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Sparking a creative Glow

Joe Bonney, Head of Strategy
Posted in: Activation, Opinion, Speaker Events

I’ve been asked to write a little bit about a series of events I set up called ‘It Will Glow’. I’ll try to do it through as unbiased a lens as possible, which can of course be a challenge when you’re writing about something you’ve created yourself. But nonetheless, here goes…

It Will Glow has evolved from a conversation with 2 friends over a couple of beers 18 months ago, into a pretty awesome creative meet up which saw over 350 attendees brave some epic storms to attend the last event back in October.

The aim of Glow is to nail that sweet spot in between brilliant creative event and great night out. Sure, we want people to attend an inspiring creative talk, but we also want them to have a relaxing evening with good food, good drinks and good chats.

So, we scope out the best street food vendors around, bring in the most inspirational and impressive speakers possible, stock up the bar and secure some great live music. Then it’s simply a case of inviting people to buy a ticket at the most reasonable price possible, opening the doors to the most unique space we can find and crossing our fingers that everything goes to plan!

Since our first event back in the summer of 2018, Glow has grown from strength to strength and I think a big part of that is the emphasis on this not being a stuffy event focused on networking and not being created exclusively for those who work in the creative industries. On reflection, however, this is ironic as the thing that It Will Glow does best is in fact bringing people together while primarily focusing on stories from those who work in the creative industries…but it works!

The issue with events I had been going to previously was that they were always on the extreme ends of a spectrum. I was sick of going to networking events in stark corporate environments; picking at bland finger food and trying to master the balance of paper plate, bottle of beer and false interest in conversation all at once. And I was equally exhausted with events held in inappropriate venues where I couldn’t see or hear the talks, or even make a sarcastic comment to a friend, thanks to pounding dance music.

Basically, paying to attend these events left me feeling unsatisfied; like I was never getting the main course, only the starter or dessert. So, instead of constantly leaving rubbish events feeling hungry (metaphorically and physically – seriously, what’s with the finger food!?), 2 good pals and I decided enough was enough, and we set our hearts on creating something more filling.

So, we took some time to write up a recipe for our perfect creative casserole, filling it with those key ingredients we knew would make an awesome event, and then invited people to come and have a taste.

I’m super proud of how far we’ve come. The first event had 200 attendees for 2 talks and the second saw 250 attendees for 3 talks. This third event in October saw IWG evolve once more as we doubled our venue size, sold 350 tickets and launched ‘The Market’; a space for independent creatives to sell their art and products.

Most excitingly perhaps, is the fact we also published our first newspaper. Putting two fingers up to the argument that ‘Print is Dead’, we wanted to tap into some of the awesome experience and knowledge of both past speakers and people we look up to in the wider design world. Modesty aside for a moment, the paper is definitely one of the things I’m most proud of…and hopefully it won’t be used to wrap fish and chips just yet!

The only real setback we’ve faced so far is our struggle in gaining sponsorship for the event. A lot of local businesses have said they’re onboard but pulled out at the last minute. There have been times where we fully anticipated being out of pocket (it’s pretty nerve racking paying over £2.5k for a speaker before you’ve sold a single ticket), but luckily we’ve managed to break even on every event.

We have also been lucky enough to strike up some amazing relationships with a few companies who support us with their products and services, allowing us to give every attendee a goody bag and make the event the best it can be. For example, Awesome Merch print us some very cool tote bags, Candy Kittens give us lots of sweets to hand out, a local hotel offers us rooms for speakers and another gives us free photography. Without these, we’d massively struggle in making the event as slick as it is.

Brandwidth has been super supportive of Glow as well, enabling 10 brave colleagues to embark on a bank holiday minibus mission to Cardiff through some horrifically delayed M4 traffic. Their journey was a tough one, but having them there to support us and see the event in full flow was incredibly special.

The Brandwidth Team at IWG back in April 2019

So…what’s next? We had an idea, we went for it, and we’re stupidly happy to say that our gamble paid off! From here, the only way is up. We’re going to keep building on what we’ve done so far and making changes based on all the things we’ve learnt. So far all our events have been based in Cardiff, so perhaps it’s time to take IWG on the road. Perhaps it’s time to see where else Glow can work. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to collaborate with Brandwidth on something special. Perhaps…we’ll just have to wait and see what’s next!

Check out or follow @itwillglow for further information.

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