Organisers of the Leeds Digital Festival have promised a more international flavour to one of the biggest tech events in the country as they revealed dates for next year’s edition.
Festival director Stuart Clarke said the move to catch the attention of an international audience was driven by the growth of business being done overseas by Leeds-based tech firms.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “We’ve found over the last few years that we’ve had more and more international speakers and delegations.”
Organisers of the festival have been working with the likes of Leeds City Council and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership to push out the message that Leeds is open to international businesses, Mr Clarke added.
Mr Clarke said: “A number of Leeds-based businesses that do a lot of work with overseas clients are already planning to bring more of those clients over to talk.”
The fifth edition of Leeds Digital Festival will take place between April 20 and May 1 next year. The secret to its success is the open platform format, says Mr Clarke, which allows anyone to put on an event. Organisers hopes to surpass 2019’s attendance levels and reach over 25,000 people.
Mr Clarke said: “It’s an open platform and we don’t put on any events ourselves so we never know how big it’s going to be until the events start coming in. Early indications are that it will be bigger than 2019. We’ve started planning earlier this time.”
Leeds Digital Festival has grown from 50 to 240 events over the last four editions. In 2019 the festival had its first events outside the city, something which Mr Clarke is keen to replicate again next year.
Delegations from China, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands attended this year’s festival.
Mr Clarke says the reason why there is international interest in Leeds is because the city is more confident.
He added: “We’re more confident in going to the world and saying this is what we’ve got. This is an amazing place to bring your business, to start a business.
“This is an amazing place to live. It has become a real viable alternative to London.”
The festival looks to encourage collaboration between the city’s tech businesses as well as celebrate the sector’s strength.
Mr Clarke said: “The key thing is that people in the sector believe that the festival belongs to them.
“It’s the ability for the smallest start-up to the biggest tech giant to get involved.
“You can put your own event on. You can speak at someone else’s event or you can come along and learn something and collaborate and network.
The festival is looking to attract more sponsors having already signed up Leeds City Council, the University of Leeds and tech firm Crisp.
Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: “Over the last four years, the Leeds Digital Festival has inspired future talent, connected tech decision makers locally, nationally and internationally, and put our region firmly on the digital map.
“We’re really pleased to be sponsoring the 2020 Leeds Digital Festival and look forward to another exciting fortnight of tech collaboration.”
Mr Clarke has also called on businesses to put on and attend events.
“Allow your staff to go out to events,” he said. “The more we collaborate and share ideas, the stronger we will be as a city and as a tech sector.”