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Creative leaders gather for Channel 4 push

Creative leaders gather for Channel 4 push

🕔11.Jun 2018

Leaders from the region’s creative industries met on Friday in the latest phase of the region’s bid to secure Channel 4’s new national HQ, reports Kevin Johnson

The meeting included representatives from film & TV, advertising, publishing, theatre and art and discussed how to present the West Midlands’ case for becoming the new home of Channel 4 (C4) when the broadcaster conducts its regional visit later in June.

The formal bid from West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) was shortlisted, along with five other cities, by C4 at the end of May. The broadcaster will now spend the summer months working with the competing locations with the final decision being announced in October.

The WMCA bid “focused” on potential sites in Birmingham and Coventry, highlighting the many strengths of the West Midlands under the strapline of ‘Get Closer’, including: the region’s unparalleled connectedness to talent, ideas and resources, its youth and diversity, and the ongoing success and development the region is experiencing such as Coventry City of Culture 2021 and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022.

Writing on the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI blog, it’s Administrative Director Rebbeca Riley argues C4 should make its decision not on agglomeration – which might favour Manchester – but on the social impact. She says:

The argument for relocation should be based on the social implications of the creation and commissioning of content. UK TV should represent the whole of the UK, moving commissioning roles outside London should be aimed at putting commissioners in the position of experiencing a wider view of the UK than London. It should also be about ensuring greater representation of diverse communities and allowing a wider set of communities to access investment in cutting edge and new programming content. The Midlands generally is woefully underrepresented in programming as the success of Peaky Blinders demonstrates, as a ‘shock Birmingham hit’, it only emphasises the competition from regional programming in Manchester where a long list of hits can be identified.

Not all government investments are about the economic case (although I have serious doubts about using the economic/agglomeration case for Manchester on this one, and surely if we were making this case we would leave them in London!) and it’s dangerous to use this as the main case, when the social impact of diverse representative programming is far more valuable to us all.

Looking back at the critical activities which aligned to create the growth in creative jobs in Manchester I wonder which city is now in the same position to capitalise on a similar relocation? With the approaching Commonwealth Games, Capital of Culture, HS2 arrival, potentially Birmingham as the large scale investments which add to the buzz of place Manchester was riding. However, whoever wins this, don’t expect Broad Street or Oxford Road to be swarming with actors and cameramen, you’re more likely to get grey suited accountants and lawyers and which city has the assets to attract them, is probably a topic for another blog.

Hosted by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, Friday’s meeting included: Adil Ray (writer/actor/director), Anita Bhalla (Creative Cities Partnership), Chris Randall (Second Home Studios), Craig Spivey (Craig Spivey Creative), Fiona Allan (The Space), Iain Bennett (BOP), Jonnie Turpie (MAC); Julia Negus (Theatre Absolute); Laura Ellis (BBC), Laura McMillan (Coventry City of Culture), Justin Eames (Fish in a Bottle); Liz Katz (Noisegate Media & Studios), Michael Gubbins (WM Screen Bureau), Neil Rami (WMGC), Ollie Clarke (Lockwood Publishing); Paul Bramwell (MediaCom), Sarah Trigg (7Wonder), Sarah Windrum (C&W LEP), Simon Chappell (Sondar), Suzie Norton (Zanna Creative), Tim Kay (KPMG), and Zoe Davidson (KPMG).

Adil Ray OBE, actor, writer & broadcaster, said:

“I owe my career to Birmingham. The city allowed me to turn my dreams into reality. There are many more young storytellers right here in one of Europe’s youngest and most diverse cities, a microcosm of the UK. It’s almost impossible to imagine Channel 4, with its quest to be reflective and relevant not making Brum their new home. Channel 4 has a brilliant track record on serving broad-ranging and underrepresented audiences and I hope that we can all come together to help create 4 Brum.

Julia Negus, producer at Theatre Absolute, said:

The creative sector in the West Midlands continues to produce world class talent across theatre, film & TV, music, and, more recently, technology and gaming. These people will shape the future of entertainment, and therefore make the region an ideal choice for Channel 4. As a place to live and work, Coventry has an unparalleled connectivity to the rest of the UK and diverse and attractive quality of life for those who choose to live here, providing the perfect conditions for the broadcaster to establish its new national HQ.

The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:

The West Midlands has united behind our bid to secure Channel 4’s new national HQ, and I would like to thank the creative leaders for coming together today, to share their knowledge and insight on how we can showcase our region’s talent and strengths to the broadcaster.

We will now work to show Channel 4 why, in terms of location, talent and the youth and diversity of the population, the West Midlands is should be the number one choice for the new national HQ, as we develop the approach that brings Channel 4 to our region.

There will be now a period of further consultation, which will see the WMCA work in partnership with C4 to highlight the benefits of moving to the West Midlands.

C4 is seeking to establish three new creative hubs outside London, as part of its ‘4 All the UK’ strategy. The largest of these hubs will become the national headquarters, consisting of offices, a new studio, a base for daily programmes and a new digital production unit. The final announcement will be October 2018, with the broadcaster moving to the new HQ in 2019.

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