Issued by: Make It York
Issue date: Wednesday 15 May 2019

  • York wow factor 365 days a year
  • New cultural commissions will improve health and wellbeing - Culture put centre stage
  • International connections boosted through UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts status
  • European city brand experts appointed to create new proposition for the city
  • Tourism figures up year on year

Plans for marketing and developing York will be outlined today (Wednesday 15 May) at the annual Make It York stakeholder meeting, to be held at the Principal Hotel.  300 business leaders from across the digital, railtech, bioscience, creative, food and drink and tourism sectors will meet to network and to hear from Sean Bullick, Make It York’s new Managing Director.

Appointed in January, Sean leads the team responsible for positioning the city as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business.  He will reveal ambitious plans to put culture at the heart of the city’s economic prosperity and wellbeing.  Working in partnership with City of York Council, Make It York will help drive forward the city’s new Cultural Strategy, which has ambitions for York to reach the top five in the UK league table for cultural engagement.

Sean said: “By 2025 York’s ambition is to be internationally recognised for its unique interface between exceptional heritage and contemporary art.  We need to build on York’s strengths but also dial up the city’s vibrancy and creativity to help ensure there is a wow factor here 365 days of the year.”

“Our role is to increase the city’s economic prosperity and contribute to its wider wellbeing.  By putting culture at the heart of what we do, we’ll encourage collaboration, inward investment and crucially encourage creative minds.”

Sean will also elaborate on the current Strategic Positioning project underway in York.  City of York Council has engaged leading place branding and place marketing expert Martin Boisen, from For the Love of Place, with Wayne Hemingway from HemingwayDesign and Alex Saint from Creative Tourist Consults, to deliver a piece of work that will shape how York develops and markets itself on an international stage. 

Organisations across the city, including City of York Council, University of York, York St John University and Make It York, have joined forces to encourage people to talk about evolving how York is perceived.   This is the start of putting in place a framework that will help grow the economy - by increasing investment, attracting visitors and engaging residents.

“York, already a fantastic city, is primed to make a huge leap forward over the next few years with transformational capital schemes like York Central and the Castle Gateway redevelopment, and an ever-broadening tourism appeal.”

“This important project, working with world-leading place based brand experts, will ensure that we can provide investors, professionals, academics and visitors, who will be central to the city’s future success, with consistent messages about York and what it has to offer. That, and benefitting from our 200,000 residents as ambassadors for York, will be key to our joint future economic prosperity.” 

At the event Sean will also give a report on 2018 performance, a year in which York was named Best Place to Live by the Sunday Times and national food critics like Giles Coren named York the “Capital of the Food Universe.”  
Highlights included the completion of a £1.6million ERDF funded project with FERA to stimulate innovation in the agri-food Sector; contributing an estimated £26.4 million gross value added to the economy and creating 274 jobs by 2021.  

St Nicholas Fair was named ‘Best Large Speciality Market’ in the *NABMA Awards and the new Food Court really took off, helped by a long hot summer.  Parliament Street was transformed to once again host the Great Yorkshire Fringe and Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre arrived – the first pop-up Elizabethan theatre in Europe. With audiences of 65,000, the city’s inaugural York Mediale became the UK’s largest ever media arts festival, celebrating York’s UNESCO City of Media Arts status.

2018 was another strong year for tourism in York with visits to the main attractions up by 8% and the number of room nights sold 3% up year on year.  Overall there were 3.4m visits to the city’s attractions, almost £300k more than in 2017.  City centre footfall grew too by 2% in 2018, all the more impressive when this is compared to a **national decline of minus 2%.  Added to this the launch of Visit York’s new tourism website saw a 30% increase in traffic. 
A dedicated marketing campaign in China saw the country affirmed as the second largest overseas market for York and a new two-centre break campaign with the North York Moors National Park delivered 30% more bookings on TripAdvisor, encouraging visitors to explore more of Yorkshire.  

One-quarter of visitors to York Minster are now from China and Castle Howard has seen a 50% increase in Chinese visitors.  The icing on the tourism cake was a gold award for Visit York’s Visitor Centre team at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence. 

On the inward investment front Make It York worked closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships to secure major investments such as Channel 4’s presence in the region.  One to one business support was delivered to over 400 businesses and helped secure over £375K of business finance for York based businesses.   Make It York also took on the organisation of a successful York Business Week, attracting 1,700 delegates and supported the creation of York Rail Innovation Community (YoRIC), which has set out an ambition to make York the rail innovation capital of the UK.  In total Make It York helped raised £375K for 19 companies, unlocking £1.6m investment into York based business projects.

Jane Lady Gibson, Chair, Make It York, said: “We continue to relish our excellent stakeholder relationships and we certainly value honest feedback if our performance is ever under par.  Now in our fourth year, it’s fantastic to see the hard work of the team bearing fruit for York.  With Sean at the helm, and with his wealth of experience in developing cities, helping them punch above their weight, what better time for York to mobilise those skills and connections.”   


Notes to Editors 

Make It York 
Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally - as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business.  The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre management, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.

*NABMA – the National Association of British Markets
**figures provided by Springboard, the leading provider of national footfall data.  

Make It York – Four Key Strategic Priorities:

  • City positioning and profile-raising – presenting York as the cosmopolitan and international city we know it is.
  • Network-building and inward investment – Attracting new business and inward investment, as well as supporting the growth of those already here, is key to York’s future prosperity.  
  • Animating York  – Make It York’s role is to continue to drive that daily ‘wow’ factor, for anyone visiting the city; visitors, residents and students, and to help attract ever-more world class events to the city.  
  • Delivering the Cultural Strategy – creating a highly visible and thoroughly accessible cultural offer combining historic heritage and, increasingly, contemporary installations and performances. 

For the Love of Place: Martin Boisen is an urban geographer specialising in the marketing and branding of cities and regions.  Martin is a respected academic and place marketing advisor with experience of working with Amsterdam, Oslo, The Hagues and Gent.

HemingwayDesign, led by Wayne Hemingway – multi-disciplinary designers with a philosophy that design is about improving things that matter in life.  Their urban design work includes Thamesmead, Middlesbrough, Margate.

Creative Tourist Consults help places harness the power of arts, heritage and culture to shape perceptions and develop high-value but sustainable tourism.  Recent clients include Manchester, Bath and Bristol, Northern Ireland and London.