Four is a magic number

Wed 3 April 2019, 10:48 am

Bristol has been announced as the location for one of Channel 4's new creative hubs, adding to a rich mix of film and TV production companies and placing it among the UK's foremost creative cities. Noella Pio Kivlehan reports

“All’s well that ends well, that’s what I say,” declares Wallace to Gromit in the 1993 film The Wrong Trousers. The loveable animated characters may fictionally hail from Lancashire, but as those in the know and local residents like to point out, they’re made in Bristol, created by Oscar-winning animation studio Aardman.

Towards the end of 2018, the city’s bid to entice one of the country’s leading broadcasters to the city certainly did end well, when – despite losing to Leeds as the preferred choice for Channel 4’s (C4) new base the previous July – Bristol was selected, along with Glasgow, as one of two new UK “creative hubs” for the channel, beating Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham in the process.

C4’s move is part of its plan to relocate 300 of its 800-strong workforce from London to regions across the UK. The channel released a statement on why Bristol was chosen, stating: “There is the opportunity to build on a thriving television production sector in the city, which has world-renowned factual producers and also has strengths in areas such as animation and digital production.

“Establishing a creative hub in Bristol gives Channel 4 the opportunity to build on thriving production communities in the city...Bristol put forward exciting proposals to establish new social mobility initiatives to work with diverse communities across the city and bring through new talent into the industry.”

TV and film production has been worth more than £235 million to Bristol’s economy since 2003 and the news of C4’s arrival could boost this further. Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, hails the “fantastic news”: “It will help build on our existing thriving media industry and wealth of local talent,” he adds. “Bristol is a city that pushes boundaries, questions the norm and actively nurtures a strong culture of creative and digital innovation – we know Channel 4 will feel at home here. We look forward to welcoming [it] to the city.”

For the past two decades, the city has been establishing an enviable reputation for television and film production, taking off when Bristol Film Office was founded in 2003. Along with the globally successful Aardman studios, it is home to a plethora of media companies and production bases (as reported in the first issue of Bristol Is) including The Bottle Yard Studios, where popular TV programmes such as Poldark and Broadchurch have been filmed.

Film production is “a really thriving sector,” says Lynn Barlow, assistant vice-chancellor for the creative and cultural industries engagement at the University of West England (UWE), Bristol, and the woman helping shape strategic policy and external partnerships with the industry as a freelance executive producer.

Barlow was instrumental in bringing stakeholders together to help C4 recognise the city as an attractive prospect. She says: “We must have around 145 production companies [here], doing all sorts of things from visual effects, audio and editing. The denser and bigger the scale of the industry helps. Bristol is having a moment. We’re on good foundations and that means Bristol is a great place for Channel 4 to set up home.”

This is a shortened version of this article. Read the full version in the second issue of Bristol Is here