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other platforms as well as developing original franchises like
Repton, recently re-released for Apple’s iPhone.
More recently, the millennial period saw Leeds as an
epicentre of the dotcom boom and the beginning of the
internet era. By laying down the media and infrastructural
backbone for another new medium, the internet began to
disrupt everything before it — industries, culture, commerce
and media. Leeds found itself directing 40% of the nation’s
internet trafc through its radio, fbre and copper networks…
In 1995, Planet Online was launched from Leeds,
connecting over 2000 businesses to the internet within their
frst year. In 1998, Planet joined electronics retailers Dixons to
create Freeserve, the world’s frst free internet service provider,
bringing afordable internet connectivity and online services to
millions of Britons, pioneering consumer broadband services
and pushing tech giants such as AOL into a distant second
place. Freeserve coupled Leeds’ expertise in network technology
with Dixons’ retail network to bring the internet to millions of
Britons’ homes.
Elsewhere, in 2000, Ananova created the world’s frst
virtual newscaster and Leeds-based TEAMtalk capitalised
on Britain’s obsession with football by quickly adapting its
premium phone services for the internet era, providing sports
content to a network of mobile and web channels.
Tis growing fuency with the city’s growing internet
expertise caught the attention of larger powers, with BSkyB,
Orange and Cable & Wireless snapping up the city’s startups
for their global portfolios. Freeserve‘s £1.65 billion sale was the
largest British deal of the dotcom era.
A decade into the new millennium, the city’s great civic
institutions – fnance, universities, newspapers, TV production,
local government — are all experiencing the efects of the post-
crash age of austerity, what American urban theorist Richard
Florida calls “Te Great Reset”. Government is shrinking,
whilst media is disrupted and overturned by nimbler social
networks. Amongst this creative destruction, a post-digital
creative class is beginning to capitalise on the collapse to
innovate and invent what comes next.
In 2009 Leeds was selected as one of
Te Guardian’s
charter cities for its “beatblogger” experiment, rebooting local
news for a networked culture, to great acclaim.
Since 2007, the University of Leeds has spun out 18
ventures worth £160 million, ranging from oil exploration and
embryology, to cancer treatment and transport software.
During the 1980s, Jimi Heselden, a former miner, used
his redundancy payment to invent a patented food control and
military fortifcation device, deployed in disaster and confict
zones including New Orleans and Afghanistan. By 2009,
Heselden had become a philanthropist and found new success
in acquiring the iconic Segway company.
Rockstar Leeds has brought videogame franchises such
as Max Payne, LA Noire and Grand Teft Auto to millions
around the world. Elsewhere,Double Eleven will be developing
some of the frst titles for Sony’s new Playstation Vita handheld.
Multiple creative hubs are emerging around the city
– Old Broadcasting House, Te Round Foundry and Duke
Studios are all enabling technologists, activists, investors, artists,
entrepreneurs and the curious to fnd loci of serendipity.
Innovative works that cross artistic, cultural, technological
and industrial boundaries are emerging as a result, from the
ground breaking Our City Our Music project, to urban games
such as 2.8 Hours Later and a network of festivals that act
as living labs for prototyping new ideas, including Leeds in
Barcelona, PhotoCamp,Live at Leeds,LSx andTought Bubble.
Amongst the economic and political turbulence of the
crash, Leeds is surfacing new opportunities to invent. Te era
A City of Inventors