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From heritage industries to future careers: Channel 4 and its HQ move to Leeds

2nd November 2018

Kay Brown, Account Manager in Leeds delves into city’s film and production heritage following Channel 4’s announcement to create a new HQ in the city.


At 2.30pm on Halloween Channel 4 revealed a treat for Leeds by announcing the city as home of its new HQ and the 200 staff due in post from 2019. The perceived underdog in the pitching process, lagging behind Manchester and Birmingham in the betting stakes, our city has defied the odds and stolen the broadcaster’s heart.

Government owned with a private broadcaster approach, Channel 4 has a unique offering and structure. Commissioning and working with production companies to develop their preferred content is a process at the heart of their operation, and it was ultimately the strength and calibre of production companies across Yorkshire and the North that secured Leeds’ place as the chosen city.

The city’s heritage in moving image dates back to the late 1800’s with the first known pieces of moving image captured from a single lens camera. Two films are known to exist - one of North Leeds’ Roundhay Park and another captured on Leeds Bridge, a stone’s throw from our Leeds office.

Louis Le Prince captured simple images of horse and carriages crossing Leeds Bridge alongside trams, not too dissimilar in content from VTs we may see on the news today. His legacy, lost in history for a number of years, was reinvigorated in the 1930’s with a memorial tablet unveiled at his former workshop on Woodhouse Lane. More recently, over the last 20 years the city’s universities have payed homage to his work by naming department and complexes in his honour.

Generations of students have started their education in film and moving image with the fractured knowledge of Louis Le Prince, gradually building up to the existing film, television and broadcast opportunities across Leeds and the Yorkshire region today.

Students are taught to look more deeply at their surroundings, understand the unique locations the county has to offer – from the formations at the top of Malham Cove that were used as the location for a camping scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to the village life settings of Emmerdale in Harewood and Eccup, and the many grand settings in local authority buildings including the Victoria Hall in Leeds Town Hall.

Aside from the history and technique delivered by the city’s universities, and the locations highlighted by organisations such as Welcome to Yorkshire and Screen Yorkshire, our production values are reinforced by the many film and industry festivals taking place in the region each year. Renowned for its ability to attract commissioners from broadcasters including Channel 4, Sheffield’s DocFest has nearly 25 years’ history profiling documentary making in the UK. Known for its tight schedules and city-wide branding and parties, it’s regarded as one of the best industry film events in the UK.

For audiences, Leeds itself has showcased all forms of film for decades through festivals like Leeds International Film Festival. Renowned as a prime festival to preview your film to dedicated audiences, it has welcomed hundreds of influential directors, funders and academics to the city over its 30-year history, highlighting that Leeds can showcase filmmaking as well as excel at film production.

A partner in our film and broadcast history and one of the key member city’s the forms Leeds City Region, Bradford is the UNESCO city of film. Awarded the status and an initial burst of funding in 2009, the city trumped the likes of LA, Cannes and Venue to win the UN film honour. At the time it baffled many, but as the reinvigoration of our region’s filming and broadcast credentials make national news, we are reminded of the rich heritage our diverse region offers. This, coupled with the highly regarded training opportunities across Yorkshire, have ultimately wooed Channel 4 to relocate approximately a quarter of its workforce to Leeds.

We are delighted that the strength of our city’s film credentials has stolen the heart of Channel 4. We’re proud to have been involved with the campaign to highlight city-wide agency support of the bid, and will continue to work with others in the city to champion the successes, opportunities and stories of a city we’re proud to call home.

Join the conversation @GraylingNorth.


Grayling Team

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