Why Channel 4 and Gentleman Jack are turning Yorkshire into a creative powerhouse - Roger Marsh

The popularity of Gentleman Jack has helped to boost visitor numbers at Shibden Hall in Halifax
The popularity of Gentleman Jack has helped to boost visitor numbers at Shibden Hall in Halifax
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We have been working with Channel 4 for a number of years and I’m delighted that they are now officially open and expanding their presence in the region.

Since first coming on air in 1982, Channel 4’s remit has been to take risks, showcase a diverse range of voices and points of view, and to dare to be innovative.

In choosing our region as its first headquarters outside of London, Channel 4 recognised that our confidence, independent voice, and diverse population and geography reflects these values.

At the Creative Courage event co-hosted by McCann Leeds, Prolific North and Channel 4 in late November, I spoke about the North’s creative talent and grit as being a strong asset for the region – and one that we will help grow.

We have always been known for our boldness and quirky character, and thanks to Channel 4 choosing Leeds City Region as its base, we can harness this to demonstrate how

the region really is a breeding ground for creativity.

Of the 3 million people in Leeds City Region, 59,000 people work in the creative industries – an increase of almost 10,000 between 2016 and 2018.

We also have 9,000 businesses in the creative sector, more than any other core city LEP area.

While creativity has long been a focus, the presence of Channel 4 has accelerated activity and acted as the spark for expansion and investment across the City Region.

We estimate that the impact of Channel 4 will be £1 billion over the next 10 years, creating 1,200 jobs.

Already, we have seen a significant growth in independent producers setting up or expanding in the region.

With support from the LEP, True North has expanded its post-production facilities, while True Vision Yorkshire has received investment from Channel 4 as part of the ‘C4 Indie Growth Fund’.

In addition to this Daisybeck Studios were bought by Canadian production giant Entertainment One (eOne), and new start-ups Hell Fire! and Wise Owl films have established themselves here.

The region has also seen substantial inward investment from two of the largest indies Workerbee (previously Endemol Shine North) and The Garden, which both opened bases in Leeds at the start of the year.

The wider sector also has Leeds City Region firmly on its radar, with the National Film and Television School (NFTS), BFI Young Audiences and Content Fund and

Pact (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television) all having bases here.

The world’s very first moving images were filmed here on Leeds Bridge in 1888 by Louis Le Prince. Since then, Yorkshire locations have been a regular sight on our screens. From ‘Victoria’ at Harewood House, ‘Peaky Blinders’ in Bradford City Hall and ‘Gentleman Jack’ at Shibden Hall, Halifax, these locations showcase everything the region can offer domestic and international audiences, and our strength in front of and behind the camera.

We’re extremely conscious of the role we have to play to support growth within the sector and promote and develop the creative talent of tomorrow.

We have a dedicated Digital Investment Fund aimed at creative and digital businesses. Within this our #welcome and #Grow schemes, for businesses both new

to and existing within the region, offer match-funding of up to £50,000 for office fit- out, equipment and IT consultancy costs, or architects or design consultancy fees to alter premises.

The creative industries’ opportunities programme is also set to launch early next year.

This is specifically designed to support the sector and enable further growth providing initiatives and facilitating knowledge share for businesses, in areas that need the most focus, to bolster development.

Our FutureGoals scheme provides support to help people of all ages make better- informed decisions about their career paths, help them gain the right skills and experience to start work, up-skill or change career, and provide links with education and employers.

We have worked closely with the Burberry Foundation to co-produce a creative toolkit to provide greater insight into this sector, dispel myths and inform about roles, employers and opportunities. It is designed to give educators resources, inspiration, pathways, employers and ideas to inspire young people from all backgrounds.

Screen Yorkshire, in collaboration with Bradford Council with support from the LEP, launched the Beyond Brontës skills initiative in April this year, focusing on young people from diverse backgrounds to help address under-representation within the screen industries. After attending an industry bootcamp the first group of 50 trainees are in placements and training courses to help them start out in the industry.

All of this activity sets the tone for what is to come in future months and years, and we will certainly play our part. Together with MediaCityUK in Salford, which is home to the BBC and ITV, as well as hundreds of media and digital businesses, Channel 4’s arrival in Leeds City Region is making the North a creative and digital powerhouse for the whole of the UK.

The LEP has, and will continue to have, an increased role in supporting growth within the sector and enabling clear pathways for talent to maintain and grow the sector and underline the region’s position as a hotbed for creativity.

Roger Marsh OBE DL Chair, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and NP11