Dock Street Market – and the role of the Leeds communities

I went to a very wonderful opening for Dock Street Market last Friday.  It used to be a decent enough shop that had many fans and reportedly turned over a million a year.  But still it could not survive.

Now the shop has been taken over by a number of local artisan producers and entrepreneurs, all of whom offer a phenomenal product.  We have fish and chips reinvented by the wonderful Fish &, excellent north Italian coffee and more from Bottega Milanese, superb breads from the Riverside Sourdough Bakery and more.  The people behind these businesses are phenomenally hard working and focussed on quality, service and value.  They are doing their bit to make the collaborative project a success.

But my interest is in the role of the rest of us.  The fine citizens of Leeds.  Of the 700 000 plus people that live in the city, my guess is that the vast majority will not even know that the Dock St Market exists.  They are ‘strangers’ to the market.  Perhaps 10 ooo or so are aware of the market and certainly a couple of hundred rocked up at the opening last week.  These constitute ‘prospects’.  People who know the market exists and may become customers.

But customers so far, by definition, are a smaller group.  Having only just opened not many of us have had the chance to spend our cash in Dock Street Market yet….

A large part of the success of the market will depend on the rate at which strangers are turned in to prospects, prospects are turned into customers, and customers are turned into loyal supporters of the brand.

Historically this process of marketing and sales would be down to the entrepreneurs.  This is their job.  But I am interested in the role of the rest of us.  Those who are already prospects and customers, and our ability to help in the sales and marketing process.   Our power to influence others to check out and support the development of the great independent traders  in Dock Street Market.

Because the ability of a community to support great business is perhaps as important in developing an enterprise culture as the development of the entrepreneur.

Social media has amplified the voice of the prospect and the customer.  It can help to reach the strangers.  As can word of mouth strategies based on good quality referrals and introductions.

So of course let us keep giving the entrepreneurs the training and skills that they need.  But let us also consider how we can equip the rest of us to properly support businesses in our community.

Good luck to all behind the Dock St Market venture.  And let’s see just how much the rest of us can do to really support the kind of independent, artisan based businesses that many of us say we want to see thriving in Leeds.

You can find Dock St just south of the river.  It is well worth checking out!

More on Dock Street Market. And More…from Bronchia

Creatives and Cuts – the Big Leeds Debate

Yorkshire has experienced the fastest growth in employment than any other region, however …

With all these cuts and changes what next?

  • Arts Council – 29.6% cuts over three years
  • Design Council – made a charity
  • Film Council – scrapped
  • NESTA – made a charity
  • Higher Education – 40% cuts over four years
  • Yorkshire Forward – scrapped
  • Local Councils – 28% cuts over three years
  • Business Link – scrapped
  • Almost 200 quangos – scrapped

What does all this mean for the future of the Creative, Cultural and Digital industries of Yorkshire?

‘Creative Networks’ has pulled together a senior-level panel to discuss exactly that.

Confirmed speakers include:

Sally Joynson – Chief Executive of Screen Yorkshire

Cluny Macpherson – Regional Director of Arts Council

Cllr. Adam Ogilvie – Chair of Leeds Cultural Partnership

Katie Stewart – Leeds City Region (Local Enterprise Partnership)

This event will be of vital interest to anyone working within or across the creative and cultural sectors in Yorkshire today. Short presentations followed by an open Q&A session

**Thursday, 25th November 2010**

6pm – Registration & Hot Food

7pm – News & Pitches

7.15pm – The Big Debate

8.30 til late – Networking in the Café Bar

Leeds College of Art, Blenheim Walk, LS2 9AQ

This event is free to creative, digital and cultural industry professionals.

If you would like to join us, please contact Creative Networks on 01422 399444

or email Bridget at

Key Note for Voluntary Action Leeds AGM

16th November 2010 Wheeler Hall, Leeds Cathedral

  • Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today.  It is a very real privilege.
  • Let us get a little perspective on the last decade or so…real growth in the sector and the budgets that it has at its disposal…but have we made the impact on social justice in the city that would hope for in the course of such relatively plentiful times?
  • For a decade or more we have pursued a dumb strategy, taking Govt money to do Govt work in our communities.
  • We have let politicians in Whitehall and increasingly their celebrity friends do our research and development, come up with new schemes and programmes, which they have paid us to ‘roll out’ in our communities
  • Now we need a smart strategy…one that does not trap us in the hands of the economy and politicians; but that puts us at the heart of our communities and their development.
  • Now is the time to start listening, responding to and facilitating the people who we are here to serve (NB this is not civil servants and ministers but people in our communities, especially the marginalised)
  • We have in recent years lost ground in our communities as we have pursued the dumb strategy – but it is ground that we can and will make-up.  We are uniquely placed to respond.
  • We must no longer look at the economy as the only thing that matters.  Economy, culture, society cannot be separated out.  Making GDP ‘king’ is daft! Other forms of wealth matter too.
  • Mark Prisk Secretary of State for Trade and Industry may have shown some interest in the role of the third sector in contributing to the work of the Local Enterprise Partnerships and the Regional Growth Fund.   We should not turn our back on this opportunity, but we must recognise that this is more about increasing the tax base for the Treasury than it is about growing local, vibrant and most importantly sustainable communities.  We must be careful not to keep pursuing a dumb strategy.
  • And a word on big society.  Again there are opportunities and risks.  Risks in getting drawn into a London centric debate about using volunteers to deliver front line services.  Risks in developing initiatives that maybe under-capitalised, under specified and deliver more political impact than social justice.
  • There is another big society.  One in which local people come together to support themselves in pursuing their own agendas for change and progress.  More ‘Our Society’ than ‘Big Society’…
  • The role of community organisers in the city?  Well, I love what the people behind Leeds Community Organising are trying to do, but are we in danger of that project being swamped by Mr Cameron’s army of Community Organiser?  If delivered on a per capita basis we would have about 60 in Leeds.  If paid this would require a budget of well over £1m a year.
  • So who is driving ‘development in our city’?  It is still the money men and women.  The bankers, the insurers, and the investors, supported by the planners and the architects
  • Physical regeneration matters, but it is expensive, elitist (investment goes to where the ROI is greatest in the short term ie commerce) and slow.  Main beneficiaries are builders, developers, architects and investors.  They tend to suck money out of our community and return it to shareholders elsewhere.
  • Eastgate, Trinity, The Arena on the large scale. But on a smaller scale too I see asset transfer and similar projects channel love, energy, wisdom, experience and millions of pounds into re-casting concrete, bricks, stone and steel in a city already full of under-used infrastructure.
  • Now of course physical regeneration matters….but …
  • Psychological regeneration matters more.  How do we engage 700 000 Leeds residents in making progress in their own lives?   Regeneration between the ears can be fast, relatively cheap and egalitarian – for every pound that is spent on physical infrastructure how about a penny being put into community development and facilitation?  Contributions from Trinity, Eastgate and Arena would be roughly £12.5m over next 5 years.  Add that to philanthropic sources and we have a serious budget – even in times of austerity.  The question is can we, a coalition between public, private and third sector generate a return on investment in the long term.  Real cultural change.
  • How do we help people to plan and organise in pursuit of what really matters to them?
  • Time to put social justice right at the heart of our work….
  • Time to get to work

Working for Social Change? Like to share an office in Leeds?

The Refugee Council, a charity working with asylum seekers and refugees, due to funding cuts, now has more office space than it currently needs and would like to explore the possibility of sharing our premises with other like minded, social change organisations.

We could offer a competitive rate, friendly atmosphere and a potential to work in partnership.

We have desk space for approx 12 people.

We also have a Resource Centre on site offering meeting, training and events space. Our address is Hurley House LS11 5DQ, 10 mins walking distance from Leeds station.

For more information please contact 07880 723265.

Frugality, smart cities and social justice….I really should apologise

I really should apologise…

Last night at TEDxLeeds we had some really excellent presentations including one from IBM’s Rashik Parmar on Smarter Cities that included a great little video on the stupidity of food supply logistics…


Rashik then went on to talk about how ‘sustainability’ and an era of ‘frugality’ will  impact on how we might build a smarter city.

Which is where I lost it.  A little.

We are in the throws of an investment of £1.25bn into a two new shopping centres and an Arena for Leeds.

Sustainability?  Frugality?  Localism?

An additional million square feet of retail space,  and 13500 seats to be sold at least 100 nights a year at an average ticket price of perhaps £30?  And a further £15m is to be invested in a southern entrance to the station (pedestrian only) when the existing 2 entrances are shambolic.

Now the shopping centres will be funded entirely out of private money I believe.  And investors have no doubt done the research to suggest that even in times of frugality they are an investment that will pay off.  Because the frugality is not for all of us.  We are not all in frugality together.  Nor sustainability.

The southern entrance to the station will be paid for by money from central government and local transport bodies (don’t ask me if they are public or private – but I suspect it is either our taxes or our fares one way or another).  But it is an investment that will reduce travel times for an estimated 20% of the stations users who need to access  Granary Wharf, Holbeck Urban Village or the City Inn.  Now I would be gobsmacked if those destinations counted for 20% of station passengers – but I will go with it.

And how will it reduce journey times?

By meaning that passengers will no longer have to walk for perhaps 5 minutes and pass through the recently refurbished Neville Street and under the Dark Arches to get south of the river.

This at a time, and over a timescale, when 1 in 6 council workers will be made redundant to save £150m over the next 4 years….

1 in 6 council workers being laid off and we spend £15m so that those who can still commute to a job have a shorter walk.

So I asked a question.

I asked whether this sounded like it was smart strategy for a city facing challenges of sustainability and frugality?  Apparently that is a political question….one on which Rashik would not be drawn.

Perhaps  now is not a time for ‘political’ questions….

I think that it is.  But, perhaps I am the minority.

Now where was that Derek Sivers video on starting a movement?

The E in LEP is for ENTERPRISE

Not Economic.

Not Entrepreneurial.


If LEPs really focused on encouraging enterprise rather than economic growth how would things change?

If LEPs looked at how they create a culture where enterprise (the ability to act boldly in pursuit of progress) was the norm rather than the exception, a mass participation sport, something that was seen as cool and for everyone, not just those smart ‘entrepreneurial types in suits’ what sorts of things would they be doing?

How would our communities change?

What would happen to our economy?

Memories of the Old Enterprise Allowance

You will have to click through to watch them on You Tube – but I promise it is worth it!



Thanks to Joe Danzig for pointing me at these…great memories…

Yorkshire Musician’s Social Media Surgery

This was yet another event pulled together by John Popham and inspired by the social media surgery format.
It was a great example of a peer to peer support mechanism with everyone getting something from the event.  The Round Foundry who provided the room, got to showcase their wonderfully flexible building and to prove once again how great they are as people.  Social media bods got richly entertained by musicians.  Musicians learned a bit from social media bods. Event sponsors get to raise awareness for their service,  local business Out of the Woods get to sell a few platters of wonderful canapés and it seems that everyone is a winner.
No evaluation forms, no sign in sheets, no evidence of GVA created, jobs retained or any of the usual nonsense to be sent to a funder for rubber stamping to release funds.
No event management teams handing out name badges and ticking  lists.
No pop up banners reminding everyone how great we are in providing this service and ramming an expensive, publicly funded brand down their necks.
Just a great experience shared by people who might not otherwise have met, networks built and strengthened, opportunities uncovered, smiles on faces, tunes in hearts and I suspect some really talented people who now have ideas about how to get their music heard and perhaps some more revenue too.  We have known for a long time that conviviality matters.  But mainstream business support rarely manages to achieve it.
No ‘gurus’ or accredited advisers either!  There is a debate about the future of business support in which I advocate for a greater emphasis on peer to peer networks and problem based learning as more cost effective ways to support enterprise than a model based on professional business advisers and brokerage.  And the main criticism of what I am advocating is that ‘we can’t assure the quality of the advice given’.  Well apart from not being entirely true (we use an informal peer review to check out the quality of our work in social media surgeries) it also shows a lack of faith in the ability of lay people to help other lay people make progress.  Information is offered on a caveat emptor, or ‘you might want to think about…’ basis, and people are advised to talk with more than one surgeon to get a different perspective.  In short, people are taught how to get value from ‘would be’ helpers.
And when we look at advisory regimes that are fully quality assured, supervised and regulated – like the finance industry – are we really supposed to think that this is a model that provides guarantees of quality?
Let’s just open every single event with a reminder from Buddha – “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

A Community Ecology of Enterprise

Enterprise is not just about ‘entrepreneurial types’ and ‘business ideas’.
It is not just about business and commercial endeavour.
If I want to make something happen to improve things in my community I may start a business, but I may start a campaign, or a festival, or a local action group.  I have worked with many people whose motivation was not to develop a business, but to make a difference, and in some cases setting up a business has been a means to that end.  No more than that.  It is simply a means to an end.
Well managed and run these kinds of community based activity all contribute to a more enterprising community and provide the kind of community ecology and practice ground from which commercial endeavours may spring.  They also help to build the social capital that is essential to building a sustainable and resilient local economy and community.
If LEPs were to think more about the kind of community ecology that supports enterprise and how this can be developed I suspect they would get a much greater ROI than on more traditional approaches of advice, managed workspace (we are awash with these in Leeds, mostly under-used and inappropriate for the communities they were built in) and access to finance.
Yes the web matters.  But it won’t be primarily because either a LEP or the national Business Link site offer generic advice and guidance (which to be frank just replicates what is already out there in most cases) but because local sites and sites of shared interest will provide highly specific and contextual advice – usually in the form of dialogue and conversation rather than factsheet.  The web will provide a platform for conversations that cannot easily take place face to face.
We have to start to think differently.  We have to innovate. We have to be prepared to try new approaches.  I hope LEPs are up to the challenge.
For me this means getting away from thinking about one to one advice for high growth, one to small group for lifestyle and start-up (in deprived areas) and one to many (content led websites) for the rest, and instead seriously building the networks, social capital, self belief and self-reliance that will allow our communities to become much more enterprising.