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11 Reasons why Manchester and the North West is best for marketing and digital folk

Author: Emma Allison
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Contrary to popular belief, the world doesn’t revolve around London and the South of England. Once synonymous with grey skies and bleak-looking factories, the Industrial North has undergone a massive transformation over the years. Whisper it quietly, but the North West is a thriving, cosmopolitan and forward-thinking region - the perfect place for marketing and digital professionals to further their careers.

Here are 11 reasons why the North West is the place to be.

1) IPOs

The North West has seen some high-profile flotations in recent years. Brands such as,, Pets at Home and Home Bargains have all successfully launched on the stock market in the last couple of years, helping to fuel demand for highly-skilled digital, marketing and creative professionals in the region.

More and more businesses are setting up a base in the North West and Chancellor George Osborne stated last year that people in this area are “joining the labour market” at the fastest rate in the entire UK, underlining the point that more jobs are being made available in this part of the country. Mr Osborne also claimed that “something remarkable has happened” in Manchester and other cities in the North in the past 30 years.

Long may it continue.

2) Up-and-coming restaurants and food scene

Manchester was recently the focus of a TV show (Restaurant Wars), which concentrated on the race to be awarded the first Michelin star in the city. There is certainly no shortage of excellent culinary establishments in the region to suit all tastes. Some Forward Role favourites are:

  • Fine Dining - Mr Cooper’s House, 47 King Street West, Manchester House, Northcote (Clitheroe)
  • Burger & Grill - Solita and Almost Famous, Hickory Smoke House (Chester)
  • Chinese - Little Yang Sing and Yu and You (Blackburn)
  • Casual - Australasia, Hearth of the Ram (Ramsbottom), The Sticky Walnut (Chester)
  • Indian - Akbars, EastZEast, Dilli (Altrincham)
  • Vegetarian - Greens (Didsbury), Egg Cafe (Liverpool)

Every time you walk around Manchester City Centre you’ll notice that another intriguing eatery has opened its doors. With so much choice, you’ll never struggle to find a decent bite to eat.

3) High-growth SMEs

The North West and Manchester is a hub for new and high-growth digital businesses attracted by lower office rental prices than in London and a high-quality pool of skilled digital talent at more affordable salaries and day rates. Companies such as Missguided, Parasol and Car Loan 4U regularly appear in high-growth lists and are helping to turbo-charge the North West economy.

Last year, a study by KPMG showed that Manchester, for the third year running, was deemed to be the best European city in which to do business - thanks in part to the lower costs that companies are saddled with. The region is awash with budding entrepreneurs, and with the UK’s economy strengthening seemingly by the day, there’s arguably never been a better time to launch a business.

4) Great bar scene

Northerners are famous for playing hard as well as working hard, and cities like Manchester and Liverpool have burgeoning bar scenes, with the latest cool spot popping up every few weeks.

A few of our favourites at Forward Role are:

  • The Whisky Jar - Great whisky and tunes (Northern Quarter, Manchester)
  • Kosmonaut - Great for ping pong, cocktails and ales (Northern Quarter, Manchester)
  • The Temple - A quirky underground bar with a ridiculously large selection of beers from around the world (Manchester)
  • Alma de Cuba – fantastic music, cocktails and scantily clad women showering you in petals (Liverpool)
  • Dukes 92 – a summer drinking institution in the Manchester sunshiiiine beside the canals (Castlefield, Manchester)
  • Ship & Mitre - An old-school pub that is heaven for real ale lovers (Liverpool)
  • The Brewery Tap - An all-round good pub to suit all tastes (Chester)

On the music front, Liverpool spawned The Beatles and Manchester/Salford has given birth to so many quality bands - ranging from Oasis and The Stone Roses to The Smiths and New Order - that it’s almost impossible to keep count.

Suffice to say that if you can’t have a good time in the North West of England, you’re doing it all wrong.

5) Growth in the digital agency sector

Being such a forward-thinking region, it’s no surprise that the North West is home to a growing number of esteemed digital agencies.

You only have to look at the names on The Drum’s Top 100 Agencies outside London in 2014 to see how many North West-based digital agencies are making waves in the industry. By the same token, it’s worth checking out Prolific North’s list of the Top 50 Digital Agencies in 2015, which demonstrates just how many Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington and Chester-based companies are emerging.

These are exciting times for digital agencies in the North West.

6) Centre of the UK for sport

It’s hard to deny that the North West is the epicentre of UK sport. Home to Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton, the number of major football trophies won by teams across the region simply cannot be matched. Manchester is also home to the excellent National Football Museum, which is definitely worth a visit.

The National Cycling Centre provides a base for Britain’s incredibly impressive cycling team, while Old Trafford is renowned for hosting a multitude of international cricket matches. Major boxing bouts have been staged in Manchester and Liverpool down the years, while Bolton’s Macron Stadium has hosted plenty of high-profile darts tournaments. Most of the UK’s best Rugby League teams also reside in the North West.

Some will argue that claiming the North West to be the true home of British sport is a touch arrogant, but taking everything we’ve mentioned into account, it’s really difficult to state otherwise.

7) The Beeb

The BBC’s well-publicised move to MediaCityUK in Salford offered yet more proof that the North is becoming increasingly influential.

According to the National Audit Office, the approved budgeted lifetime cost of the BBC’s move from South to North - which includes running costs up until 2030 - is £942 million. Despite this vast outlay, the broadcaster still felt the move was necessary in order to bring the BBC closer to its Northern audience and ultimately to improve the quality of its content.

Naturally, the arrival of the BBC has opened up a plethora of new opportunities for creative people looking for digital jobs or media roles. The move has also enhanced the reputation of Salford, with properties in the trendy Salford Quays area being increasingly sought after.

There’s a real buzz of excitement sweeping through Salford at the minute, and with further investment planned, the city’s stature is only likely to grow.

8) High standard of living

Thanks to the aforementioned relocation of the BBC and the emergence of a multitude of fantastic businesses, digital and marketing professionals in the North West are starting to see their salaries go up.

While there’s still a way to go before workers in the North earn the same as their counterparts in London, the lower house prices and favourable cost of living more than make up for any pay gaps. As this article from 2014 suggests, you generally get far more for your money in Manchester when compared with London. Based on statistics compiled by Midas and Numbeo, the piece stated that average property prices in the North are less than a third of those in the capital.

We’ve already talked about Manchester’s clutch of fantastic bars and eateries, and this is another area where Northerners profit. According to Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index, the average price of a domestically-brewed beer is £3 in Manchester, compared to £4 in London.


9) The Arts

As we’ve already alluded to, the North West is a far more refined place to live these days, and it seems the region is finally being recognised as a cosmopolitan hub.

From Manchester’s famous and historic Halle Orchestra - which has been going since the mid-19thCentury - to the iconic Lowry theatre and gallery complex, there’s much to see and do. Heading west, the arts are alive and well in Liverpool, with the Walker Art Gallery, Tate Liverpool and Victoria Gallery and Museum all worth a visit.

10) Shopping  

From the high street names at the Trafford Centre and Liverpool One to more prestigious high-end brands located on Manchester’s trendy King Street, the North West is retail heaven.

Despite the rapid growth of online shopping, malls such as Manchester’s Arndale Centre, as well as the shops situated in Chester’s historic City Centre still benefit from impressive levels of footfall. Of course, it’s only when you move to a new town or city that you start to find some hidden gems. You can spend hours wandering around the award-winning Bury Market or browsing the many trendy outlets in the hip Manchester suburb of Chorlton, for example.

11) The best digital & marketing recruitment agency in the UK

With more digital and marketing jobs opening up in the North West, it’s important that companies and candidates have access to a recruitment specialist that has its finger firmly on the pulse, the type of agency that has a fantastic knack for matching the right people with the right jobs.

Our team have many years’ experience working in marketing positions so we’re genuine industry experts, which means they know exactly what our clients require. We’ve sung the praises of the North West in this article, and with good reason. We’re proud to have built strong relationships with some of the most high-profile digital businesses in the region, and we’d love to think that we can contribute to what has the potential to be a golden era for the economy in the North West of England.

To find out how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Steve Thompson is Managing Director of Forward Role Recruitment, was born in Bolton and raised with a Warburton’s milk loaf in one hand and a bottle of Vimto in the other.  He has spent all his working life in the North West and is a passionate advocate of the area.

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