19 October 2014

I still remember what it felt like arriving in Manchester as a teenager. I grew up in a small town in North Wales – a place that funnily enough I used to do all I could to get away from; ironic, as I now do all I can to get back there. Yet the city took me under its wing while I found my feet.

There was a buzz about Manchester even then. Its originality and innovation seemed almost stark somehow. From the revolutionary Hacienda – an experience like no other, the heart of “Madchester” – to the bands and musicians that would go down in history, there was something special about the place. Not to mention its role in the development of ground-breaking technology, something the University of Manchester has played a huge part in.

Last week, UKFast hosted the Insider Business of Digital and Technology breakfast and whilst I couldn’t be there, you can be sure I heard all about it from the team. Apparently, the sense of Northern pride in the room was clear, especially from the number of speakers who were keen to sing Manchester’s praises as a place to set up in business.

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Discussing Manchester’s digital future

One of the comments relayed back to me came from a man called Neil McArthur, the group innovation director at TalkTalk. It’s something I agree with wholeheartedly and couldn’t not mention. He said, “There is so much going on in Manchester, more than people actually realise, but we’re not very good at lighting the beacon and shouting about it.”

Is there something about us Brits that makes us feel so compelled to be modest? Because, personally, I don’t think that – as a city – we should be. Isn’t it time we start really believing that Manchester is a tech and digital hub that can rival, if not overtake, London? I really believe that this situation is a matter of time. It’s about when it happens, not if.

When you consider the overcrowding of London and the astronomical property prices prohibiting people from getting their own space there, it’s clear that Manchester is in a prime position to offer entrepreneurs and business owners everything they need and more. Just look at the business community, the bars and clubs, and even the countryside on your doorstep. Not to mention the fact that Manchester has its own exchange, which means we can access the internet without having to go through London. There is so much to be proud of, so I think Neil is right here when he says we need to shout about it more.

It’s true that I’m in and out of the country a fair amount lately with the project in Verbier, but, trust me, it’ll be well worth it by the time we’re finished, and I’ll be getting the team out for some serious après ski! Does this mean I’m not proud of Manchester? No. Does it mean I’m not glad we chose it to be the home of UKFast? Far from it.

Manchester will always be special to me – and to thousands of other people, no doubt. I think it’s fair to say, there’s a lot more to come from this great city! So why be shy? Let’s shout it from the rooftops!

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