A comprehensive industry guide to Manchester by some of the city’s top creative talent.
In recent years, advances in technology and connectivity, as well as steep overheads building in the UK’s capital, have seen other major UK cities, including Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and Edinburgh, light the way for a more diverse UK creative market.
In the past decade, the huge media migration to Salford, Manchester, has seen the city’s creative scene flourish around its unique cultural history. We speak to some of Manchester’s best creative companies to get the low down on Manchester’s rapidly evolving creative scene.
Contributing are Mark Collins, director of production at The Mob Film Company; The team at Rabble Post; Abi Atkinson, senior producer at LS Productions; Ady Bibby, managing director at True North and Becci Nadin, senior copywriter at McCann Manchester.
Q>How has the creative scene in the North changed in recent years?
Mark Collins> It’s unrecognisable compared to 10 years ago when The Mob opened a small office here, and that was before even the BBC had even confirmed it was heading north. In those days crew, graduates and pool of creative wannabees just didn’t exist or at least they were thin on the ground but then again so were the jobs or opportunities for them. These days it’s easily a natural alternative to London, the snobbery has gone and everyone wants to be here now. We now not only have a vast choice of crew, kit, facilities and studios but the city is recognised for having the best social scene outside of the capital.
Rabble> There’s been a real boom in the advertising and production sectors. The introduction of Media City and the BBC’s move helped to reinforce the fact there is a strong talent pool here, every bit the rival to London creatives. Seeing the number of new creative agencies and digital content specialists that are helping to feed the established businesses here has been great. Now that Channel 4 is moving an operation to Leeds there will be more work for new businesses to flourish, all of which is very encouraging for the North’s prospects.
Abi Atkinson> The infrastructure and growth of the creative, TV and film industries in Manchester has flourished over the past 5-10 years and continues to go from strength to strength. With the increase in production in the regions, this has inevitably driven demand for more studios, more production companies, more post houses and, consequently, more talent.
We have always had excellent crew and suppliers in Manchester, however now people are choosing to base themselves here. As the media industry has become less ‘London-centric’, we are seeing huge creative growth in the region and more creative opportunities arising outside of London, in Manchester and other northwest cities. This all helps to drive the economy, boosting skills and resources in these sectors, whilst bringing training opportunities to those starting out on their career. This can only be a great thing for the region and all who work here. In short, not only are we a nice bunch, we’re also bloody good at what we do - and proud of it!
Ady Bibby, True North> Manchester has always been a hotbed for creativity. Alongside the usual suspects, there are a number of new agencies that are producing excellent work.
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> In my field, copywriting, I feel the old school craft has somewhere been lost along the way in recent years. I honestly want to cling to anyone who can teach me more about language. I also think the industry as a whole has become a lot less boozy! But that’s not a bad thing. The work ethic just gets stronger and stronger. The creative people in Manchester are absolute grafters. We get our heads down and we get things done. We’ve always had a ‘yes’ attitude, no matter the timescale or budget. I think most clients are blown away by how quickly we can get the work done here.
Q> What is your favourite bit of creative work to come out of Manchester this year?
Mark Collins, The Mob> The Bee in the City parade of over 100 large bees that appeared around the city throughout the summer, all painted by different artists, designers and illustrators. They were a tourism and social media hit, with the final charity auction realising in excess of a million pounds.
Rabble> After two incredibly successful years and a great start to this one, the annual Christmas campaign for Aldi by McCann Manchester is becoming a dependable highlight of each year. Also see the Cities of Hope street art convention.
Ady Bibby, True North> This Is The Place – Choose Love. It’s a very personal piece and we were humbled to be involved.
Becci Nadin > Can I say Kevin the Carrot? It’s not just shameless self-promotion, I promise! I really love that ad and I think it’s impressive that its been going strong for the past three years. But outside of that I also love everything by Chief director, Joe Connor. His latest Sam Smith promo is brilliant. Joe is one of those talents who I look at and it reminds me to stay on my toes.
Q> What main thing is drawing creative talent to Manchester?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Credibility and creativity.
Rabble> Its inclusivity and accessibility, as well as the opportunity to work in a region with opportunities for growth which stand out from the established hierarchies of London.
Ady Bibby, True North> The quality of the agencies and the calibre of the work they attract.
Becci Nadin McCann Manchester> It sounds cliché but Manchester is packed with some of the greatest people you will ever meet. I could bore you to tears with the people I’ve met along the way. They’re passionate, feisty, sharp and that’s everyone, not just advertising folk. I feel like I wouldn’t have met these people anywhere else in the world. London, New York and Paris can be daunting, but in Manchester we will make friends with anyone.
Q> Who is the up-and-coming talent to watch out for?
Mark Collins, The Mob> It’s difficult to be so specific but I think as a city it is its constant reinvention and zoning of areas, for instance Ancoats is the next big thing with cool bars and restaurants opening almost weekly. Along with new music venues such as Yes and 33 Oldham Street, the elements of food, drink and music are what beat at the heart of the city - and in turn inspire its creative heart too.
Rabble> The team managing M.I.F. are going to become a very real powerhouse in the area once The Factory venue is up and running. That will become a real focal point for more progressive art to get a showcase, hopefully inspiring and pushing other creative groups in the area. Also, real-time digital animation will only become more and more sought-after and the service that Cubic Motion offer is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Ady Bibby, True North> I’d also be keeping an eye on the development of The Factory, the new theatre and arts venue that will be managed by MIF. It’ll help reinforce the city’s image as a world-class venue.
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> It’s hard to pinpoint one person. I think the talent here is about to get recognised on a world stage very soon, junior and senior. There’s tonnes of people to watch out for. It also makes it a great time for talent to start working in Manchester.
Q> Why should more talented people in your field consider Manchester?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Simply because you don’t have to go to London now to break-in to this industry, there’s a multitude of industries spread across the North West and with Channel 4 set to follow in Leeds there’s no looking back.
Rabble> The work we do is every bit as great as that in London, but we can actually afford the rent and a pint up here.
Ady Bibby, True North> All the usual cliché’s apply… cost of living, sky-high rent, long commutes etc. It’s just a bit nicer up here.
Becci Nadin McCann Manchester> Manchester is ready when you are, whether you’re just starting out or mid-way through your career, there is opportunity. Obviously it has a good quality of life here. You can have your cake and eat it. You have all the good clients you can find in London, but you can live 10 mins away from the office and not in a box room. People think Manchester is some bleak ‘Peaky Blinders’ style backwards place but it is the complete opposite, it’s a cosmopolitan city and I can’t wait for people to realise it.
THE RUN DOWN
Q> Key area of the city for Production?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Media City
Rabble> Media City, Sharp Project and City Centre in general
Abi Atkinson, LS Productions> Locations-wise, NQ (Northern Quarter) is thriving. There are tons of period dramas with buildings being dressed to look like 1920s New York. Castlefield’s canals, bridges, mills and warehouses are one-of-a-kind, as are Victorian and Art Deco locations like Victoria Baths, Albert Hall and Manchester Town Hall – where part of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was filmed!
Becci Nadin McCann Manchester> I’d say its scattered, I tend to start at Chief in Media City and work my way out.
Q> Key area of the city for Post Production?
Mark Collins, The Mob> City Centre
Rabble> The City Centre, where you can find our Rabble crew
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> I’d find the right person rather than the right place. Go wherever they go!
Q> Favourite studio?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Space Project
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> It would be wrong of me not to say McCann’s studios. It’s like Aladdin’s cave in there. It’s amazing
Q> Favourite exterior shoot location?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Northern Quarter
Ady Bibby, True North> Alderley Park
Becci Nadin McCann Manchester> I’m allergic to the cold. The weather is how you’d expect. So, I avoid exterior shoots at all costs. My art director would probably say Jodrell Bank though.
Q> Top tip for navigating Media City?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Google Maps
Ady Bibby, True North> Go with someone who knows it.
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> Know where you’re going before you get there and keep your phone to hand because you never know what daytime TV stars you may bump into!
Q> Top mode of transport around town?
Mark Collins, The Mob> By foot
Abi Atkinson, LS Productions> The trams are cheap, reliable and frequent!
Ady Bibby, True North> Feet
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> Around town, Uber. If you’re commuting in, then the tram.
Q> Best place to feel like a Mancunian?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Northern Quarter.
Rabble> In and around Oxford Road and Castlefield. And outside the Town Hall for the lights switch on!
Abi Atkinson, LS Productions> Band on the Wall is always a top night out - The Mouse Outfit and Honeyfeet are a couple of my favourite Manchester bands!
Ady Bibby, True North> Northern Quarter.
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> You get a real sense of the people if you ever go to watch a marathon or 10K run. This is where you see how much the people of Manchester come together to support their neighbours.
Q> Best place for a business lunch?
Mark Collins, The Mob> King Street.
Rabble> Anywhere in Spinningfields.
Abi Atkinson, LS Productions> Cottonopolis, Australasia, Rudy’s Pizzeria - Peter Street, Alberts Schloss, Bohemian bier palace.
Ady Bibby, True North> Cottonopolis.
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> With clients, El Gato Negro serves great tapas. Without clients, Gaucho does a brilliant bottomless brunch.
Q> Best place for business drinks?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Spinningfields.
Rabble> The bar here at Rabble has proven popular with clients.
Abi Atkinson, LS Productions> The Fitzgerald and 20 Stories.
Ady Bibby, True North> Flok.
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> 20 Stories in Spinningfields does great cocktails.
Q> Manchester’s must visit place?
Mark Collins, The Mob> MOSI.
Rabble> John Rylands Library juxtaposed against the Spinningfields development is a good distillation of the city’s history as well as its future, and Yes opened by Now Wave music promoters is a great new venue for watching live music and socialising in a fun creative space.
Ady Bibby, True North> John Rylands Library.
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> King Street Town House Spa. It has an infinity pool that looks out to the clock tower. It’s an amazing view, even if it’s a rubbish day!
Q> If you go to a football match… United or City?
Mark Collins, The Mob> Both.
Rabble> We work with both, so we only go to the Derby matches where the winner is always Manchester.
Ady Bibby, True North> Neither - the Crown Oil Arena, home of Rochdale AFC.
Becci Nadin, McCann Manchester> Well my mum is a die-hard United fan and my husband is City, so I tend to side with my dad and say Southampton!
If you want to connect with the next industry event in Manchester, on Wednesday 21st November, Honeycomb | Group IMD are pulling together broadcast experts to discuss the future of addressable TV. Speakers include Rebecca Hill, Group Digital Manager at Channel 4; Head of Sky AdSmart Local & Development at Sky Media, David Sanderson; Chief Product Officer at Honeycomb | Group IMD, Doug Conely; Kristian Claxton, Head of Engagement at Finecast and Never.no CEO, Scott Davies.