February Refresh Teesside & new venue!

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives us great pleasure to announce that we have secured a venue. Our next event will be on Thursday 7th February at Sassari in Middlesbrough.

In 2012 Refresh Teesside grew beyond our wildest dreams. This was down to the community spreading the word and encouraging others to get involved resulting our numbers growing month on month. This also would not have been possible without our sponsors.

Capaldi’s Restaurant has been fundamental in getting Refresh Teesside to where it is today. They have provided a superb venue, friendly staff and great food every month for the past 10 months. Unfortunately at the beginning of January we received news that Capaldi’s is now permanently closed. We therefore made the difficult decision to cancel the January event due to needing to find a venue.

We are really pleased to announce that Sassari Restaurant on Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough has agreed to host the February event as a trial with the prospect of carrying on as our event sponsor throughout 2013. This is great news as it will enable us to continue to provide events of the same quality with the same relaxed atmosphere. The function room at Sassari is very similar to the room we have grown fond of at Capaldi’s with the added bonus of a little more space. Thanks to our sponsor, we are still able to offer free food.

Sassari is a great location for Refresh Teesside. It is only a few metres up Linthorpe road, on the other side of the road from where Capaldi’s used to be. Click here for a map.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Capaldi’s for all their help and support over the last 12 months and also thank all the staff who helped out at the events. We look forward to building our relationship with Sassari’s.

February event – Thursday 7th February 2013

The February event is our first event of 2013 and as it’s a trial at Sassari it’s going to be a big one. If you are only going to make it to one event this year, it has to be the February event.

The February talk will be from Urban Pioneers. This is an excellent opportunity to hear about this exciting project. There will also be lightning talks. If you are interested in giving a lightning talk please contact James at james@refreshteesside.org

As this is a trial event at Sassari we really need to blow their socks off. We need your help. Please help us spread the news that the February event will be on Thursday 7th February at @sassari. Please forward this email to friends and colleagues to help broaden the Refresh Teesside family.  You may have noticed the change in date. We previously ran on the second Wednesday of the month. It is our intention to now run on the second Thursday of the month. However, in February this happens to be Valentines Day. We didn’t want to make life difficult for people (Refresh Teesside Vs romantic night with your partner…tough decision!) therefore as a one off we are running a week early.

Please help us secure Sassari for our new venue throughout 2013 by following these simple steps:

  1. Head over to refreshteesside-february2013.eventbrite.co.uk and register for the February event.
  2. We sent a Tweet out at 10.30am with all the information about February’s event. It would be great if you could retweet it, that would mean alot to us.
  3. Tweet about the event using @refreshteesside and @sassari
  4. Forward this email to friends and colleagues in the creative industry.
  5. Like our post on Facebook.
  6. Share in the conversation on our LinkedIn page.

Does anyone in Teesside creative industry really give a monkeys?

I have been reluctant to make this post for fear it is going to sound negative so let me set one thing straight right from the start…

  1. Teesside creative industry is huge and is still growing.
  2. We have some of the most creative minds in the North East.
  3. We have one of the best Universities in the UK outputting bright graduates year after year.
  4. We have a thriving community where people are willing to collaborate on projects, share knowledge and experiences.
  5. We have the most successful networking event for creative people that Teesside has ever seen! The last event attracted more than 60 people.
  6. We are home to some very successful creative companies, agencies and start-ups.

For those who do not know me, I am a web developer working for Thap in Middlesbrough. I am a graduate of Teesside University. I have worked in Teesside since graduating and live in Thornaby with my wife Fiona who was born in Middlesbrough. However, I am not from this area. I was born in York and bought up in Leeds. I came to Teesside to attend University. So why am I still here and why am I so passionate about the local creative industry?

About three years ago, I was working for a creative company in Stockton. We were just starting up and I was a sole developer working in a three-man team. I started to look for events I could go to meet other developers in my position. I wanted to talk about the technical aspects of the projects I was working on in order to get others opinions on the way I was going to approach them. I found myself having to travel to Newcastle to attend events because there was nothing in Teesside. This frustrated me because I knew that Teesside was marketing itself as a ‘digital hub’.

I started to speak to the few contacts I had at this stage. I did some research and stumbled upon Refresh Cities. Refresh is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of New Media endeavours in their areas. They promote design, technology, usability, and standards. Their manifesto fitted what I was looking to achieve therefore I decided to launch Refresh Teesside and the first event was held on Thursday 2nd April 2009.

Attendance was good. However three years ago it felt there was an unhealthy attitude towards networking in Teesside and this seemed to impact on who could get involved. Refresh Teesside is not and was never about pure networking. I leave what I class as ‘pure’ networking for the likes of BNI and events like that. I am personally not keen on ‘pure’ networking events although they do have their place. What I was interested in creating was an event which was relaxed, informal and welcomed people of all levels from any sized business in the creative sector. However, in 2009 it appeared that business owners were reluctant for their developers to go to these sort of events because they feared other businesses would poach them. They also seemed to worry that they might talk about projects they were working on and other businesses would then poach their clients. In my opinion this is totally unjustified. Although the event in 2009 was successful, the negative atmosphere meant I decided not do another event at that time.

Three years later my position had changed. I had made new connections in the region and once again it became apparent that there was still a gap in the market for an event like Refresh Teesside. I felt frustrated with hearing that Teesside is a ‘digital hub’ and that we were on the same level as Newcastle, Leeds & Manchester. In my opinion, we are not on the same level as these cities and I doubt we ever will be. That’s not a negative thing as I actually don’t think we need to be like these cities.

When I re-launched Refresh Teesside, I opened the event in February with this:  “People keep talking about Teesside being a creative hub. Have a think about that. Now think about Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester. Do you still think we are a creative hub?” This is a thought provoking statement. Teesside is an area which has lots of people saying Teesside is a creative hub but doing very little to promote the talent we have and boost collaboration in the region.

I re-started Refresh Teesside to combat these issues and create one well -known brand to represent the creative industry in and around Teesside. Refresh aims to give people a voice and a focus. It appears that people are keen to help make this happen. Each monthly event attracts more and more people, with sponsor’s being keen to support the event.

What Refresh Teesside is and what we promote:

  1. Give people an event to network with other people who are running businesses in the creative industry.
  2. Provide a relaxed, unthreatening atmosphere for people to share problems and solutions to every day problems.
  3. Allow people to connect and calibrate on projects to use the skills we have locally.
  4. Allow freelancers to make contacts with established businesses.
  5. Give graduates the chance to speak with the regions leading figures in the industry to help boost their confidence and improve there chance of winning a job they want to apply for.
  6. Create a brand that groups all things creative together for the creative industry in Teesside so people know where to go for news and to find professionals.

News of Refresh Teesside is spreading every day. People are realising the true potential of being part of something so fresh. I really hope that others in the region will work with Refresh Teesside to help promote what we have and help connect more of the talent we already have in and around Teesside.

I have a number of success stories which I am in the process of collating to produce a fact sheet on how Refresh Teesside is doing positive things for the creative sector in the region. Refresh Teesside has helped people find jobs, helped connect freelancers with opportunities and helped keep business local.

The future for Teesside’s creative industry is very bright; however even after campaigning and running events for the past 12 months we are only just starting to make a difference. Starting early next year I will be announcing a Refresh Teesside Board. At the time of writing it will consist of three people passionate about making a difference: Matt Kirwin, Chris Scott and myself. This is a true testament to where Refresh Teesside is today and reflects all the hard work from everyone involved and everyone who has ever attended the event.

Please help promote Refresh Teesside and what it represents. Let’s start to pool resources and start to make a difference under the already established, trusted and respected brand of Refresh Teesside. Teesside has something huge to prove and it is by no way unachievable.  If we promote the talent that we have, people will start to see what we have to offer. If we work with one another to produce the first class work we are all capable of peoples’ heads will start turning and people will start to look to Teesside as well as Newcastle, Manchester and Leeds. “Let’s gather great minds, share all of our knowledge, all grow and learn, promote local talent, be more than we think can be, make our cities better” and turn Teesside into the digital hub we all know it can be, together.

So to answer my original question, why am I still in Teesside and why am I so passionate? I am really excited about what’s happening. Every time I think about where Teesside will be in the next 12-24 months I think about us being a true powerhouse where people recognise the talent and enthusiasm we have to produce outstanding work. People are coming together, getting to know one another and sharing one voice. I have a feeling I am not the only one who goes home after a Refresh Teesside event energised and ready to take myself and Teesside to the next level. Come joins us!

Community Champion Awards 2012, Champion Ambassador


(Photo from the Gazette article, Copyright Gazette)

When the Gazette announced the Community Champion Awards for 2012 a few people noticed that there was a category for Champion Ambassador and started to mention that I should be put forward for my work with Refresh Teesside.

Luckily not everyone just talked about it and Rick Trotter filled out the form to nominate me. I got a lovely full page spread in the Gazette and some great coverage for Refresh Teesside. The article was also posted online. Huge thanks to Rick for filling out the form and to everyone else who commented on Twitter saying I should be nominated.

Yesterday I was contacted by Lesley from the Gazette to inform me that I have been short-listed for the Community Champion Awards 2012 in the Champion Ambassador award category! Wahooo!

So on Friday 30th November 2012 I will be heading to the Riverside Stadium with my lovely wife to enjoy a drinks reception, three course dinner and award presentations.

Wish me luck!

#RFTees August

The next Refresh Teesside is on Wednesday 8th August at 6pm in the function room at Capaldi’s in Middlesbrough. This months event is going to be one of the best events yet, do not miss out! We are really pleased to welcome Kevin Mann as our ‘Spotlight’ speaker this month. His talk is entitled “The Princess is in another Castle“. Nothing else is being shared about the content of the talk but I would advise you not to miss it! We are going to showcase the new Refresh Teesside branding thats been worked on by Chris Scott. We are really exciting to announce our new sponsors who are supporting the event for the forseable future. They have also informed me there are some goodies in the post for all our members so don’t miss out! As always we have t-shirts to give away and a stack of free stickers from all over the web.

The next event is a week today.

Please register now to guarentee you get a ticket. The tickets for the events are limited and are avlaiable on a first come first served basis. Past events have seen us really close to being sold out and the demand for this months event is set to be high so please only register for a ticket if you can make it.

Click here to signup to the August event now!

Really looking forward to seeing you in a week.


Refresh Teesside – a networking event for creative Teessiders!

Next Event – 6pm, Wednesday 8th February @ Capaldi’s, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough

Refresh Teesside meet at 6pm on the second Wednesday of every month. We meet in the function room upstairs at Capaldi’s Restaurant, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough.

In Teesside there are hundreds of creative businesses who can benefit from knowing each other. Many of the businesses are relatively small in size, focusing on a specific skill or service. Everyone can benefit from knowing other professionals in their own trades and networking with other professionals who offer skills and services they may require in the future.

Registration will be between 6 and 6.30pm. We will greet you and ensure you are registered. At 6.30pm there will be an introduction to the event with any announcements. After this, it’s up to you to get out of the event what you want.

There will be developers with their laptops out sharing code and working on problems. There will be freelance developers and designers looking to connect with agencies. There will be photographers looking to offer their services to others. There will be business owners who may be recruiting. Most importantly there will be creative people networking with their peers.

There will be light food, kindly provided by Capaldi’s, during the evening. The bar will be open. The event officially finishes at 9pm.

We look forward to seeing you there, if you have any questions then send us a tweet or an email.

To register for the event please go to the Refresh Teesside Eventbrite page

If you would like to find out more information about future events then please bookmark our official website.

Other links that you may find interesting:

North East Networking, where is it going?

As many of you reading this blog will know, I founded Refresh Teesside and earlier this year we had our first event. The idea behind Refresh Teesside was to provide a local event for the developers and designers who run most of their business in the region and give them a vehicle to get together and chat.

I went to Teesside University and was lucky enough to get a job in the industry as soon as I graduated. I am originally from Leeds; However I have grown to be very passionate about the digital industry in the North East. There are many networking events in the region. Adam, who I work with at Koodoo Creative , attends many of these including BNI, NECC, Network North and Entrepreneurs Forum. These business networking events are great for him to generate leads and network with other businesses. He enjoys this and enjoys handing out business cards and talking business. However, I am much more interested in getting together with other people who do what I do. What I mean by this is I am not that interested in what clients other businesses have, I am not interested in generating leads because thats not my main job. I work as part of a reasonably small team, with only a couple of developers in our development team. Therefore, I dont get to chat and run ideas by other people who have similar knowledge and mindset to me. This is one of the reasons why I started Refresh Teesside.

Recently I have noticed there are quite a few networking events and many individuals and businesses who are trying to get people together and advertise the talent in our region. Many of these events take place in Newcastle which is another reason why I started Refresh Teesside which would be a local event. There are many events in the region and many have their own individual agendas and target audience. Super Mondays, run by Ross Cooney, is a great event and is targeted at a specific audience. Thursday Fizz is again another event which seems to target creatives in general; However this event has been setup very well and has been well marketed. Its a successful event. Mark Easby is running a Twestival in Teesside this year after last years successful event in Newcastle. Robert Page has more recently setup NOCCI Middlesbrough which targets creatives in the region. I believe Refresh Teesside has its place as it has a unique agenda and target audience.

I am aware of the Digital City event First Wednesdays and Codeworks with the membership and events they run. I have this really frustrating feeling that there are quite a few people and organisations trying to promote the region and its talent, but some may have the wrong agenda themselves. By this I mean getting involved with setting up ‘another’ event for self promotion of some sort rather than trying to promote talent or the region.

I was recently made aware of a:design association which really interests me. I was invited to attend a focus group on Tuesday (25th Aug) which was very interesting. I really like the idea of having a not for profit organisation as an umbrella for all things in the region to make sure everyone stays on track. There were some really interesting points brought up at the focus group and I will be sure to stay in touch with the guys to make sure my thoughts are taken on board and also to offer my time to help out. I am going to see if we can run the next Refresh Teesside event in association with a:design so we show our support.

I cannot help but feel really frustrated that there are many many many people talking up the North East when it comes to digital media. Codeworks, Teesside University, Digital City and the government are all talking the talk about the talent in the Teesside region; however it really does seem to be all talk. I say its time for someone to stepup and group all the efforts and make sure they all stay on track. I would say running an event in assosiation with a:design would be a good start. You would have to prove the event in terms of how it will promote and how it is unique. I will be looking to do this with Refresh Teesside, lets see what happens!

One speaker, a couple of pizzas, a few pints and plenty of great minds.

The first Refresh Teesside meet-up was held last night (Thursday 2nd April) and I am pleased to report it was a great success. I would like to thank everyone for coming and making it a first event to remember. We had a great turn out with people from Barnsley and Newcastle coming to see what all the fuss was about.

The meet-up was kicked off with a brief introduction and welcome then a presentation from Craig Rothwell from the OpenPandora Project.

The Pandora is a unique machine. It was designed based on the input of thousands of forum users with one goal in mind – to make the ultimate open source handheld device. Craig also brought a fully working prototype and also a cardboard cut-out of his original idea. More information can be found at www.openpandora.org

We then took a natural break as the pizzas arrived and people asked Craig questions and took the time to get to know each other, putting faces to names which was one of the core reasons Refresh Teesside was started. Once we found out who everyone was we moved to the pub to carry on the informal style the Refresh meet-up events will follow.

The event has already had some great feedback and the response in the twittersphere (#RFTees) has been great. twitter.com/refreshteesside

Planning now starts for the next meet-up so keep your eyes on the website www.refreshteesside.org and please spread the word.

Refresh Teesside – Size does count, AND what you can do with it!

Refresh Teesside
‘Size does count, AND what you can do with it!’

I am pleased to announce our first ‘meet-up’ for Refresh Teesside members and friends.

Date/Time: Thursday 2nd April, 6pm
Location: IDI Building, Teesside University Campus, Middlesbrough

So what’s it all about: Let’s Gather Great Minds, Let’s All Grow And Learn, Let’s Promote Local Talent

The first Refresh Teesside meet-up will start at around 6pm and will be kicked of by a presentation from Craig Rothwell from OpenPandora project. We will then hold a questions and answers session and socialise! Then its down to the pub for a few pints. The main aim of the event is to have some fun and meet new people. Its not a business networking event, its an event for designs and developers to meet other like minded people although its not restricted to designers and developers… make sense, didn’t think so… basically if your in the creative or digital industry in or around Teesside then come and get involved and help shape the group into what you want it to be.

Please spread the word about the event in the twittersphere (#RFTees) – http://twitter.com/refreshteesside

Please signup to our upcoming group so we know how many people to expect http://upcoming.yahoo.com/group/5366/

Please blog and post and chat and message and tweet and… you get the message… Thanks for your support and look forward to seeing you there.

More about The Speaker – Craig Rothwell
The presentation will be given by by Craig Rothwell from the OpenPandora project. The Pandora is designed to be a handheld game console with high-end PDA capabilities, but may also be run as a low-powered full-featured Linux desktop. The unit uses a 1GHz Texas Instruments processor, 256Mb of RAM and a battery which should last 10 hours.

Find out more about Refresh Teesside at www.refreshteesside.org

Google Group – http://groups.google.com/group/refresh-teesside
Upcoming – http://upcoming.yahoo.com/group/5366/
LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/780867/
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Refresh-Teesside/32393234001
Last.fm – http://www.last.fm/group/Refresh+Teesside
Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/refreshteesside/

Refresh Teesside

Refresh Teesside is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical and professional culture of New Media endeavours in their areas. We aim to promote design, technology, usability and standards.

There are lots of Refreshing Cities around the world but only a couple here in the UK and it’s about time that changed. The drive behind digital media in the North East seems to be focused very much in Newcastle however Teesside is home to many up and coming digital media agencies and also many freelance web designers and developers.

We want to let people know that you don’t need to live down South to be considered a Web Professional in this country.

After searching for a long time it became apparent there was nowhere locally which met with point one of the Refresh Cities Manifesto – “Let’s Gather Great Minds”… so Refresh Teesside was born.