Who needs London? Why Reading is a creative hotspot.

Who needs London? Why Reading is a creative hotspot.

Historically, London has been the epicentre for creativity in the country. So why did we choose to move our digital agency down the road to Reading? 

Where you base yourself as an agency has a huge bearing on the kind of work you do and the clients you connect with. When thinking about the most exciting places to have a digital agency, naturally you’d likely think of the major cities first, so why did we choose Reading?

We chose to locate our web agency in Reading, having moved from London in 2018 and have found it to be a vibrant centre of innovation, full of creative energy. As a digital agency delivering web design and branding in Reading, we really couldn’t be in a better place!

London is undoubtedly a global superpower when it comes to creativity, there is no getting away from that. However, the idea that it is the only place to set up a serious creative agency in order to attract the finest clients is more of a myth than a reality these days.

With remote working now being the norm, and people less willing to spend hours commuting for work the idea that being physically based, 5 days a week in the heart of the city is outdated. Clients care less about seeing your fancy offices and are more concerned about the work you can do for them. No longer do you need to fork out thousands of pounds every month on a studio to be deemed credible.

This shift in expectations means that where you chose to work or set up shop can be more flexible. You can choose where to work. This fresh way of looking at things had us reassessing where we could be based.


So why Reading?

Over the last couple of decades, Reading has become central to the thriving M4 corridor, with it the area being known as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the UK. Businesses including Adobe, Amazon, Dell, Cisco, Microsoft, Nvidia, Oracle and O2 to name but a few all have major centres here. That’s not to mention the hundreds of tech startups dotted around Green Park and the town centre.

Reading’s centre is littered with shiny new offices, trendy shared working spaces, restaurants and coffee shops. The town has been remodelled to reflect its new ‘tech hub’ status, almost as if it’s being custom-built for entrepreneurs.

Reading has seen huge amounts of investment pour in over the last decade. The station has been completely rebuilt after a nearly £900mil investment, and the dated old, post-war, concrete town centre buildings have gone, soon to be replaced with a £700mil state of the art development.


Tech hub status and the future…

According to Growth Business at last count, “The town boasts 11,656 tech companies, covering AI and data, e-commerce, cyber, digital, gaming, Internet of Things (IoT), medtech and fintech” For a town with a population of 350,000 that’s not too bad!

With that in mind we chose to move to the area and establish ourselves as a web design company right in the heart of Reading. We saw the opportunity and saw the growth, and wanted to be part of something special.

Whether you’re a web agency, fintech startup, or artisan coffee roasters, it’s a desirable area. More recently there feels as though there is a tangible ‘startup energy’ in the air. The multiple shared office spaces are filling back up after lockdown, and our web design agency housed in Spaces, shares the building with dozens of startups of all shapes and sizes.

I’ve personally been closely connected to Reading since I was young, having lived not too far away, and have witnessed the town go through a period of dramatic, positive change over the last couple of decades. The evolution of the town has built more and more momentum and shows little sign of stopping. To be positioned in the heart of it all, amongst all the diverse startups, is a great place to be as a creative agency.

In 2019 the Digital Technology Census found that Reading has the third-largest amount of tech businesses and organisations, being beaten only by London and Manchester.

With an ever-growing meet-up culture, increased collaboration between local tech firms and the University of Reading, an exciting new LEP-funded state of the art digital skills hub (the Curious Lounge) on the horizon for central Reading, together with support from the Berkshire Business Growth Hub, dedicated ScaleUp Berkshire Programme and Thames Valley Funding Escalator, the pipeline of tech talent looks set to remain as strong as ever.”


It’s not all about work!

We value our work-life balance and from a quality of life perspective, Reading is also great. It’s regularly at the top of the tables for the best places to live in the UK, leading the way when it comes to factors like income, work-life balance, health, jobs and environment.

The town is full of shops, and restaurants and as mentioned already, the whole place is going through a massive renovation project, meaning it’s fast becoming a go-to destination for shoppers and foodies alike. On top of that, we’re in a geographical sweet spot. On one hand, we’re connected to London, being a mere 25 minutes to Paddington, and 25 minute the other way to Oxford. On the flip side is we are right next to some seriously stunning countryside. Walk over the Thames and a short wander north through Caversham pops you out at the bottom of the Chilterns, an area of outstanding natural beauty (and a superb area for mountain biking).

So as you can tell, we’re pretty happy with our decision to move here and it has had a hugely positive impact on the work we’ve been doing. It seems every week we hear of a new startup setting up shop, or network group starting up, or a restaurant opening (there are some seriously good eating locations here!).

As creatives based in Reading, we are positioned right at the heart of it all. After all, where better to be as a web designer than right in the heart of Silicon Valley?


Some quick facts about Reading (and why Above Digital is located here)

Reading is the largest town, without city status in the UK

Reading has been ranked 13th in a major international ranking of non-capital cities around the world. San Francisco, Montreal and Houston fill the three top spots of the FDI Tier 2 Cities of the Future ranking, published on 18 August 2020.

Reading has 8 times the UK average concentration of tech businesses according to to Tech Nation (2018)

Reading employs 44,405 people in the creative industries, the 4th highest in the UK. It also boasts 5248 creative businesses, the 5th highest in the UK, according to Nesta.  

Reading is a food hot spot with every imaginable cuisine available, and regular street food markets. Berkshire is home to no less than 7 Michelin Star restaurants!

Reading prison is famous for having housed Oscar Wilde, has recently been an art gallery and now boasts its very own Banksy on its outer walls.

Reading celebrities include Ricky Gervais, Kate Winslett, Kate Middelton, Jane Austin and superstar film director, Sam Mendes.