Photo © Tony Bartholomew


Designing is what I largely do for a living and what I love doing. But recently people have also been asking me to speak about Electric Angel Design, about our philosophy and business practice, about Creative Coast, the European Enterprise Awards, meeting the PM …all that stuff.

And so that’s why I set up this website – so people can find out a bit more. And maybe book me to speak. Or not.

So for some idea on the sort of stuff I sometimes speak about, keep exploring this site…

public speaking.

I enjoy public speaking and people seem to enjoy listening. Although maybe they’re just very polite and good at faking. Still, I have been called ‘inspirational’ and the invitations keep coming.

There are a few things I’m usually asked to speak about: one is setting up the Creative Coast network. Another is how Scarborough won the Britain and European Enterprise Awards and the role we and the creative community played in that achievement.

Photo © Tony Bartholomew

I’m also asked about our work as designers and especially how we balance playing a role in the community as well as attracting big name work despite being just a 3-person studio. People are also intrigued that we seem to work against conventional business wisdom – moving a growing design business from the centre of West Yorkshire to the North East Coast of Britain seems to defy logic yet we make it work to our advantage. Equally baffling seems to be why we choose to remain small, passing up on opportunities to expand to more lucrative work, but this actually gives us a lot more freedom.

All this, and listening to more than my fair share of business and motivational speakers has led me to think there’s a real need for business speakers who tell it like it is – especially those who run their own small business in the creative sector and have a different perspective of what it means to be successful. I know that when I really needed to see if there were others who had achieved what I wanted to and how they did it, I was either given generic business advice or presented with mega-success story people who had done amazing things but a million miles wide of my ambitions. Not much help really.

So if you’re looking for someone who made a million on the internet in 12 months or led a management buy-out of a national chain, I’m most definitely not your man. But if you’d like to hear someone speak about what it’s really like to start a business from scratch, about how to pull in your dream jobs, how to network in a room full of people when you’re quaking in your boots, and crucially how to get the work-life balance thing right on your own terms, then I’ll gladly share what we did. And I don’t mind admitting the mistakes we made (and still make) along the way. Perhaps you can avoid some of them.

Photo © Tony Bartholomew

My perspective is this: I work with and for people I really like every day, I love the work I do and people seem to really like what we do for them, I never sit down in the studio feeling bored or frustrated, I have opportunity to play a creative role in the life and future of where I live, and we get to do it on the beautiful Yorkshire coast and from a studio with a sea view.

That’s what was on my wish list when we started electric angel design, I feel very lucky to have got there (and I’m very grateful to those who have helped). I believe I can inspire others to reach for their dreams.


Recent speaking engagements have included:

Launch of Yorkshire and Humber Enterprising Places Network. October 2009.
I was asked to give a personal tell-it-like-it-is view of the town winning Enterprising Britain and the European Enterprise Awards to inspire others to enter the competition.

Launch of Enterprising Britain 2009. May 2009.
Peter Mandelson sent a message on DVD, ‘secret millionaire’ Carl Hopkins was there in person and spoke from the heart, I did my best to follow with a local perspective of being part of ‘The Most Enterprising Place in Britain’. As a result I was invited to become an Enterprise UK ambassador which involves speaking to and inspiring entrepreneurs.

Launch of Enterprising Craven. May 2008
Rather than make a lot of noise without substance, creatives in Craven held an event which they hoped by be the fertile ground for a genuine grass roots network to sprout. That’s why I was asked to speak to local artists, designers, writers, calligraphers, musicians and more and share the story of Creative Coast and its role in Scarborough’s Renaissance. My task was to inspire Craven’s creatives and people said that was what happened. Nice folks over there anyway.

Yorkshire Coast Festivals Association ‘Promoting Your Festival’. April 2010
Talking about our approach to naming, branding and designing the promotional material for the hugely successful Coastival event.

bmedia Third Thursday. Bradford, April 2010
With Andrew Clay, Director of Woodend Creative Workspace. Andrew and I did a ‘double act’ talking about the Enterprising Britain/Europe Experience.

Schools Creative and Media Diploma. 2009-2011
As a Business Champion for the diploma I’m regularly asked to share experiences of work and particular projects with the students. It’s also my role to rope in others to talk with me and this year this has included artist Rachel Welford and arts projects manager Dorcas Taylor. I also speak regularly to students studying design at Yorkshire Coast College.

Digital Scarborough 2010. April 2010
World-renowned graphic designer Vaughn Oliver had to cancel his keynote address due to family illness. I was asked if i might fill in at only a few hours notice. Fortunately my head was full of cognitive mapping theory and I was able to speak about the CHART Scarborough project giving an insight into the research behind the design of a experimental map. (By the way, Vaughn Oliver did come a few months later and was fascinating. Book him.)

Common Purpose ‘York and North Yorkshire’s Heart and Soul’ 2 November 2010
Asked to speak on my take of Scarborough’s cultural scene and the role we play as both a creative business and an example of entrepreneurship in action.

University of Lincoln 23 February 2011
Invited to speak to students and staff about our design and public art work.

St Martin’s Primary School, Scarborough 17 March 2011
‘What’s My Line?’ event with North Yorkshire Business and Education Partnership.

University of Sheffield 6 April 2011
Speaking to Landscape Architecture students about public engagement and design/art.

Northstead Primary School, Scarborough 15 May 2011
School assembly and speaking to year 6 entrepreneurs as they embark on ‘make £5 blossom’.

Creative Exchange, The Sage, Gateshead 13 September 2011
Speaking about Creative Partnerships project with Prior Pursglove College at this conference for the North of England.

The Phoenix Centre, York St John University 4 October 2011
Insights into how to get work when you first start a creative business.

Forthcoming engagements:

University of Hull, Scarborough Campus, School of Digital Arts. 27 April 2012
Talking about our work and surviving as a creative business.

making art in communities.

Working alongside artists and within often quite challenging community settings has been an aspect of our work since electric angel started out. More recently we’ve been commissioned to create community artworks ourselves and collaborate with artists and poets to create art in public places.

These have included:

‘Everybody’s always somewhere’ – a permanent public artwork on the old Scarborough-Whitby railway line aka The Cinder Track. A collaboration with artist Rachel Welford and poet John W Clarke. The artwork was designed and installed in 2009-2010 and has it’s own photoblog: Commissioned by The Friends of the Old Railway Line and Scarborough Borough Council.

‘The Shop of Priceless Things’ – a collaboration with John W Clarke in Rotherham Town Centre in 2009 transforming a large empty shop unit (formerly a Burger King) into something with a bit more presence and resonance for local people. Commissioned by Rotherham Borough Council. See it here.

York Hospital lifts – a collaboration with Rachel Welford producing 5 glass and mirror panels to be permanently installed in lifts in York General Hospital. Commissioned by York NHS Trust.

Wall of Type – a typography based artwork covering a wall and window in York and Hull Medical School at Scarborough Hospital. Commissioned in 2008 by Hospital Arts for North East Yorkshire. Take a look here.

English Heritage East Bowling Community Gates – iron gates based at East Bowling Cricket Club at the heart of a community in inner city Bradford. Commissioned in 2005 by Artworks Creative Communities / English Heritage. Photos here.

You can see photos of all these projects at

creating urban renaissance.

When we moved electric angel design to Scarborough in 2000 I got involved in helping organise the first ’Digital Scarborough’ – an exploration and celebration of digital culture that has continued to run regularly in the town. This got me involved with the town’s renaissance programme – a mechanism whereby the community and council work together to deliver regeneration of the area. I soon realised that the North Yorkshire coast would really benefit from a creative practitioners network to tie together the diverse yet dynamic creative community, so I suggested to Create Arts Development that we set up such a network. Creative Coast was born.

Creative Coast has 100+ members and regularly hosts networking events, attracts guest speakers, provides free training and boosts the profile of the creative industries in the area. It does this whilst remaining a grass roots organisation with no regular or significant funding and yet has a presence and impact far beyond its size. This includes playing a creative role in the town’s renaissance in generating ideas, it provides a voice and route into decision-making bodies for the creative community and offers a much needed point of contact for both practitioners moving in the the area and for other networks in the region. Creative Coast’s ability to identify and coalesce the local sector helped Woodend Creative Workspace open with 70% occupancy and mobilised the creative community for the Enterprising Britain and Europe awards which Scarborough won.

Other areas in the region have been keen to hear about how Creative Coast was established and how it functions and it has been a feature of my public speaking. It’s also featured in this article about Electric Angel Design reaching the finals in The Press Business Awards 2010.

Other renaissance activities I have been involved in have been the continuing Digital Scarborough events, helping to manage and present Scarborough’s winning Enterprising Britain and European Enterprise Award entries and projects such as CHART Scarborough – a project to map and enhance the cultural life of the town.

engaging with education.

STOP PRESS! Electric Angel Design are finalists in The Press Business Awards 2010 in the category ‘Best Employer and Education Link’. Article about us here. And shortlisted in the ‘Enterprise and Innovation’ category in the IEBE Business Awards 2010.

My career started as an in-house designer in education, eventually leading a design and multimedia research studio at Leeds Metropolitan University and spent many years as a voluntary youth leader, so still working with young people and within educational environments feels very natural. And I enjoy it immensely.

I’m currently a ‘Business Champion’ for the Schools Creative and Media Diploma which involves advising on student projects with the course leader and talking to students giving them a real-world perspective on the briefs they’ve been set.

Photo © Tony Bartholomew

I’ve also worked with school-age young people on widening participation projects with the University of Hull and developed an art project – digital destinations – working in all of Scarborough’s secondary schools alongside a poet to create poems for delivery on bus destination panels. Other projects involving young people have included workshops as part of CHART Scarborough and visiting lecturer in design at the University of Hull. One topic I have been asked to speak on several times to design/multimedia students is that of design and ethics drawing on real-life examples of where we’ve had tricky decisions to make.

Photographs from two recent education projects can be viewed on the electric angel blog: working with a local school and artist Rachel Welford on a public art project, and with BTEC students at Prior Pursglove College on an innovative performing arts project.

sometimes writing stuff.

I’ve never set out to be a writer although I do enjoy scribbling stuff down now and then. As well as doing some copywriting as part of electric angel design’s work (especially naming events and organisations), I have written regular articles such as a three-year series and resource reviews for RUN network, occasional articles for Movement magazine and I currently blog for

Academic journals/conference papers I have co-written include:

Ellis, R. C.T., Dickinson, I., Gorse, C.A and Riley, A. (2006) Virtualsite: an interface for accessing learning resources, CIB W89, International conference on building education and research (BEAR , Construction, sustainability and innovation. 10 – 13th April, Hong Kong

Ellis, R. C.T., Dickinson, I., Gorse, C.A and Riley, A. (2006) Virtualsite: An interface for accessing learning resources Journal for Education in the Built Environment, 1 (2) August 2006. pp. 15-26. ISSN: 1747-4205 (Online)

Ellis, R.C.T, Gorse, C.A. and Riley, A (1999) Disseminating Good Practice in Open Flexible Learning. HABITAT (8) Winter, pp 13 – 14 ISSN 1362-5020

Ellis, R.C.T, Whitehead, P and Riley, A (1997) Virtual Projects on the Intranet – The M1-A1 Link Road. HABITAT (5) Spring 1998

Ellis, R.C.T and Riley, A (1997) Multiple Media For Measurement: Object Authoring Software. HABITAT (4) July

Ellis, R.C.T and Riley, A (1997) Multiple Media For Measurement: Access and Interactivity. HABITAT (3) February

winning enterprising britain
and the european enterprise awards.

In 2008 I was asked if I would represent Scarborough at the regional judging for the ‘Enterprising Britain’ competition and “just tell it like it is”. We won the heats to become Yorkshire and the Humber’s regional entry to the national competition including beating entries from Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield. Feedback said that my presentation had really hit home with the panel.

I was invited to again speak to the national judges and to help plan the itinerary and supporting design for the visit by the national judges. I’m proud to say Scarborough won the competition – a big surprise to many people, but a deserved award for 6 years hard work by the towns residents, businesses and council.

I was proud that I’d argued for, and we presented, an honest picture of Scarborough with a day during which the judges met business owners and school children over lunch, visited community groups on a council estate and had a beer with surfers and a local film-maker. It was also important to me that the creative sector got recognition for being a catalyst in the town’s regeneration.

We then went on to be awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the European Enterprise Awards. I was invited to meet Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister and Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State and featured in the promotional material for the 2009 awards. Creative Coast, the network I co-founded, was praised in the judges report.

The UK was officially declared to be in a recession sometime around us winning the award which really threw things into perspective. Not surprisingly the award came in for as much criticism locally as it did congratulations. An international award for public participation came hot on its heels and then The Academy of Urbanism ‘Great Town’ Award. Do awards matter to towns, are they worth anything, and how should you ‘use’ them? That’s all part of the tale.

It’s an interesting story for anyone involved in regeneration, particularly in coastal towns or small places and for those interested in the impact the creative industries can have on urban regeneration.

but don’t just take my word for it.

“Adrian is an inspirational speaker who uses his experience to encourage others to take a creative and entrepreneurial approach to realizing their potential. Adrian’s involvement in Scarborough’s Enterprising Britain success was key and he is an advocate both for Scarborough and the need to encourage enterprise.”
Jane Walton. Policy Director, Young People’s Enterprise Forum.

“Adrian is a great speaker – doing so with much ease and good humour. He has vast knowledge and insight into the creative industries sector and in developing networks.
Wendy Clews. Director, Create Arts Development Ltd.

“Adrian is an interesting, entertaining and informative speaker who speaks from the heart. His presentation to the “Enterprising Britain” award judges was certainly impressive and a factor in our success”
David Archer. Strategic Director, Scarborough Borough Council.

“The work that Electric Angel is doing is exemplary. It is cutting edge as far as design is concerned, whilst also having a strong community and altruistic ethos. It is an interesting model and one which we should be encouraging other businesses to adopt. Electric Angel takes the future of its community very seriously and plays a key role in encouraging other businesses to do the same.”
Nick Taylor, Renaissance Manager, Scarborough.

“The presentation was clear and helpful; the students got a great deal out of the talk and gained a deeper understanding of networking and running creative businesses. We will definitely be using Adrian again to help our learners
Spencer Williams. North Yorkshire Coast Creative and Media Lead Practitioner.