working and event space in Newcastle for tech startups, developers and freelancers where I’m now based full-time) have asked me to help out with their Sponsorships & Partnerships programme and to play a bigger role in the community engagement and business development of their existing tenants and wider business community.

Floppy Super Mario

This makes perfect sense as I’ve been supporting their Ignite100 tech accelerator programme since 2011 as a mentor and by helping them find their first office in The Loft at Adamson House when I worked for Project North East. Then, when I joined Sage I managed to persuade the bosses to come onboard as a founding sponsor of Campus North when it opened in 2014 and to renew their sponsorship for a second year in 2015 which has been great for them and for the tech community too. More recently, in my role at Tech North I provided them with some seed funding for their exciting new ‘Tech For Life’ education and outreach programme which starts this month.

Campus North Sponsors 2015

Support Campus North

Campus North is such a fantastic resource for Newcastle, the North East and the wider Northern tech community so I’ll be working hard to ensure that more people get to experience what goes on here and am actively looking for more sponsors and partners to support them over the coming weeks and months. If you’d like to get involved as an individual or as a business, please download the Sponsors Packs below and then get in touch.

Campus North Sponsors Pack (.PDF)

Tech For Life Sponsors Pack (.PDF)

More updates to follow soon. Get ready for The Next Episode…