Why Boris Johnson should take note of Yorkshire's television industry growth if he wants to 'level up' - Jayne Dowle

IF one positive thing has come out of this dark and dreadful last year, it is that Yorkshire has shown the rest of the world what it’s really made of. Humour, individuality and a visual sense that never fails to impress.

Amanda Owen, aka the Yorkshire Shepherdess, whose Channel 5 show has been recommissioned for a fourth series. Picture: James Hardisty.

Indeed, if your own world has been narrowed to the small square of television, you’ll already know that TV producers simply can’t get enough of God’s Own Country.

I’m delighted to learn that Channel 5 has commissioned a fourth series of The Yorkshire Shepherdess, the only reality TV many of us can stomach – unless you count This Week on the Farm, another Channel 5 reality series filmed here in Barnsley, at Cannon Hall Farm, following the day-to-day activities of the enterprising Nicholson family.

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The adventures of Swaledale sheep farmer Amanda Owen, her husband Clive, their nine children and countless animals have kept audiences enthralled whilst we’ve all been stuck indoors.

For some Southerners, and I have this on record from surprised-but-delighted friends and relatives in London and Surrey, this is the first time they have seen Yorkshire as it should be seen.

No “grim up North” clichés, but tough, resilient, funny and surrounded by breath-takingly beautiful countryside. I’ve smiled quietly to myself and hesitated to reply: “I told you so”.

Even in August, the show was regularly topping audience figures in the 9pm prime-time slot, pulling in more than two million viewers and beating big-name crime dramas such as BBC One’s Line of Duty.

And, frankly, I’m not surprised. Like yet other Channel 5 hit series, the remake of All Creatures Great and Small, now filming a second series in various Yorkshire locations, including Little Germany in Bradford, it reminds us that there is still good in the world.

What wouldn’t most of us give just to escape from the daily grind – even for an hour or two – and step into an alternative reality where everything can be sorted out with a cup of tea and a well-chosen twinset?

Obviously I’m biased, but I’m so proud that we’re busting cliché after cliché. And it’s not just those twinsets, or even Yorkshire Tea for that matter.

Tomorrow is the grand final of The Great Interior Design Challenge on BBC2. Viewers will see Lynsey Ford, a 36-year-old architect from Slaithwaite, and Siobhan Murphy, 42, a NHS worker from Castleford, battling it out amongst the velvet curtains.

Even if interior design isn’t your thing, you have to take your hat, or even flat cap, off to these two – they’ve proved their worth against eight other talented contestants, whittled down from the thousands who applied to take part in the hit TV competition, including another Yorkshirewoman, Amy Wilson from Leeds. Three women, all from Yorkshire, all outstanding in their field? It really must be something in our superlative water.

And now we hear that the BBC has followed Channel 4 in choosing Leeds as a major destination for its regional roll-out.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet should sit up and take notice. Whilst they dither over “levelling up”, major media organisations are simply upping sticks and getting on with it.

It’s early days, obviously. Across the Pennines, it has taken the best part of 15 years for Salford to feel the benefit of the BBC’s earlier attempts at regionalisation and it wouldn’t have happened without the subsequent arrival of other production, media and digital companies. Change won’t appear overnight, we know that.

And with typical Yorkshire cynicism, questions are already being asked about how this focus on Leeds will benefit the rest of the region, especially against the background of a pandemic which has seen less-prominent towns and cities suffer disproportionately in terms of health, employment and poverty.

Civic leaders and local MPs must commit to ensuring that the economic and cultural benefits are felt by as many of Yorkshire’s five million-plus residents as possible. This will mean a commitment to pushing improved transport infrastructures, raising standards in education and ensuring that our colleges and universities take full advantage of a global broadcaster on the doorstep.

In turn, the BBC – and Channel 4 too – must make full use of excellent organisations such as Screen Yorkshire, which promotes our landscape and locations, and also invest in regional talent. There’s no argument about that. We’ve clearly got it.