Working together is key to bringing Channel 4's national HQ to our region

I’ll start this month’s column by saying I hope that those of you who are having or have had their summer holidays enjoy the break.

Now that might be an unconventional start to a LEP column but it is a deliberate one. For much of my career, colleagues would tell me that August was a quiet period. Well this certainly hasn’t been the case for 2018 as the LEP’s continuing work supporting trade and investment, business growth and apprenticeships has been accompanied by our ongoing conversations with Channel 4 to bring its new National HQ to the region.

Following months of effort by the whole City Region, in July we were rewarded for our work with confirmation from Channel 4 that we are now one of only three locations from an initial 30 to enter advanced negotiations with the broadcaster.

There have been a multitude of factors which have contributed to our successful progress through this process to date. But if I was to try and identify one in particular it is the strength of partnership working which has underpinned our bid. Partnership between the public and private sectors, partnership between the creative, digital, education and property businesses located here, partnership across political lines, and partnership across the whole region. At every stage of the process we have presented a united and compelling vision for our region and how Channel 4 can contribute to and benefit from the exciting developments taking place here.

The co-operation between all of our partners on the #4Sparks campaign has highlighted that our creative sector is the heartbeat of our region’s vibrant cultural life. As such it’s been fantastic to see leading figures within our screen industries give their support. Celebrated writer Kay Mellor gave her backing to our bid by saying, “Leeds is slap bang in the middle of the country. It’s a vibrant artistic city, whose creative community is growing daily”.

Now as our discussions with the broadcaster continue, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about something which I believe has been at the heart of our bid and sets our campaign apart. It’s three words. ‘Our young people’. It is our young, diverse, digitally native population which will not only be the future consumers of media but importantly will be the voice - whether as writers, actors, commissioners, producers, set builders or costume designers - of tomorrow’s content.

It is with that in mind I was delighted that both Kay Mellor and Jamie Hutchinson, the manager of Studio12, an audio-visual media facility run by Leeds City Council, which supports young talent have shared their thoughts on how our youngsters can shine in the industry, pledged their support to nurture the new talent and discussed how they are already supporting the next generation of content makers.

Kay stated:

“I think mentoring is an enormous help, especially when developing young talent and helping them to find success. It’s such a daunting, difficult process – every broadcaster wanting something different.

“I feel as though I can get new talent through a commissioner’s door.”

Jamie added:

“Each year I open my door to thousands of young people to find the latest ground-breakers from this city. We believe these young people deserve a voice and the opportunity for self-expression. I was delighted when Studio12 alumni Dave-O starred in the ‘Be the Spark’ video for the Leeds City Region bid for Channel 4”

The passion which both Jamie, Kay and countless others have for supporting and developing new talent is unquestionable. And if we are successful in our work with Channel 4 to bring this world-renowned broadcaster to the region; the opportunities which will be opened up for our young people will be truly transformational.

As Cllr Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council said recently: “The opportunity provided by Channel 4 coming to the region happens once in a lifetime and is a prize we must aim for.”

Cllr Swift is absolutely right. This once in a generation opportunity will have a significant impact not just for Yorkshire, but the North East and Eastern side of the country. It will open up huge new opportunities for the region and rebalance the UK screen industry.

Find out more about our campaign at