It was another successful Digital City Festival, which was held across Greater Manchester last week, as thousands of delegates across the global digital sector reunited for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The week-long festival held from 7th to 11th March featured a host of partner events, inspirational sessions from thought leaders across the marketing, tech, ecommerce and digital world, finishing off with the Digital City Awards. At the heart of it was the two-day Digital City Expo at Manchester Central, which brought together nearly 3,500 people.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham spoke at the event appearing alongside Festival Director Martyn Collins and the CEO of IN4 Group Mo Isap.
Burnham said the Digital City Festival should be used to “build Greater Manchester as a digital city region” and to “build the new world, post-pandemic”.
Andy Burnham at Digital City Festival’s opening event.
Throughout the week, Greater Manchester showcased all the exciting developments taking place across the digital world and enabled the entire sector to unite in person to network, collaborate and celebrate being back in person after a turbulent few years.
From innovative insights into emerging technologies such as VR, NFTs and the metaverse to brand-building, global tech companies and insights from marketing mavericks – there was something for everyone at this year’s festival.
Take a look below at our recap of some of the highlights of Digital City Festival:
After two years of anticipation, Monday marked the official launch of the third Digital City Festival which returned in person for the first time since 2020.
Held at HOST’s offices in MediaCity, the launch event was off to a flying start featuring speeches from the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham alongside Festival Director Martyn Collins and Mo Isap, CEO of IN4 Group.
After an introduction from HOST Salford, Martyn Collins welcomed the guests and detailed the week to come celebrating the return of in-person events by saying, “this year we’re back, and we’re live”.
Andy Burnham emphasised the flourishing potential of the Greater Manchester region, highlighting that the city has a digital economy worth £5 billion that could increase to £10 billion.
Andy Burnham at the opening event at HOST.
Following the launch event, HOST opened the festival with the first Cyber Summit in the North West in partnership with the Greater Manchester Cyber Security Advisory Group.
The summit showcased the best of cyber innovation in the region alongside a number of panel discussions, a session on cybersecurity, networking and a VIP drinks reception.
There were further partner events held across Greater Manchester including a networking and metaverse showcase from 3D Online founder Ben Taylor, as well as a panel on Mobile Transformation which delved into the role mobile will play in the future as the digital world evolves.
The evening concluded with a networking event uniting those working across the marketing, digital and tech worlds featuring speakers at Stoller Holl, organised by SocialNorth.
On Tuesday, GM Digital – Greater Manchester Combined Authority organised two key events to explore how organisations in Greater Manchester are collaborating to fix the digital divide, and how the region can position itself as a key location for businesses seeking a digitally-skilled workforce.
Later in the day, there was a virtual event organised by PureClarity to address how B2C and B2B organisations can improve the customer experience to boost online sales.
As Tuesday 8th March also marked International Women’s Day, digital transformation consultancy Infinity Works brought together a panel of Manchester’s top tech stars to explore ways to make the industry more inclusive, while discussing the challenges and solutions needed to achieve gender equality.
Digital City Leaders’ reception, with Councillor Bev Craig.
As the festival supporters and guests gathered at the drinks reception with stunning views overlooking the Manchester city skyline, they heard from speakers including Councillor Bev Craig, Tim Newns of MIDAS; Alastair McGeoch, Director of Software at Roku; and Darren Mitchell, Country Manager at Zenjob.
The leader of Manchester City Council and Councillor Bev Craig said that “digital, creative and tech is one of Greater Manchester’s jewels in our crown.”
Meanwhile Alastair McGeoch of Roku detailed how Manchester’s “rich engineering history” and the “cultural impact” the city has globally was one of the factors behind the company opting to open up offices in the region.
Darren Mitchell of Zenjob cited Manchester’s “thriving digital network” and community as one of the driving forces behind selecting Manchester as a key location.
Wednesday marked the halfway point of Digital City Festival and signalled the start of Digital City Expo, which invited the global digital community to delve into the latest in tech, ecommerce, marketing and media.
Thousands of people descended upon Manchester Central Convention Centre for the two-day showcase which featured over 70 exhibitors and over 100 industry leaders speaking at more than 65 sessions.
Chris Philp, the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, was one of the first speakers to deliver a Keynote speech, where he championed the “booming technology and digital sector” in the UK.
He also outlined how “Northern Triangle” tech companies have raised £1.3bn in funding over the last five years as well as detailing how investors are now increasingly looking to Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield to fund fast-growing digital companies.
Chris Philp in the Keynote Theatre at Digital City Expo.
The day was filled with a variety of panel discussions, a Career Zone and masterclass sessions where Andy Burnham was spotted among the crowd checking out the exhibitors.
From the launch of Manchester’s new digital strategy by Councillor Bev Craig at the Digital Masterclass Theatre to talks on AI, cybersecurity, smart cities, and even a session from HOST on the ties between UK and India in driving the future of technology, there was an abundance of insights to gather throughout the day.
The sessions ended with a jam-packed Keynote Theatre filled with eager attendees who wanted to dive into social media trends for 2022, hosted by Hootsuite’s Marketing Manager Domique Elsey.
Wrapping up the end of an impressive day, the DJ blasted out music at an exclusive networking event for Digital City Expo sponsors and exhibitors.
Over at Manchester Central Library, a partner event was taking place organised by Visoning Lab with a drinks and demo session to explore NFTs, Augmented/Virtual Reality and contemporary art spaces.
Andy Burnham at Digital City Expo.
Day two at Digital City Expo saw thousands of delegates return through the doors of Manchester Central to explore the latest innovations, network, and hear from even more industry leaders.
Talks on the second day of the expo included a panel discussion on personal branding and online reputation chaired by MD at The Manc Group Anna Gledson. The session featured speakers from Rise at Seven, Great Influence and Social Chain co-founder Dominic McGregor.
There was a wealth of experts sharing their advice throughout the day from a panel exploring the metaverse, a keynote session on NFTs, a tech masterclass with Northcoders and a discussion on neurodiversity in tech.
Attendees were also able to explore the world of ecommerce and how brands can build relationships with customers, featuring industry experts from Weetabix and New Look and many more.
The highlight of Thursday evening was the Digital City Awards held at the Etihad Stadium – Manchester City FC, hosted by musician, public speaker and DistroTV presenter Sheila Gordhan.
Leaders from both regional and national companies united for the awards which champion and celebrate the best in digital. Click here to see the full list of winners at the Digital City Awards.
Digital City Festival drew to a close with the last of the partner events held across Greater Manchester.
Reframe Women in Tech Conference, which was organised by Tech Returners and The Confidence Community, was held at Emirates Old Trafford Lancashire Cricket Club featuring a number of leading speakers. The event addressed the barriers facing women in technology and shared their successes in a bid to switch the narrative around women in technology to a positive one.
Over at Manchester Conference Centre, Online Seller UK hosted a full day conference for Amazon sellers called AmafestUK.
Finally, over at HOST offices in MediaCity, IN4 Group held its inaugural Esports Festival. The day centred around a renowned ESI breakfast club, a series of roundtables, networking events and panel discussions celebrating the growth of the esports industry.
The week of events was a widely acclaimed success, celebrating the best in digital and the latest and upcoming innovations and insights. A huge thank you to all the speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, and of course the attendees who came along to join us.
We already can’t wait to see what next year’s Digital City Festival brings!