Bigger and better than ever! Leeds Digital Festival has ambitious vision for 2018

Stuart Clarke.
Stuart Clarke.

Leeds Digital Festival organisers have announced that next year’s event will take place from April 16 to 27. Here festival director Stuart Clarke writes for Digital City on his hopes for its 2018 edition.

I was very excited to announce the dates for the 2018 Leeds Digital Festival.

After a successful first two festivals, we’ll be back for a longer, two-week event.

Our first festival in 2016 saw 56 events with around 5,000 attendees and 2017 saw this climb to 115 events with over 10,000 people taking part, alongside over 400 speakers.

The early signs are that 2018 is going to be even bigger and better – we’ve already had over 30 events confirmed.

Also, immediately after the Leeds Digital Festival, the Leeds International Festival begins, so we’ll have a whole month of telling the world about our great city.

A group of us met in a pub a couple of years ago to discuss how we could both celebrate the incredible digital talent and innovation we have in Leeds and also encourage collaboration within the sector.

We thought a festival would bring both elements together, but we didn’t expect it to grow so quickly.

I think the main reason the festival has been such a success is that it belongs to the city.

If you have an idea for an event, then you can put it on. There are no curators telling you what you can and can’t do.

We can help you find speakers and venues and promote your event alongside you.

We’ve seen some great success stories come out of the last two years.

She Does Digital is a networking group for women working in the tech sector, set up for the 2016 festival, and it now holds regular events during the year and has supported dozens of women in the industry.

Likewise, FinTech North came about after a casual conversation I had with Julian Wells from Whitecap Consulting.

It now runs the premier fintech events outside of London, attracting delegates from around the world.

For 2018, we’ve already got lots planned, including a music and tech conference at Duke Studios, and the return of old favourites Code in the Dark and the Algorave.

Leeds is the most important health sector outside of London and we’ll have over 20 events in this area, organised by our sponsors NHS Digital and Leeds City Council.

Together with aql and sponsors Sky Bet, we’ll be putting on a number of events to encourage women into tech.

And Leeds firm Goal, the most widely shared social media account in the world, will be sharing the secrets of footballer Neymar’s move to Paris St-Germain, which they streamed live to millions.

The digital sector in Leeds is growing fast, and there are plenty of vacancies, so we’ll be working with Leeds and Beckett universities to encourage students to stay in the city after they graduate.

We’ll also be putting on a number of events to encourage tech startups, working alongside the city’s tech hubs such as Futurelabs, ODI Leeds and Platform.

We want as many individuals and companies as possible to take part, so please get in touch with your ideas and we’ll help you to put on an event.

We’re also looking for sponsors to help us promote the festival.

Leeds is the digital capital of the North so let’s tell the rest of the country and make 2018 the best festival yet!