NW business briefs: Mayoral DJ Battle; Leep Utilities; Manchester Digital Skills Festival; Rochdale Riverside; Salford Youth Zone

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram

An all-star Liverpool v Manchester DJ Battle last weekend raised more than £15,000 to tackle homelessness. More than 900 revellers watched the two teams take to the decks led by Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester Mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham.

Stars from music, sport, TV and radio – including Craig Charles, Jamie Webster, John Barnes and members of Blossoms – played tracks in front a packed audience at Liverpool’s Camp and Furnace venue.

Singers Rebecca Ferguson and Peter Hooton, and world champion boxer Natasha Jonas completed the line-up for Liverpool, while M People’s Heather Small, former Corrie actress Sally Lindsay, BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Nihal Arthanayake, Olympian Diane Modahl and presenter Matt White were also on the decks for Manchester.

Steve Rotheram said: “There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Team Liverpool should take home the victory – after all, we are the undisputed home of British music. Putting our friendly rivalries to one side, I think the real winners on the night were always going to be the incredible charities we’ve been able to support.”

Andy Burnham said: “It was great to take on Steve and team Liverpool in their own back yard and put on an incredible show. To see around 1,000 revellers in the crowd, who have all helped to raise money to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness in both of our city regions, was beyond belief. My sincere thanks go to everyone who took part, including our very own Blossoms, Sally Lindsay, Heather Small, Diane Modahl, and more who made the journey to Merseyside, as well as the legends that are Craig Charles and John Barnes.”

Who will be crowned the winner of this year’s DJ Battle will be announced on social media in the coming days. Previous events have already raising more than £25,000 in total.


Leep Utillities CEO Louise Manfredi

Salford-based Leep Utilities has been appointed as a partner of Persimmon Homes New Appointments and Variants (NAV) adoption framework.

It will now own, maintain and operate the clean and wastewater networks for the housebuilder’s new developments across England. By introducing the new framework, Persimmon Homes will ensure that all its regional offices will work only with pre-approved partners to obtain asset values – ensuring consistency and transparency of offers and adherence to pre-agreed terms.

The first scheme secured by Leep is The Hawthorns – a development of 350 two-, three, four- and five-bedroom new homes, part of the Persimmon Eco Range, located just outside Market Harborough, in Leicestershire. It’s being built in line with new Part L regulations and offers a 31% reduction in carbon emissions.

Gus Watt, Group Director of Energy Networks, at Persimmon Homes, said: “Persimmon prioritises engaging with progressive partners who are able to embrace our ambitions as a business. The success of our communities depends on our approach to utilities management, with framework partners being integral to this through the support and expertise they give to our regional teams and supply chain.”

Louise Manfredi, CEO of Leep, said: “Working with NAVs brings many cost and service benefits to housebuilders and developers, whilst assisting the overall efficiency of development activity. And this is especially true when delivering multi-utility solutions. It’s most encouraging to see the growing prevalence of Ofwat-regulated NAVs in the market, which is driving competition and at the same time enabling more efficient housing and commercial development and driving innovation.”


Katie Gallagher, Manchester Digital

Manchester’s Digital Skills Festival takes place this week, bringing the region’s tech employers together with the talent of tomorrow, along with new Digital Her Day, Conference Day and a business leaders’ Round Table.

The festival, which is run by trade body Manchester Digital, also sees the launch of the new Skills Snapshot report, which details in-depth conversations with Manchester Digital members about the future of the tech sector, what digital skills are needed, as well as diversity and inclusion. This year also sees the Talent Day (Weds, February 7) move to the iconic Bridgewater Hall to accommodate even more employers and job-seekers. Around 2,000 graduates, students and career changers will come along to meet 40 of the region’s top employers looking for the next generation of tech talent.

Katie Gallagher, managing director of Manchester Digital, said: “The Greater Manchester tech ecosystem continues to go from strength to strength, and has shown impressive resilience, even though we have been through a number of tough economic years. We’re bringing together business leaders, stakeholders, education establishments and regional leaders to showcase and discuss the future of digital skills and what they have to offer our communities and young people.

“Just recently Manchester has been named by Beauhurst as the second top startup hub – outside London – ranking just after Edinburgh, with 691 active high growth companies, employing a workforce of over 45,000 people. Although we are in a great position, there is still plenty of work to do to ensure that we continue to support the sector with the workforce and skills that it needs.”

Manchester Digital is also co-hosting a business Round Table with Startup Coalition, and has invited No 10 Business Advisor Franck Petitgas to sit down with start-ups, founders and VCs to lay out the challenges and opportunities of regional founders.


Loungers, the hospitality chain, has opened a new café bar at Rochdale Riverside.

The new casual dining spot, Pionero Lounge, is welcoming guests with a varied and innovative all-day menu. With late night opening on Fridays and Saturdays it’s a welcome addition to enhance visitors’ evening experience at the centre, complementing established leisure operators Reel Cinema and Puttstars.

The extensive refurbishment plans consisted of combining two units, now totalling 3,080 sq ft, with Pionero Lounge creating 30 jobs in a further boost to the local economy. Rachel Byrne, Centre Manager at Rochdale Riverside, said: “It’s been a great start to 2024 here at Rochdale Riverside. The interior space looks incredible and it’s already proving very popular with our shoppers.”

Gemma Irwin, Community Manager at Loungers, said: “Our Lounges strive to put community at the heart of hospitality and our teams always go the extra mile to make a difference. They are actively encouraged to connect with their communities by working with local groups, charities, organisations and businesses that are at the heart of the fabric of local life.”

Loungers arriving at Rochdale Riverside comes on the back of Starbucks opening at the centre in 2023, further adding to the scheme’s F&B offering. The centre saw footfall top more than 1.6m in 2023, a 8.5% increase on the previous year. Lyons Thompson Letts is Rochdale Riverside’s leasing agent.


CGI of Salford Youth Zone

Empower Youth Zones, a charity which already operates HideOut Youth Zone in Manchester, has received a £100,000 donation from Waterland Private Equity to support the running of a new youth zone in Salford. Completion of the new-build, ‘SYZ’ (Salford Youth Zone) is scheduled for 2025.

New patron of Empower Youth Zones, Waterland, commissioned research which found that 81% of all parents and guardians polled in Greater Manchester agree that businesses should contribute to the funding of youth centres and activities in the local area. While the overwhelmingly majority (96%) of Greater Manchester parents and carers polled believe it is important that young people have the opportunity to get involved in activities locally, outside of school or college, almost three in five (59%) stated that the current provision of activities and support for young people in their community is not adequate enough to meet their needs.

SYZ will be a purpose-built youth centre, open seven days-a-week, providing affordable access to more than 20 activities per session, including sports, arts, music, employability and mentoring support. Every day there will be sessions for young people aged 8-19, or up to 25 for those with an additional need or disability – and a hot meal will be provided to all.

Adam Farricker, CEO of Empower Youth Zones in Manchester and Salford, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Waterland to SYZ’s Founder Patron family. This new partnership represents a significant move forward as we build and develop new connections to support SYZ.”

Ryan Hallworth, Waterland Principal, said: “In addition to donating funds, we will also be supporting SYZ with corporate volunteering, events, and other collaborative opportunities. SYZ’s focus is to equip the next generation with the tools they need to lead successful lives, and we are excited about the opportunities that this new Youth Zone will bring to our community.”