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    Entries in Influencers (3)


    Introducing: Imran Ali

    Photo by Cubic Garden / Ian Forrester

    In the latest of our 'Introducing' series, we check in with one of our favourite creative thinkers: Imran Ali. Imran has an amazing story which started at Freeserve back in the day. He is currently doing some really intersting things with CARBON:Imagineering and hosting cool events like LSx and TEDxLeeds. We sat down and talked to Imran about careers, creativity, events and cities.

    Imran graduated from Leeds Met in 1997 in Computing and Software Engineering. By his own admission that "sounds kind of dorky" but his graduation happened at the perfect time: the beginning of the 'multimedia' age. During the early stages of his career Imran was involved in some of the most exciting media companies around as he explains...

    "The first jobs I had were as a hybrid interactive designer/developer creating websites and CDROM (remember those!) at Leeds' now defunct Creative Convergence agency. After moving up into being a producer, our entire team resigned on the same day to join Freeserve at the dawn of the dotcom era in 1999…great timing huh ;) 

    Freeserve, became Wanadoo and Wanadoo became Orange. I ended up as a deputy director for Orange's disruptive innovations team, travelling between MIT, Silicon Valley, London, Leeds and Paris scouting for bleeding edge people and projects that'd scare the poop outta our executives!"

    We have got to know Imran well over the past year. He is one of those people who seems to have an involvement in lots of the cool stuff going on in and around the city. It is probably best for Imran to explain himself what he is up to at the moment: 

    "After working alongside so many startups, our team wanted to go it alone with some of our own ventures. We had great relationships with investors and media, so decided to setup an emerging technologies think-tank, CARBON:imagineering."

    "Most of our work is involves helping clients ask questions about the future and prepare themselves for technological, political and cultural shifts - from creating conceptual products and services, to architecting visions and scenarios that help clients to explore and experience future developments. In parallel to this, I've been a board advisor to various startups and conferences, as well as founding the LSx festival and joining Manchester's FutureEverything festival team as conference programme director"

    We have attended some of the LSx events including TEDxLeeds and Open Coffee. Our very own Shang Ting is a keynote speaker at the Girl Geek Dinner tonight (blog post to follow after event) and Imran is hoping to take the festival to new levels in 2011:

    "LSx is a group of people interested in nurturing Leeds' technology scene to put it on the map nationally and globally. LSx isn't about gadgets and code, but the culture of technology - what does digital tech do to music, politics, fashion, publishing, films and education that's interesting?

    LSx has largely been a shorthand for all the events, meetups and conferences we host throughout the year to bring together creatives, entrepreneurs, technologists, publishers and media people. LSx runs year-round events such as OpenCoffee, Girl Geek Dinners, WePublish and TED, but we also run an annual festival every Spring that includes the city's first unconference - BarCamp Leeds, as well as guest speakers from Google, Twitter, Creative Commons and other major technology brands like Carsonified.

    Our mission is to bring the planet's best tech thinkers to Leeds to share their insights. This year, we're moving up a gear with a our inaugural Conference of Emerging Tech; a large outdoor zombie game (!); the launch of an open government project and a super-secret film project."

    We often talk with Imran about Leeds as a city. We approach from the fashion / music / art angles and Imran from what may be refered to as the 'tech' angle but the bottom line is, both of these are creative angles. Instead of looking at the city as 'lacking' in certain areas, we often talk about a 'blank canvass' and of the potential to do something special here. Imran expands further:

    "Leeds has always been a vibrant creative and tech hub - from being part of the Industrial Revolution's Silicon Valley, to the dotcom era and now the Web 2.0 era. Leeds keeps inventing. A university that spins out the most ventures of any in the UK; entrepreneurs that created Freeserve, Sportal and Ananova and now home to cultural hackers tinkering with social software, mobility, and 'maker' culture.

    However, Leeds is terrible at sharing those extraordinary parts of its heritage - we want to change that with LSx. To showcase the city's past, but also provide a path to the future by bringing powerful ideas to the city.

    I hear a lot of Leeds creatives complaining about how Leeds isn't Manchester or London. Blah, blah. If you want your city to be cool, then experiment, innovate, create connections, throw your pet projects out into the world and see if they flourish. Your city is your canvas, use it.

    For me, Leeds is a great platform for experimentation and serendipity. Big enough to be diverse and exhilarating, but small enough to be accessible and human-scale. I can meet an undergrad with a great idea for a web app in the morning, then walk across the street and hang with the city's politicians to talk about how we reboot citizenship for a networked culture and in the evening listening to an evening of lightning talks" 

    We are talking with Imran about a number of projects at the moment. One of these is bringing together some of the cities most interesting fashion, music, art and digital creatives. By getting a group of people together who may not usually work together on projects could generate some cool projects according to Imran

    "I don't even know what we'll be working on, but I'm excited by the composition of the group. This kinda diversity brings creative frictions that are inventive and just plain cool. Already, Shang Ting's going to be contributing a keynote speech at the next Girl Geek Dinner that's got the LSx team super-excited.

    I hit it off with Lee from our first conversation - we see the world the same way and that kinda chemistry can only lead to something awesome… like Lee switching allegiance from Leeds to Manchester United"  (Lee: NEVER going to happen!)

    We are really excited to be working with Imran and know we can create some interesting stuff.  From the city's point of view, he is one of our most valuable assets, We often find ourselves saying to people "whatever Imran thinks we should do... just do it!" and we genuinely mean it.

    We also encourage everyone to get involved as much as they can in LSx and it's year-round events. You can do so by signing up for girl Geek tonight here. And generally we encourage everyone to try and get involved in LSx which has events all year round, it really is one of the best things going on in Leeds at the moment!


    James Steward - After Vancouver Fashion Week

    Last November, James Steward became the first British fashion designer to show his collection during Vancouver Fashion Week. We last checked in with James before he headed out to Canada, so we thought we would get the scoop on how 'Leeds in Vancouver' went down and what he is up to next.

    How was Vancouver?

    It was different. The people there were more layed back, it's a completely different culture. Leeds is like 100 miles a minute compared to Vancouver.

    How was the feedback after the show?

    People were jumping on the first British designer thing, and also my pattern cutting, and my way of doing stuff that brought the attention. After the show, I got pulled into a room backstage full of press from the Far East shouting things at me and taking pictures! I didn't know what to do, you know when you smile for too long, and your lips start quivering... it was just really weird!

    We heard the 'ants' decoration you add on at the last minute attracted lots of attention. Where did that come from?

    I got in touch with Paul Finch (former jewellery designer), I told him the theme of the collection. He looked into Greek methodology, there's a story about Zeus turning a tree full of ants into warriors to fight for Achilles' grandfather, and then he just told me "You're having ants."

    After the show, has your view on mass production changed?

    It depends on the market or what the department store was. Ideally I prefer something like Harvey Nichols.

    What's the next thing you'll be doing?

    My website will be sorted out by Easter, with a new photoshoot of a totally new collection for Autumn/winter, which will be available both online and through a selection of boutiques. There will be the opportunity to design your own items, it will all be launched at the same time.


    Katherine Kelly in OK MagazineSince Leeds in Vancouver, James' pieces were featured in OK Magazine with Katherine Kelly. (of Coronation Street fame) Again featuring James' creations Katherine was listed as one of the best dressed at the National Television Awards 2011.

    There are many opportunities presenting themselves from all over the world from Dubai to Korea (and Canada obviously) It is a really exciting time for James and 2011 seems set to be his big 'break out' year. We are really happy that his talent is starting to be appriciated on an even greater scale. We are also looking forward to working with James again on some new Hebe Media projects this year and taking his work and collections to new international audiences. 


    Introducing: Muireann Carey-Campbell

    Today marks the third anniversary of one of our favourite blogs: In the latest of our 'Introducing' features, we talk to the person behind it all: Muireann Carey-Campbell to talk about the early days of her blog, her plans for the future and an update on the post that sent PRs and marketers running for cover last month!

    Three years ago today Muireann posted her first blog post from her bedroom in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and set off on a journey that would see her talk love, life, race, music, fitness regimes, UGGs, fashion faux pas and even record her very own rap videos. I first got to know Muireann over a shared love of the Swedish hip-hop artist: Adam Tensta (more to come on this guy soon) and we immediately struck up what was initially a tweetship and then an offline friendship and I am always impressed by her passion, drive and global-outlook on things. This can be traced back to her travelling around the globe, working in different roles and generally becoming a citizen of the world:

    "I moved to New York when I was 22, after I finished my degree. I lived there for a year and a half. Then I lived in Tokyo for a year and taught English and then moved back to my native Canada for three years (living in Montreal, Toronto and Halifax). I just moved back to England last year. It's just made me much more of a global citizen I think. I tend to look at things differently and don't particularly feel tied to any one place. If I want to go somewhere, I just go. That kind of exploration really opens your eyes to some amazing experiences. I don't miss those Canadian winters though!"

    You can see from Muireann's blog and insane Twitter feed that her audience and friends are spread across the globe. After three years of hard work it seems that Muireann is becoming a major player. She was nominated for a Cosmopolitan blog award earlier this year and she is really happy with how everything is progressing:

    I wanted to get back into writing for fashion/lifestyle magazines but my portfolio was full of music stuff. I came across blogs while searching the net and thought 'I could do that!' Initially I started it thinking it would be like an online portfolio for me and of course, Vogue would be beating my door down for me to write for them! It didn't quite pan out like that, but it has become a blog I'm very proud of and I'm really pleased with the progress.

    Recently Muireann, after much deliberation, took the decision to post up a complaint letter she had sent to a PR agency over a project she had been asked to be part of. The post can be read here. It created quite a stir with many marketing and PR agencies using it as an example of the changing dynamics between brands and bloggers. Muireann was taken back at the response:

    "I was approached earlier in the year by a PR company called Mission to do a half marathon and blog about it on behalf of their client Nokia. I was promised a bunch of stuff in return for that. As the months passed and I trained (going from someone who wouldn't even run for a bus to competing in my first half marathon in under four months), none of the things promised to me were delivered. It was just a catalogue of errors really. I wrote a letter of complaint to Mission a few days before I ran the race. They apologised, but I just didn't feel as though it was enough. Just saying 'sorry' after I dedicated four months of my life to something they asked me to do didn't seem right. So, two days after the half marathon, I published my complaint letter on my blog. I thought I'd get a few extra hits that day, but it went absolutely nuts! It spread around the internet like wildfire. I got almost 16,000 hits that day, was interviewed by PR Week and approached by many other PRs. Mission responded extremely well and in fact, next week we're about to have our second meeting about how PRs and bloggers can work better together. So, a lot of positives came out of it"

    For her 'day job' Muireann works as features editor for North Leeds Life Magazine, a family run business focused more on her local community. The magazine certainly has a different reader and overall vibe to her bangsandabun blog but it is something Muireann enjoys working on:

    "We're local community magazines distributed across North Leeds from Headingley out to Ilkley. Lots of our readers tell us we're a real life blood of the community, carrying area specific information and giving a voice to individuals and groups who might struggle to get their word out otherwise. On a personal level, it definitely differs from my blog work as I have to watch my language a lot more in magazine writing! But also the content is much more localised than I do on my blog. I probably wouldn't know half the things that were going on in my area if I didn't work for the mags, so it's great"

    Another project on the agenda is 'Bangs on the run' where a Muireann and some of her Twitter buddies will take on the Paris half marathon. From our point of view at Hebe, we are looking forward to working on upcoming projects with Muireann and one of them is centred around our home city of Leeds, England. Like lots of the people involved in the new project and the city in general, there is a feeling of untapped potential in Leeds and it is something rising stars like Muireann can see and want to do something about

    "Before moving back here last year, I hadn't lived here for about 10 years and boy, has it changed! I'll be honest and say I'm a little disappointed that the city centre kind of looks like 'anytown UK' now with the influx of national chain stores, but there's still enough individuality about the city. There's a lot of talent here and I think the potential lies in fusing our city with other international cities, drawing inspiration from there and applying to our city. Leeds in Barcelona was a great example of that. More of that please!"

    We will certainly try our best to create more projects like Leeds in Barcelona only this time by collaborating with people like Muireann we can make each project even bigger and better! 

    Check out the first two of our 'Introducing' series here: James Steward and Marc Leaf.