I’m planning to move to Manchester at the beginning of the new year and I’m excited about the potential of building my life here.
I’ve moved up north from the english south coast via London, and fallen in love with quirky northern humour, brooding landscapes and the creative industries.
Having grown up in Poole, Dorset, and then moved east to the city of Southampton, I led a very southern existence. The most experience I had with northern accents was through watching Coronation Street.
At Southampton University on my English Literature course, almost everyone I interacted with had strong, middle-class, regionless accents. I fitted right in.
I then migrated to the capital for my Masters and the beginning of my career, experiencing the political and economic heart of the country. It was absolutely terrifying.
I don’t regret having that experience but I always knew in the longterm it wasn’t for me. Then, after working for companies for a few years, I decided to try my luck at freelancing.
After quitting my job to become a freelance tech blogger, I saw no reason why I had to stay in London anymore.
Having visited Manchester and York many times in the last couple of years, I already knew that I wanted to go north.
Plus, I already had many clients in the northern regions – clients based in Bury, Manchester, and Sunderland.
Cookie cutter London tech
It’s surprising that although I was based in London, roughly half my clients were from regions outside London or even in different countries.
I was a stone’s throw (not really) from ‘Silicon Roundabout’ and yet I was having more luck with tech activity happening far away from there.
In some ways, because London has such a buzzing tech scene, there can be cookie cutter feel to a lot of startups. All of the copy and branding is very similar, and it’s “the real deal”.
Every company wants to fit that international startup mould with a clean, slick website and punchy, direct copy. Everyone wants the young hipsters to use their products, and each company is competing to be the next Uber or Deliveroo.
The fierce competition in the London tech scene means that the more you can appeal to a mass, international user base, the more chance you have of succeeding.
It becomes essential to erase all personality out of your brand in order to be taken seriously.
When you look outside London, things start to get a lot more interesting.
Because regional companies have more to prove, but less of a legacy, when compared to London companies, this results in some real quirkiness in northern brands.
The north is bursting with character and industry is thriving. I particularly like working with regional tech companies, because there is a distinctiveness about each of them that can be harder to find in London.
Companies seem more rooted in their locale, and express more individuality in their branding, which I love working with.
There is a fierce regional pride, contrasting the revolving door of young professionals and entrepreneurs in many parts of London.
While I am forever grateful for all the opportunities I had there, and also love working with my capital-based clients, I’m excited to go north.
Tale of two Englands
Once you get past the midlands, you start to realise that there are two Englands. There’s the England of the south and London, and the England of the north.
The culture of northern cities is almost completely absent from representations of english life in the media. When some people say ‘England’, they think of high tea, the queen, and gentlemen in top hats.
But from books I read as a child, I think of misty moorland, mining towns and crumbling manors.
Of course, the England of today is a little different, but not that much.
Moving to Manchester
After a heyday as the first industrial city in the world, and a centre of textile manufacturing up until WWII, economic productivity in Manchester languished for decades.
Now, with the construction of Media City and a revival of a different kind of industry, Manchester fortunes are looking up.
There is a thriving coworking scene, with many freelancers and tech companies making the most of the bustling city.
MadLab is a good example of an organisation flying the flag for tech in Manchester.
Life after London
A lot of people don’t realise that there’s more to life than living in London.
It’s an idea that you unconsciously absorb from the media, after being constantly told that all the jobs are in London, and that you don’t count unless you’re in London.
But what if you make up your own job? What if you want to have a better quality of life than being stuffed in an airless tube, squandering your earnings on overpriced sandwiches, insane rents and chasing the next promotion?
I was surprised and happy to discover that there were so many opportunities outside London that never really get any attention. I’m hoping to make the most of them.
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