Bringing Channel 4 to Leeds

by Nick Ramshaw

There’s a revolution under way in Leeds. A revolution made up of an exciting, diverse new generation of young and under-exposed content creators doing amazing work.

Being the spark that ignites this movement is what we’re helping Leeds offer Channel 4, as the broadcaster looks to choose a new location for part of it’s operations outside of London.

Embracing the challenge
Some of the most rewarding briefs we receive at Thompson are those that are challenging, push the team and have exciting outcomes. Developing a compelling campaign to get the attention of Channel 4 was one such brief, which arrived a few weeks ago from the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (The LEP), who we have worked with for a number of years.

Amongst other things, the LEP helps attract companies and organisations to re-locate to the Leeds City Region. This helps grow the local economy and create new jobs. It’s one of those things that is constantly going on behind the scenes, that is essential for the ongoing growth of our economy.

Channel 4 relocation
That’s just the kind of opportunity which came about following the decision to relocate part of Channel 4 outside London. Our job has been to help develop the Leeds bid story and a campaign to help it stand out.

We’re not alone though, as all the Local Authorities, cities, towns and industry players of Leeds City Region are working together, along with the likes of Screen Yorkshire, True North, Leeds City Council, Bradford Film Office and Make it York, in an unprecedented show of solidarity and determination to support this campaign. The Leeds bid also offers Channel 4 the benefits of close ties to surrounding cities including Bradford, York, Harrogate and Huddersfield.

Telling the right story
To get the story right, we had to understand what is important to Channel 4 and look at the impact it could have on this region, as well as the impact the region could have on Channel 4.

The fact is, there’s already a revolution under way in Leeds. An exciting new generation of young, diverse and often under-exposed content creators are doing amazing work.

  • Leeds’ story is based on Channel 4’s move to the region being the spark that ignites this movement. Channel 4 has the opportunity to come here and lead this revolution. It represents a chance to tap into unheard and under-represented voices and audience groups and receiving recognition for harnessing the massive potential of the region. It’s this idea that gave rise to the campaign hashtag of #4sparks – the fact that Channel 4 has the potential to ‘spark’ great things here.

    Creative Champions
    To showcase some of the cool things that are already happening, we’ve helped pull together a diverse group of young screen industry creatives. They are the already doing great things in the city and will benefit most if Channel 4 comes here. Below are just a few examples:

    Maariah Hussain, Bradford-based actor in Channel 4’s hit school-drama Ackley Bridge, filmed in Halifax and invested in by Screen Yorkshire, said:

    “It’s great to be part of #4Sparks because I’m really excited about the potential for Channel 4 moving here. I’m proud to be part of a group of young, creative people from Bradford, York, Huddersfield and Leeds coming together to show how inspirational a Channel 4 presence would be. My experience of playing Alya in Ackley Bridge at such an early stage in my career has been fantastic. I hope #4Sparks shows Channel 4 how much difference and opportunity they could make, and what a warm Yorkshire welcome they’d receive.”

  • Mohsin Ahmad, Editor at Leeds-based True North, the largest factual independent TV production company in the North of England said:

    “I work on programmes that are made in Yorkshire that are shown around the world. Through its Growth Fund, Channel 4 helped make that happen through its support of True North. It shows what’s possible when Channel 4 engages with our part of the world.”

  • Leeds based Lord Witney, which specialises in creative direction, set design, creative and art direction said:

    “We set up in Leeds by default – we went to uni here because of the great creative courses on offer. Leeds is a vibrant city full of young creative talent and we’re passionate about helping to retain that in the north. There’s so many great facilities on our doorstep too – the other year we shot a music video for Nicki Minaj in the old ITV studios here! We’re not restricted to Leeds either – it’s so well connected, we can be in Sheffield or Manchester in 40mins and York or Bradford in even less.”

  • Fastest growing region
    This follows the news that Yorkshire & Humber’s film and TV industries has outstripped that of every other part of the UK, including London and the South East.

    The figures show that between 2009-2015, Yorkshire’s Film & TV Industries generated an annual turnover of £424m across 590 creative businesses (an increase of 247% against the UK average of 118%) with Gross Value Added (GVA) increasing 242% in comparison to a UK average growth of 120%.

    Recent Screen Yorkshire investments include National Treasure, Victoria, Dad’s Army and Peaky Blinders.

  • Ongoing campaign

    So far, we have brought the next generation of young and diverse content makers together to give their support to the campaign and express how, by heading to Yorkshire and engaging with new voices and talent, Channel 4 could spark a revolution in the creative and screen industries.

  • We have also made our own set of Channel 4 blocks, representing their iconic identity, which will feature in a range of activities. True North is working with the team at Studio 12 to develop a film as part of the bid and all the stakeholders are engaged in a widespread social media campaign aimed at raising awareness of the bid.

    We’ll let you know if the bid is successful. It’s already generating press coverage…

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