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Firm taps into Digbeth energy for conference

Breakdance, beatbox and Beyoncé were all on the agenda as Barton Willmore (now Stantec) brought more than 300 planners and designers together in Digbeth for the firm’s ‘You Us Together’ company conference.

The first all staff event since 2018 because of COVID, the emphasis was on re-energising, connecting, wellness and recognising the potential in yourself and your skills.

Barton Willmore (now Stantec) is working on regeneration projects in cities across the UK but specifically chose the Birmingham district for its first national all staff event in four years to feed on the neighbourhood’s energy and creativity. 

Held at The Custard Factory, the day made use of this backdrop to enthuse and invigorate project discussions and Lego-based masterplanning, walking tours and design workshops.  The programme also tapped into local artists, cultural leads and local street food, all to create a ‘distinctively Digbeth’ vibe. 

Mark Sitch, director at Barton Willmore (now Stantec) and based in the firm’s Birmingham office, said: “A lot of businesses are searching for the best way to bring people back together post pandemic and create the community that so many of us have missed doing business online. 

"Inter-disciplinary working and learning from each other is also central to what we do, important to the culture of our business, and secures the best results. For us, tapping into Digbeth’s energy and creativity was the perfect solution and we had a great day re-connecting with colleagues and re-focusing on our strengths and potential.  I think it’s fair to say we’re all still excited and buoyed up by a brilliant day in Birmingham.”

Within the programme, attendees learned more about confidence and wellness, ideas to put the community at the heart of design, and hints & tips for expressing themselves – all feeding into areas people had identified as wanting further guidance on in a post-pandemic business world.

Highlights included: a keynote speech from Clare Josa on ‘Daring to dream bigger’; a ‘get up and dance’ high-tempo session with DanceBox’s Illana Gambrill; a live podcast; a creative graffiti challenge with Panda (a local Digbeth street artist); a hip-hop workshop from Juice Aleem (a Birmingham born and bred hip-hop legend); and an evening of Digbeth street food provided by local chef Lee DeSanges of Baked in Brick fame.