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A brief history of the Leeds Digital Festival


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Image credit: Leeds Digital Festival

Kicking off last week, the Leeds Digital Festival 2019 is now in full swing. Entering its fourth year, the event is described as a “multi-venue, city-wide festival celebrating digital culture in all its forms”. This year’s event runs from 23rd April to 3rd May, with several events across the city scheduled to take place.

The rapid rise of the festival has been impressive, with the number of events growing each year since its inception in 2016, as well as the number of high profile sponsors.

Alongside the festival, the Leeds Digital Festival Awards were created to celebrate all that is great about the digital & tech industry in Leeds and the wider city region over the last year.

So, just how far has the festival evolved over the years, and what events are taking place at this year’s event that have caught our interest? Let’s find out…

The evolution of the Leeds Digital Festival


The Leeds Digital Festival was created in 2016 to showcase some of the region’s most innovative and creative developments in the sector, with over 5,000 people attending.

Hosted at Leeds Dock, one of the city’s prime waterside destinations, 56 events took place over the six-day event, including installations from the internationally-renowned Lumen Prize Exhibition, nights of music and several visual performances.


The festival returned in 2017 following a successful first year, gaining the support of Leeds City Council and TechNorth, the Government’s initiative to promote and support digital entrepreneurship.

2017’s event saw more than double the number of events compared to the previous year, with 115 events taking place, as well as over 10,000 people taking part.

Events were hosted by several companies at the festival and included Cyber Security in Digital Health and the return of the vastly popular Code in the Dark.


2018’s edition of the festival saw even more significant growth, with over 20,000 people attending over 170 events across 60 venues, highlighting just how far the event has come in three short years and proving just how relevant the digital sector is in Leeds.

The impact of 2018’s event did not go unnoticed, with it being announced that Leeds hosted more tech events than San Francisco during the week of the festival, despite having half the population.


Now the largest festival of its kind in the North of England, it still remains to be seen what impact this year’s event will have on the thriving digital sector in Leeds.

With hundreds of events scheduled across the city, and with sponsors including the University of Leeds, Sky Betting and the Leeds City Region LEP, it’s safe to say that 2019 is set to be another success.

Some of the best events taking place at this year’s event

We Need to Talk About Brand

When?: Tuesday 30th April, 18:00-19:30

Where?: I-View Leeds Ltd, Platform, New Station Street, Leeds, LS1 4JB

Cost?: Free

This event grabbed our attention straight away, as the image used to promote it is Donald Trump’s now infamous red ‘Make America Great Again’ cap with the words ‘Make Advertising Great Again’ gracing the front instead

The event will explore how by combining traditional brand strategy with data and digital tools, advertising can become relevant and impactful in the digital market again. For more information, click here.

Women in Leeds Digital

When?: Thursday 2nd May, 9:00–17:00

Where?: NEXUS, University of Leeds, Discovery Way, Leeds, LS2 3AA

Cost?: Free

This event will be the first full day conference of its type. The morning session will be aimed at the city’s student population, and those in early-stage careers, wanting to break into the tech sector.

The afternoon session is aimed at Leeds industry professionals and is an opportunity to celebrate the female powerhouses and role models from the region. For more information on this event, click here.

Pokemon Go AR Photography Tour

When?: Sunday 28th April, 13:00–15:00

Where?: Outside the Royal Armouries, Armouries Drive, Leeds, LS10 1LT

Cost?: Free

We’ve chosen to highlight this event because let’s be honest, it looks like a lot of fun. At this event, you’ll take some amazing shots of Pokemon in the many different environments Leeds has to offer while learning about the various techniques you can use to enhance your images.

The only equipment you’ll need to take part is a phone with Pokemon Go installed, a Pokemon Go account that is level five or above, a suitable set of clothing, and a battery pack. For more information, click here.

Leeds Digital Festival Awards 2019

Now in its third year, the Leeds Digital Festival Awards run alongside the actual festival, celebrating all that is great about the digital & tech industry in Leeds and the wider city region in the last year. This year’s event takes place on 30th April.

We’re delighted to be sponsoring the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award at this year’s ceremony, and look forward to celebrating with all of the winners! For more information on the awards, check out Lucy’s blog here.


With the festival well underway, and with the awards ceremony still to look forward to, it’s safe to say that this year’s event is primed to be the biggest and best yet. For more information on the event itself, visit the Leeds Digital Festival website.

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