Could Bristol be the new creative hub?

Last week a group of us Brand Republic bloggers, Dave Trott, Steve Henry, Rory Sutherland and myself, headed to Bristol to speak at their Vision creative conference, all about the future of marketing, advertising and digital.

We were also joined by Patrick Collister, John Grant, Ian Armstrong (Honda), Laura Jordan Bambach and many other speakers, including Gail Parminter (founder of the agency, Madwomen). Keynote was by Andrew Keen, author of ‘Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is Killing our Culture.’

They sold it as, “This year’s speakers.. will deliver a series of thought provoking, insightful and motivational talks that will give you the strategies you need to grow your creative business.”

They certainly did.

A great conference and impressive in that so many top London names made the trip. Well worth the trip, and a great audience to present to (especially when you have to do two lectures).

For me it was great to be in the see Dave Trott win over an audience with no Powerpoint, just a flipchart and a few pens. Followed by Rory making Behavioural Economics sound even more fascinating than it already is.

But aside from the speakers, what struck me was how connected the creative community in Bristol is. They really know each other, and not just on Facebook. They talk, exchange ideas and share. Unlike London, they do have geography on their side and lots of very nice bars that sell drinks at reasonable prices.

Egos down, minds open and no snobbishness. I was told it use to be the opposite but times change and old attitudes with them. You could certainly feel a buzz. The environment can be more significant than the individual, as the sum of the parts becomes the whole.

If you look at any creative movements the key element is connectivity and the exchange of ideas. The old 1+1=3 theory. It is a simple theory that has worked in many areas; science, engineering, electronics, arts, medicine, mathematics – almost any area where progress is essential to the growth of the subject. Just take Silicon Valley as an example.

I am sure we are all aware that as much as London has been the centre of creativity it no longer exclusively owns that crown. The old saying “an idea can come from anywhere” is too true, the world is now our competition, not the agency next door.

Personally, I think the London creative crowd needs more connectivity, especially between the new generation of creative agencies, who often have a fresher, more innovative approach towards the business. We need more exchange of ideas, and I don’t mean another back slapping awards ceremony or another conference. Or a Facebook page. But lots of real face to face exchanges.

I’ve started the debate, what do other readers think?

  • Gail Parminter

    I agree, Bristol is emerging as a creative hub where people aren’t afraid to be different. I chose the city as the base for Madwomen after relocating to the South West last year. 

    Even though I was still working in a London agency, and commuting every day, I made it my mission to find out what was happening in Bristol. 

    Unlike London, I found the agency community incredibly inclusive, collaborative and supportive of one another – sharing ideas and offering help. 

    I joined the Bristol Creative Directors’ Network, and was welcomed, even though, at the time I wasn’t even located in Bristol. 

    The group, started by Jon Waring at 3-Sixty, meets regularly to share knowledge and inspiration. Speakers at the group have included Patrick Collister and Rory Sutherland, and next week we have my old CD, Andrew Cracknell joining us.

    The city has a great atmosphere and is full of inspirational people – it’s given me a massive burst of energy – which, having just started up an agency, is much needed.

    The Vision conference was exciting, and the audience open-minded and receptive. My talk, delivered with Chris, was on a highly controversial subject – whether advertising is letting down the female consumer – a subject I may have been a bit more wary of broaching in front of a London agency audience.

    Thanks to everyone who came down to Bristol, it was a brilliant 2 days.

  • Ben Templeton

    Great to hear such an endorsement from a well respected player from the big smoke!

    One of the great things about the tech and creative scene is the sheer diversity on every rung of the ladder, from volunteers willing to sew RFID tags into clothing for 5 hours, across the board to companies like HP investing time and money into kicking off the Pervasive Media Studio. Thought Den wouldn’t be where they are today without the support of this fantastic wess-coutnry community.

    Chris, very grateful of the time you took out to talk at the Creative
    Director’s Network a year or so ago and the insights you brought to
    Vision Conference.

  • david sloly

    Chris, I think your observation matches that of many others that visit Bristol.

    The compact size of the city coupled with a friendly vibe makes it easy to quickly test new thinking face to face with your peers.

    Again, the size of the city reduces the chances of your idea then being nicked by some little scallywag as everyone knows eachother.

    Thank you to everyone that attended Vision 2011 and helped make it a great success for Bristol.

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