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Pride Month: From Reform Acts to Drag Acts

Posted on: June 28th, 2024 by ctceditor

As Pride Month comes to a close and businesses and councils begin to remove their default rainbow backgrounds from their logos and the flags zigzagging through the streets, adding a tick in that inclusivity check box, it’s important to reflect on our approach to Pride. Is it still the powerful symbol of justice and equality it once was? An ode to the Stonewall uprising in the 80s? Or has it become just another static commodity in a marketing plan?

I grew up in Manchester City Centre, a place celebrated for its industrial heritage and renowned football clubs. However, Manchester also boasts a rich LGBTQIA+ community history, from underground bars to groundbreaking activism.

Growing up as bisexual in Manchester during the 2000s, I knew which language and behaviours to adopt depending on where I was and who I was with. There were only a few streets where the queer language was spoken, and you could act (as my nana might say) “out of sort.” Today, Manchester City Centre is home to dozens of cafes and bars proudly displaying the Pride flag year-round, representing a safe space where everyone, regardless of sexuality, can feel comfortable.

But how did we get here and how do we move forward with LGBTQIA+ representation? 

The 19th century laid the groundwork for Manchester’s LGBT scene, with closeted meeting places like the basement of the Temperance Hotel on Oxford Street providing sanctuary for those who dared to express their true selves. These spaces, shrouded in secrecy, became the birthplace of a community.

As the 20th century dawned, Manchester’s LGBTQIA+ community began to emerge from the shadows. Despite the infamous police raids of the 1950s and 1960s, resistance simmered beneath the surface. Venues like the New Union Pub on Canal Street and the drag ball culture of the 1960s offered glittering escapes from the harsh realities of discrimination. 

I could reel off numerous events in Manchester’s past which has built up this colourful history and brought together the community that stands today: The North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee founded by Allan Horsfall in the 60s; The University of Manchester’s ‘Manchester Gay Alliance’ founded in the 70s; Manchester City Council’s ‘Equal Opportunities Committee’ in the 80s and in 1985 the birth of Manchester Pride month. Whilst these are important to note for Manchester specifically, around the country each area has had its own story. 

There are plenty more examples across cities, towns and villages and it’s important to understand the stories and the battles the communities have faced to get to where we are today. Whilst these policies, groups and buildings are the backbone to the fundamental steps in equality, some of the biggest impacts to the LGBTQIA+ movement have been from the media. Queer as Folk, set in Manchester, was the first representation of the gay community as ordinary ‘folk’, people felt represented and understood. Since then its creator has gone on to produce ‘Cucumber’ and ‘It’s a Sin’, continuing that representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the media. This new age media was highlighting not just the discrimination in society, the Aids epidemic of the 1980s, the camp or drag, they focused on the day to day lives of people working and socialising within society. Our offices on Stevenson Square are moments away from where these iconic shows were filmed.

Taking into account this rich and varied history – from reform acts to drag acts – the landscape that I saw growing up in the 90s and 2000s is now one which celebrates our diverse society. But there is much more to be done, and Pride month is not an investment opportunity for businesses. Pride month should be celebrating the daily, weekly, monthly investment businesses have put into supporting everybody regardless of identity, age or sexuality. A flag means nothing if the person waving it doesn’t understand its meaning. 

It is up to businesses individually to work with the LGBTQIA+ community inside and outside of their organisation to understand what they can do to be more inclusive. I, like many on our team at CTConsults, feel comfortable speaking about who I am and my experiences. That is something to be celebrated this month, along with the support we give to businesses in and around Manchester, owned by or for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, whether attending events or simply buying a coffee. Here are our team’s recommendations for LGBTQIA+ owned businesses in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which we regularly support:

“I nominate QueerLit, which can now be found in Social Refuge on Great Ancoats Street. A brilliant selection of books (I recommend Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, set in Manchester) in a space which is a cafe by day and bar by night. They also run events such as free queer co-working on Fridays, book launches and board game nights.

Honourable mentions: Joy by Sophie for your aesthetic needs, and Holier Than Thou for the sharpest needles and shiniest jewellery – both offer gender affirming treatments.” Amy, Place Consultant

“My choice is Travelling Man – they host lots of inclusive events and have a focus on community!” Ryan, Digital Products Manager

“My nomination is Feel Good Club. LGBTQIA+ founded and run, with their venue providing a beautiful friendly environment for coffee, brunch, lunch, and drinks. By night they host events aimed to spread joy and positivity, with a weekly line up that includes everything from cabaret, spoken word, comedy and storytelling.” Cionna, Strategic Project Manager

And big shout out to Scott and everyone at Siphon, who keep us all caffeinated with their delicious coffee! 

Humber’s Place Brand Launch

Posted on: June 27th, 2024 by ctceditor

It all starts with the realisation that all encounters with [place] take place through perception.” 

Prof. Mihalis Kavartzis, “From City Marketing to City Branding”

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: places don’t need brands, places are brands. Your brand is the mental image that people hold about your place. That already exists – but place branding allows you to gain control over it.

How does that work when your ‘place’ is a huge region, with undefined borders, four local authorities crossing two counties, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the UK’s busiest port complex and so much more…? This is the challenge Future Humber (the country’s oldest and biggest bondholders scheme) took on, wanting to redefine and reposition perceptions of the Humber region as a major driver of the UK economy and decarbonisation agenda. 

CTConsults worked with Hemingway Design and local partners Pace Communications to define Humber’s core values:

Revolutionary – embracing the spirit of the estuary: bold, dynamic and ever-evolving.

Resourceful – redefining what it means to be an ‘Industrial Powerhouse’: resourceful, reliable, radical, and working together for change.

Real – unapologetic industrialists and enthusiastic environmentalists: responsible, sincere and vital.

Remarkable – self-starting and standing as a beacon of industrial modernity: leading with a community-focussed, creative and can-do attitude. 

These four values combine to create Humber’s place brand filter, a practical tool against which strategic planning decisions across the region should be measured; be that a housing development, new business location, community programme or major event.

The values were launched at Humber Business Week to c.300 stakeholders, with some great film footage and a full toolkit. You can read more, watch the films and download the toolkit here:


No one single person or organisation owns a place brand; it belongs to the place. We are now supporting Future Humber with their partners through the implementation of their place brand values, as they support stakeholders to adopt joined-up behaviours and decision-making processes. Now it’s time to take collective action to shift perceptions of Humber. 

Access Denied

Posted on: June 14th, 2024 by ctceditor

As part of Volunteers’ Week, Sean Graham, our Digital Project Coordinator, reflects on recent experiences of using his skills to support his local community. 

Our offices are in the heart of Manchester city centre. A place where ‘Baby’ (the first electronic stored-program computer) was born, where Alan Turing developed the ‘Manchester mark 1’. Manchester has a close connection with the birth of Technology and continues to lead the way in the world of digital technology. More recently, the discovery of Graphene and its potential in revolutionary technology by the two researchers Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov who subsequently won the Nobel peace prize for their discovery. 

‘Baby’ is a far cry from the technology we use today. Digital technology now controls how everybody manages their day to day lives. But is it truly accessible to everybody?

I recently started volunteering at ‘PCrefurb’ a local charity in High Peak. It began as a volunteer group refurbishing donated IT equipment to give to people in need, and that work continues. With funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, they have recently been able to develop spaces where people can go for help with digital skills, from the basics of learning to use a device to setting up a website.

On the first day, I sat down to observe – sitting at the side of a couple that managed to log into their laptop on their 4th attempt. In conversation, they informed me that they only wanted to develop their digital knowledge so that they could create an email address, which they needed “to apply for anything these days… and maybe check the news and weather”. I sat with them for an hour whilst I tried to explain what Outlook was, what the ‘Start’ button was used for and what ‘Files’ were and so on. The language of digital was mostly foreign to them; ‘Accounts’, ‘Files’, ‘Emails’ – they vaguely understood bits of the conversation, but whether they retained any of the information and could go on to practise any of that knowledge was another thing. 

Coming away from that hour, I thought about two things; whether all systems could be suited to people of different digital maturities, and whether I could have explained it differently? 

Most of the people I interact with live on the same digital landscape and speak the same digital language, so prior to the session I had naively expected that everybody lives there too. A landscape where your name includes an ‘@datacollectingcompany.com’, your cash is immaterial and photos, videos and emojis are how we communicate. Going back to basics with a digitally adrift community, made me reassess the approach I took when introducing the world of digital to others.  

Businesses and governments are starting to look into the accessibility of digital technologies, whether that’s captions on images, audio on videos, voice control etc. Fáilte Ireland (Ireland’s tourism board) for instance has been working with tourism businesses to develop the accessibility of their websites (https://supports.failteireland.ie/courses/accessible-tourism/). What isn’t addressed to its full potential is the development of accessible hardware and software for those who don’t understand the terminology and usability of digital technologies. One solution suggested by my couple during that hour would be the ability to have tailor-made digital maturity settings, so that people could add to their software based on their needs and objectives for purchasing the piece of hardware. 

It is important to remember that not everyone is at the same level of understanding when it comes to digital technology, and how we communicate with people needs to be inclusive of age, language, different abilities etc. Businesses and companies are starting to do their bit to support business websites to be inclusive but more can be done. In order to move forward, maybe it would be worth stepping back.

Slow and steady wins the (Tall Ships) race.

Posted on: June 3rd, 2024 by ctceditor

Amy and Andrew have been spending time in Hartlepool, where the team are working on developing a place brand with our friends HemingwayDesign. 

Coming in as outsiders, it’s no real surprise to see the impact of Hartlepool’s decades-long struggle to respond to the loss of its shipbuilding industry – nor other familiar challenges such as high retail vacancy rates in the town centre contrasting with out of town retail parks, or anti-social behaviour. Like many places, Hartlepool definitely needs an injection of energy and resource.

What other places don’t have though, is a National Museum in its town centre (National Museum of the Royal Navy), a marina, two ports, a film studio, a prestigious art school, and a gallery which has recently secured a touring exhibition in partnership with The British Museum. How can these assets be joined up to present an image of Hartlepool of a rejuvenating town, led by creative industries as much as its port industries?

In Hartlepool, strategic funding from national government has been distributed amongst a wider array of projects than in most places. For example, meeting both conservation and accommodation deficits by renovating the Wesley Chapel into a boutique hotel, or buying all the units on a high street parade in a conservation area, ready to turn into a Film Production Village. These decisions have been difficult to communicate to the public – perceived as benefiting private developers more than the public. Multiple small projects are less sexy than one big signature project, and much harder to convey in an ‘elevator pitch’. And so, Hartlepool’s potential transformation is perceived as ‘lesser’ than the likes of nearby Stockton or Darlington, where big ticket projects are providing the ‘wow factor’, and easy headlines.

When viewed collectively however, Hartlepool’s regeneration programme can be truly transformational. The projects all have well-evidenced need and demonstrable impacts. They build upon existing strengths and assets in the town, rather than parachuting in an ill-fitting solution. They protect and find new futures for the town’s impressive built heritage. They will provide long-term, sustainable, commercial benefits for the town. Slow and steady wins the (Tall Ships) race. 

Speaking of tall ships and ‘wow factors’ – last year Hartlepool hosted the world-famous Tall Ships Race. For four days, the town was buzzing with magnificent spectacle which celebrated the town’s shipbuilding heritage and plugged into its creative future. A town of 88,000 population hosted another 330,000 visitors and generated over £12.5m for the local economy. 

The joy of delivering something that was so phenomenally amazing for such a small town is something that will live with me for all of my days. It’s changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly.” Stakeholder comment

Place brand works best when the priority is not what is said about a place, but how it feels – to live, work and visit there. Our job now is to help Hartlepool inform strategic decision-making which builds its legacy; and align all stakeholders to the vision, and continue that ‘Tall Ships feeling’ of joy and pride all year round. 

#placebrand #culturalregeneration #hartlepool 


Culture: A tool for strategic change in place management

Posted on: May 29th, 2024 by ctceditor

CTConsults’ approach to place is to explore how some key differentiating elements intersect and contribute to the whole place. Culture, heritage, tourism and digital transformation can come together to build better relationships between places and their people, whether locals, visitors or investors.

We are proud to be a partner of the Institute of Place Management, based at Manchester Metropolitan University. Amy Lewis, our Culture & Place Consultant, has written a blog all about how to use culture as a tool for structural change in place management approaches. It features good practice from many of our clients, and includes a series of provocations that place shapers can use to assess their own practice.

Just as place management structures include a core cohort of representatives from local government, education, health, voluntary / social / community / faith organisations, business and anchor institutions and employers – so it should include creative thinking via local artists and creatives.”

The full blog can be found here: 


The Institute of Place Management researches and offers qualifications in multiple aspects of place management, including running the BID Foundation, the High Streets Task Force and the Vacant Shops Academy. More information can be found here: https://www.placemanagement.org/

How can developing a cultural strategy be truly inclusive?

Posted on: April 9th, 2024 by ctceditor

When we were developing a cultural strategy in Suffolk, I received an email from the (rather brilliant) Elma Glasgow asking whether participants would be paid to attend the consultation workshops. She made the point that it would help to diversify engagement. 

We thought about this. The fee we were being paid by the commissioning council wouldn’t cover this support for workshop participants – and we had already conducted individual consultations for over 40 people, none of whom were paid. I replied to say that this wasn’t possible, and explained why. Elma expanded on how consultation methodologies often relied on those in salaried roles, or with larger incomes – disproportionately excluding freelancers, minority ethnic groups, people from working class backgrounds, women… She was right of course. On every count. 

We thought again. We discussed this as a team. We raised the comments with the client. And we all agreed that nothing could be done for this project, but that this was a sector-wide issue, not just an issue with one project. And we promised to raise this issue with future clients.

So we did. Our next client was the Blackpool Cultural Steering Group. They had already identified the issue, and had ring-fenced budget to pay non-salaried participants for their valuable time. This was more than consultation. It included reading documents, attending meetings, and contributing to the editing and writing of the strategy. So even with a fee that Blackpool residents could be assured was ‘best value’, we renewed our commitment – keen to be part of a process which trialled original co-design ways of working. It was research – for us as practitioners, as an agency, and hopefully for the sector. 

Now we had a potential model, we looked to utilise what we had learned in Blackpool and apply it elsewhere. We tendered for a cultural strategy of a major city, and worked with Harpreet Kaur, a local consultant specialising in equality and diversity in research and engagement. We identified a healthy budget to empower (and pay) people to contribute through workshops and consultation events – totalling 60 days of supported input from the local community, and at rates in line with the Artist Union’s recommended rates for mid-career creatives. Additionally, we ring-fenced budget for translators and interpreters, for childcare, transport, booking accessible venues… whatever additional support people might need in order to participate. We also identified local creative delivery partners for the strategy outputs. The approach is much more embedded than more typical consultation (which still has its place), and so circumvented the usual consultation fatigue. It avoids only consulting with ‘the usual suspects’ i.e. those who can (literally) afford to take part. People get much more engaged, and the results are much more of ‘their place’ as a result. Real, local, owned.

We were interviewed. We did well. We didn’t get the gig. The feedback was that we hadn’t allocated enough days for consultancy. Over 50% of our proposed overall project budget was going directly back into the pockets of the local creative economy. But, we weren’t paying ourselves enough in the engagement phase, and so gave the impression (wrongly) that our role as experts was smaller than in a more traditional approach. To say we were gutted was an understatement. We’re continuing to explore this with new place-based clients across the country. The will is there from many commissioners, but it’s not straightforward.

So this leaves us with a challenge – how do we get the balance right? How can we as consultants try to be (part of) the change, do the right thing, lead by example, be a part of a cultural sector that moves forward in really tough times – and still deliver within the constraints of ‘the brief’? How can already-stretched local authority budgets provide fees for participants? What methodologies are needed to be truly inclusive? And what happens after a strategy is developed and launched? How is this principle upheld over time, and how can freelancers be creatively supported to maintain their involvement in delivering place-based strategies? 

Answers on a postcard please. 

Our Digital Team goes from Strength to Strength

Posted on: March 12th, 2024 by ctceditor

This week we welcome not one but three new members to the Digital Team at CTC.

Emily Luk and Sandy Lau join as Digital Project Coordinators, bringing with them a host of new skills and experience and Jady Ng whose booking system and ticketing expertise will certainly add a new dimension to our Digital Team.

Rugby – ‘the Game-Changer’?

Posted on: February 28th, 2024 by ctceditor

From when William Webb Ellis caught a football and ran with it at Rugby School in 1823, the game changed forever and the name ‘Rugby’ has become known the world over. How does the town of Rugby live up to its name?

Like many towns, Rugby has great connections, attracts young families from London, has plenty of good jobs, a large (huge, actually) out-of-town retail park, and an attractive town centre with some great independents. But it’s also home of the sport, and where the jet engine and holograph were invented – and is currently undergoing major regeneration.

We’re working once again with our good friends at HemingwayDesign to develop a place narrative for Rugby. Our challenge is to ensure that the regeneration plans demonstrate that spirit of ‘game-changing’ and the values they represent. What does it mean to ‘pick up the ball and run with it’ in Rugby town today? In what ways does the town come together to show a positive ‘disregard for the rules’? 


New Team Member

Posted on: February 15th, 2024 by ctceditor

After more than 20 years of working in product development, contracting and sales for some of the most successful tour operators and DMCs in the UK and Ireland, Karin now specialises in helping tourism businesses get their products travel trade ready and bookable online, and giving them hands-on support to develop pricing, digital marketing and sales strategies. Karin is working with us on the Fáilte Ireland Digital That Delivers programme as a Lead Consultant – Travel Trade.

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