BLOG: Yorkshire is a natural hub for TV and film

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23 Feb 2018


As momentum gathers around the #4sparks campaign, to attract the relocation of Channel 4 to Leeds City Region, we spoke to Bradford-born film producer Steve Abbott, whose movies include Brassed Off and A Fish Called Wanda, to hear why he’s supporting the initiative.  

How do you feel about the #4sparks campaign?

Everything that I have seen and heard about #4sparks has been extremely positive. It’s great to see all the local authorities, cities, towns and industry players of Leeds City Region come together, with Screen Yorkshire. Collectively there is so much this region can offer.

Have you worked with Channel 4?

I’ve worked with Film 4 – the film arm of Channel 4. Brassed Off, which was co-financed and distributed by Film 4, continues to play on the Channel and attracts excellent audiences, even over 20 years after its release. It is also about a pivotal point in the region’s history and still resonates with audiences in Yorkshire. 

Tell us about your career and how Bradford has influenced you?

Well firstly, I am Bradford born and bred, so the city has been, and always will be, close to my heart. It continues its great history of being a place where film is made – in the past month, there are two Bradford-based films released (Scott & Sid and Lies We Tell) and another (God’s Own Country) which was BAFTA-nominated. Other releases to follow include the new feature from Clio Barnard (Dark River), Funny Cow with Maxine Peake and Ghost Stories with Martin Freeman. All were supported in some way by the Bradford Film Office.

Bradford has the youngest population in the country and continues through its various film festivals, (including its literature and games festivals) to excel in the creative arts.

I have also been very involved in Screen Yorkshire, as its founding Chair and as a Board member, since its formation in 2002. Screen Yorkshire has always been at the forefront of championing the film, TV, games and digital industries in Yorkshire and the Humber. Its aim has always been to secure and support the very best projects for companies and individuals, which help make Yorkshire and the Humber one of the most sought after destinations for production in the UK.

What drove me to get involved with Screen Yorkshire and Bradford UNESCO City of Film, which I also chair, is that although I was born in Bradford, I have in fact lived in London and Los Angeles for most of my life and all of my career. I HAD to move in order to pursue a career in TV and Film. I want the younger generations of talented and skilled people in Yorkshire to be able to follow these ambitions from within Yorkshire. This is the reason why I want the #4sparks campaign to be successful.

What developments would you like to see?

I am proud that we now have a film office in Bradford, which enables producers to have a focal point when considering filming in the city. I’d like this idea to be extended to cover the whole of Yorkshire. I’d also make a big plea for investment in training at a local and regional level. We have the potential workforce here in Yorkshire to make TV, film and games. Those skills and talents need to be nurtured.

What might people not realise about Bradford and the screen industries?

I don’t think a lot of people realise that Bradford is the first UNESCO City of Film in the world and I think when they do, it surprises them. Once they look behind this, it becomes easy to see not only why we achieved this accolade for Bradford but also how we’ve built on it and become pre-eminent within the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, mainly through the energies of our Director, David Wilson.

Why do you think Channel 4 should come to the region?

Quite simply, Yorkshire has proved itself during the first two decades of the 21st Century to be the natural hub for TV, film and games in the UK, outside London and the M25. I’m hard-pressed to think of a reason why Channel 4 should not come to our region.


Discover more about the #4sparks campaign here.