The Tech Off: Creatives VS Coders Up North!

The Tech Off: Creatives VS Coders Up North!

The Tech Off LEEDz LEEDz LEEDz
No rest for the wicked! The week after we smashed Shoreditch we went “oop north” to kick ass at Leeds International Festival. Triple-teaming with Glug Leeds and Futurelabs (and bar sponsored by Parallax) we challenged Creatives to go head to head against Coders in a “Cold Revenge Northern-Power-Smackdown Special.”

We managed to get MC Danimal AKA The Beyonce of Tech to leave his lair in the depths of East London (as Shoreditch’s no1 tech MC) and brave the frozen wasteland of Yorkshire. “It’s like the 70’s up here, I can’t see any craft coffee shops” he said. Pumping out the rock choons was our resident DJ Beefcake.

However we employed new security as the usual team (The Fabulous Bakewell Boys) had been dramatically sacked on stage at SXSW. So we welcomed into The Tech Off Arena the cheapest and most available security we could find locally, Brexit Woman and her Rotherham ‘bad lads’. She vetted our audience for immigration status and liberal values: “No Guardian readers aloud!” she cried. Any trouble and you’d get you deported.



What is The Tech Off?

If you haven’t heard about our event it has been called “the love-child of TED talks and WWE”. Competitors have strictly 5 minutes to rant about anything tech-related to wow the crowd. The audience then choose the winner, who take away the coveted ‘Belt of Tech.’ We created a brand new custom made belt for Leeds…

The premises for this latest intense showdown was the Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, a grimy rock and roll venue – replete with hipsters – just right to contain the baying crowd of salivating Northern techies.

The Evening’s ‘Rules of Engagement’

The Tech Off this time had four separate rounds – each pitting a “Creative” against a “Coder”. Longtime enemies, each loathing the other in a verbal battle to prove their superiority. A bitter feud, definitively settled for the FINAL TIME! As all events, each contender had only FIVE MINUTES to speak.

If they go over their allotted time, our security team will drag ’em off stage! No exceptions. After each round, we scientifically record the audience’s approval of each speaker via the state-of-the-art Techometer Connected Device Sonic App.

The winner of the 4 Rounds are judged once more in El Finale Grande – a final line-up where the audience will choose the first Leeds International Festival champ!



Chris Kenworthy, representing  the “Creatives” from Team Glug was up first, kickin’ off round one in style. Despite having been a techie in the past, he berated all that techies stand for and attempted to justify why creatives enjoy more freedom. This guy knows how to push buttons.

“I know what it’s like to be a geek; hunched over a monitor, marinating in your own bodily fluids.”


Kathryn Salt, representing the “Coders” from Team Futurelabs was Chris’ opponent… Kathryn’s theme was ‘Big Data VS Little Data’ – the former might be “cool and trendy” but the latter (aggregated data) is sufficient when attempting to answer specific questions. Going on to prove her point, Kathryn showed slides of data identifying how pre-aggregated data was more identifiable and personal.

“Ask for the data you need not just the data you can have or might like .”


With our first two competitors all done and dusted, it was time for the Techometer to do its stuff.


Without a doubt, Kathryn had won the crowd over. Round 1 to the Coders!



Round two was kicked off with an energetic display from Martin Farrar-Smith. His rant was how creative types tend to fall into the same traps and trends. He opined that creatives need to be more open and honest about what they do.


Talking about how we can draw on Leeds’ industrial heritage and bring in new tech such as Farmbot and smart building sensors was Matt Skelton. His notions on how people can take control of their homes and their food production wowed the crowd!


The high-tech decibel measuring device was brought back on stage to determine the winner of round two. The Wi-Fi booster was definitely needed…


Despite working up a frenetic sweat, Martin just missed out and Matthew took the lead. Coders win again!


Cari Kirby kicked off round three with a rousing rendition of Dolly Parton’s ‘Nine to Five’ – leading into how the notion of a five-day week, working 9-5, is counter-productive and, basically barbaric. the times we get our most creative and un-interrupted problem solving done is at quieter times, or during a commute. It’s time for a change!


Gwen Diagram took the stage like a Tasmanian devil and championed her colleague, Mr T. Gwen explained how small teams deliver a faster and more efficent service. ” Use the community to learn from and DIY it up.  With deployable software and a small team you can too travel the world and build software while getting drunk.”


Proof that girls really do want to have fun, it was a tough call between these two phenomenal speakers. MC Danimal and crew barely needed to encourage the crowd as they cheered ardently…


The Dolly Parton song struck a chord and Cari won a round for the Creatives!


Round four kicked off with the Wild card – a brave audience member with new ideas – this time it was Ivor Tymchak. Despite being unprepared, he spoke eloquently and economically about Ignaz Semmelweis (1818 -1865), the physician who discovered that washing hands saves lives. Rounding off his speech, he encouraged us to not fight but to collaborate.


Finally, Claire Harrison took the stage and, after a technical hitch (oh, the irony!) went on to end the heats with a passionate speech about digital transformation in public services.

with, not just for – public services are how governments deliver their policies, designing with and not just for enables both policy and implementation to continuously improve”.

Collaborate, share, reuse – work with other organisations to make the user’s journey coherent and minimise duplication, and to improve the efficiency of design”.


The last two speakers were done and dusted. Time for the state-of-the-art audience assessor to get the scores.


The Wild Card, Ivor, was the stand-out winner for round Four! Another win for the Creatives!


After a tense and thrilling evening, it was time for the audience to decide the over all winner of the night – the person who would take home the highly sought after ‘Leeds International Festival Northern Belt of Tech’.

Our four finalists took the stage & the Techometer took one last bout of seriously aural bashing.


One contestant at a time, the crowd cheered until they were hoarse; clapped until their hands were sore, driving the Techometer ever higher. Then it was determined… the overall winner was…

Congratulations Ivor!





After all that excitement, it was time for frivolities on stage!



We are so happy that we were a highlight for Tech North. Check out the article!


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