Adding More Chapters into the book of Leeds

Leeds is a truly unique, vibrant, colourful, innovative and imaginative city; we need to make sure people realise that
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I personally think Leeds’ story has never been fully told to people outside of the city, and it’s the job of LeedsBID to do that

My official title is Head of Marketing and Communications at LeedsBID and I’m in charge of the marketing campaigns for LeedsBID projects as well as the marketing of the organisation itself.

I’m 48 and I’m originally from Manchester but I’ve lived and worked in this beautiful city for over 10 years now. My background before working at LeedsBID is quite varied. I did music at university and I then got a job at EMI where I worked for 15 years on promotions and tours for some very large artists through the 1990s. When you start your life for a company of that scale, there’s a certain level of quality you want to follow.

I personally think Leeds’ story has never been fully told to people outside of the city, and it’s the job of LeedsBID to do that. It’s a truly unique, vibrant, colourful, innovative and imaginative city; we need to make sure people realise that. Lots of people just associate Leeds with Yorkshire and Leeds United but actually, it’s got one of the coolest arts and culture scenes in Britain, it’s got a growing indie food scene and its music heritage is hugely powerful. We need to tell that story more.

We see LeedsBID’s role as adding more chapters into the book about Leeds. People know we’ve got great universities, we’re really strong for shopping and we’ve got a big financial services sector, and that’s great but I want to sell more stories of the city that are also great.

Look at over 40,000 people attending Leeds Pride, or look at the success of Live at Leeds. We want to platform different things about this city that will attract younger people to the city, and then keep them in Leeds, growing the future. We’ve got to enhance Leeds’ engagement and storytelling.

martin dickson leedsbid

One particular highlight of this year was the Leeds International Festival that we launched in April. It was a new cultural, arts and technology festival so it was definitely a unique model. We had 35 events that covered fashion, music, food, technology and moving image. By the way, Leeds is the city that actually invented the moving image. In the late Victorian era, a man filmed his wife crossing Leeds bridge… without Leeds, there would be no Hollywood!

This festival was about making an exciting week of events and activities to tell the world that we are truly an international city. It was a great start & we sold £20,000 worth of tickets and had 17,000 people attend 35 events. We, unofficially, created a popular culture festival; this is a city festival, about the city and most importantly, it’s for the city.

Another event is Thought Bubble, which is one of the biggest comic conventions in the world. It brings lots of people to the city centre and actually, Jonathan Ross is on record saying that it’s his favourite comic convention in the world! That’s a major festival for the city so we’ve invested in it and brought it further into the city centre. It takes place between 18th-24th September in the middle of the city and we’re hoping we’ll double the audience. That’s an example of how LeedsBID can enhance events, bring more people into the city and profile Leeds in a unique way.

Sometimes you need people to open the door and show you the way, and LeedsBID is just as much about enhancing these events, such as Leeds Indie Food and Thought Bubble, as it is creating the new events, such as Leeds International Festival. 

The ARIAS (Audio and Radio Industry Awards), which took over from the Sony Radio Academy Awards, are a big event we did last year with The Radio Academy which was held at the First Direct Arena. It brought the great and the good of the British and European radio industry to Leeds, so it was a great showcase and we got really good feedback from some of the celebrity DJs who were there, such as Scott Mills and Nick Grimshaw because it’s not the sort of thing the city had held before. The 2017 event will be on 19th October and tickets will be on sale to the general public. Last year we had Kaiser Chiefs and Rick Astley performing, and you can expect a similar calibre this year.

I believe there are three main things that attract people to a city from all over the globe; sporting events, arts and culture, and music. If you say to people; ‘Liverpool’ then straight away, they’ll think of football and music. If I say; ‘Reading’, then you think ‘Festival’. I’d love it if people heard ‘Leeds’ and thought of shopping and Leeds Festival but if they also thought of events such as the ARIAS or the international festival.