Tech City: Festival to celebrate best of tech industry

James Allsopp and Rebecca Huxley

James Allsopp and Rebecca Huxley - Credit: Archant

Tech City is the third largest technology hub in the world and it’s right on our doorstep. Each week the Gazette brings you news from the thriving area around Old Street Roundabout. This week Shekha Vyas looks at what goes into planning one of the largest digital festivals in London

A two week festival celebrating the creative and entrepreneurial talent of the tech industry is set to open this May in Shoreditch.

Thousands of people will be sharing their ideas and expertise at the Digital Shoreditch event, the culmination of a year-long programme of hackathons, workshops and meet-ups that aim to connect the international and local tech community in the heart of Tech City.

James Allsopp, director and curator of Digital Shoreditch, along with Rebecca Huxley, said: “It’s inviting the world into Shoreditch to help celebrate these really cool industries. We have people coming from all over the world; you don’t have to be in Shoreditch to get involved.

“The festival is really the pinnacle of what happens throughout the year, we will have two weeks of parties and 500 speakers for this year as well as bands and film screenings, local restaurants and pubs and clubs are also on board – it is not just us putting on things.”

The pair – who also develop games – founded the initiative originally to meet people in the area but it quickly spiralled as it got more popular, with 15,000 people expected to attend between May 11 and 24.

Rebecca said: “There is no limit; everyone wants to join the party and have a little bit of Digital Shoreditch love. It is an inclusive event which is trying to bring value in the community and we are driving to extend the programme this year.”

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The duo operates from Central Working Space, in Mile End Road, Whitechapel and said the not-for-profit festival was unique as the community were able to contribute to every element of it.

James said: “All the money we make goes back into the community. It’s not a corporate event and everything that is going on has been crowd sourced by members of the community who come together to celebrate their work.

“We look for people with interesting stories and that is how the speakers are picked. Users submit their speaker and there is a voting session pitched to followers on social media. The voting helps us curate the programme; we ask for people’s inputs all the time, there is no direction that we take without the community becoming part of it.”

From examining the user-submitted proposals this year, the directors said some topics of discussion were appearing more than others, signifying new trends in the tech industry.

James said: “We have seen a lot of robotics, biohacking and of course the 3d printed movement which is really changing the manufacturing industry.”

Rebecca added: “There is also a lot crowd sourced investment – people are really starting to talk about their success stories which is fantastic and we have a lot on broadcasting as lots of people are stating to look at the future of the media landscape, how that is changing and how to fit into it.”

James and Rebecca are also working with Hackney Council and the new Opportunities Hub in a call to action for companies to help young people into tech jobs.

Last year 23 young people found work through Digital Shoreditch and more are expected to get involved for 2015.

Rebecca said: “It is also a space where you can get merging start ups coming together with multinational and blue chip companies on a level playing field, so it is great for networking.”

Digital Shoreditch is still taking proposals for speakers and events and anyone looking to get involved can submit these via the website