How Gentleman Jack and Last Tango in Halifax have provided economic boost for Yorkshire - Zahir Irani

Bradford has a century-long history as a leading centre for film and TV, becoming the world’s first UNESCO City of Film in 2009 in recognition of its rich film heritage, inspirational movie locations and many celebrations of the moving image many of which are on display at our very own National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.

BBC handout photo of Nicola Walker as Gillian and Sarah Lancashire as Caroline in BBC One drama , Last Tango In Halifax

Since the dawn of cinema, the district has had a starring role in countless film and TV productions. But, we have never had so much made here in such a short period of time and you can see why filmmakers love it here so much.

The director of All Creatures Great and Small, Brian Percival, got to know Bradford after shooting some of the Downton Abbey movie in Little Germany.

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According to David Wilson, director of Bradford City of Film: “We have 3,000 listed buildings in the city centre alone. That is a big pull for any director with a creative eye. We are a film-friendly district, that’s why productions of all scales keep coming back.”

Just a few of the recent productions include Gentleman Jack, Ackley Bridge, Last Tango in Halifax, Peaky Blinders, Victoria, The English Game, Official Secrets and The Syndicate and we have a long distinguished association with Bollywood and world cinema.

The arrival of a big-ticket production brings enormous benefits for the local economy including hotels, serviced apartments, equipment hire companies and residents – including students of the University of Bradford’s film and television production programmes.

Film production also drives a thriving film tourism economy which will only increase as the number of productions filming across the district grows in the coming years.

Bradford is strong in film and TV production and education and with its young and diverse population with a uniquely Bradford tone of voice offers a deep pool of creative talent and storytelling. National broadcasters seem to understand they need to better reflect life in towns and cities outside London.

Sally Joynson, chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, said: “There is a big industry push for greater representation of the whole of the UK, both on screen and behind the camera – you see that reflected in the Channel 4 move and the latest BBC announcements to move jobs out of London to Leeds and other regional cities. Bradford is ideally placed to deliver on that with content creators who are developing original IP while at the same time developing the skills and talent of the future.”

Two great examples of this based in the district are FILMMAKERS 25, a six month-long project that pairs 25 talented young Bradford-based filmmakers with experienced industry professionals across the north to help them develop their work and introduce them to some of the key power-brokers of the TV and film industry.

And MAKE:FILM is a unique film commissioning fund from Bradford Council and Bradford 2025 investing in 37 diverse film-makers from Bradford to tell their own original stories of the district which will be shown over the summer of 2021 in a glorious celebration of local film-making talent.

The district’s Economic Recovery Plan recognises the potential in cultivating new cultural opportunities for the district and positioning Bradford nationally as a compelling destination for culture.

A wide-ranging strategy developed by Bradford Council and Arts Council England called Culture is our Plan and a new Screen Strategy which will be published in the spring will set out how the district’s cultural and screen sector will grow over the next decade and make sure all residents have access to it.

Our 2025 City of Culture bid is proceeding with confidence and ambition and the future film industry is going to be driven by film makers with a global vision and uniquely Bradford voices who can tell the compelling contemporary stories that make a difference to the world.

By Professor Zahir Irani - Chair of the Bradford Economic Recovery Board

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