North East film and TV industry set for £11m boost to unlock 'wealth of creative talent'

The North East’s burgeoning film and TV industry is set for a cash injection of £11m.

By Daniel Holland
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 1:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 2:12 pm
Brenda Blethyn on the Vera filming set at Ocean Road Community Association.

Councils and mayors are set to commit major funding to unlock creative talent across the region and capitalise on a £25m pledge from the BBC last year.

The national broadcaster revealed last year that it would be making its biggest investment in the North East for decades, promising to make more programmes here and create jobs.

As part of that deal, local authorities in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, County Durham, and the Tees Valley agreed to pay £11m over the next five years for a scheme backing a screen agency and a new production fund to support the creation of new content.

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The North of Tyne Combined Authority, which represents Newcastle, Northumberland, and North Tyneside, voted on Tuesday to approve its £2.85m investment towards that pledge.

Newcastle councillor Karen Kilgour told a cabinet meeting that the UK had created some of the most influential and loved cinema and TV in the world and the North East was at the heart of much of that, ranging from Billy Elliot to Vera, but that our region was “not getting enough growth in that sector”.

A report to the combined authority said that the UK’s screen industry was flourishing but that the North East “has not benefited from this growth” due to poor funding and programming cuts.

Less than 2% of screen content produced in the UK is currently made in the North East and just 0.9% of production and post-production industry companies are based here.

Coun Kilgour, the city council’s deputy leader, added: “We must find ways of using the wealth of creative talent in the North of Tyne – the technical expertise, the great writers and actors, the gifted entrepreneurs who all emerge here generation after generation.

“Even with the challenges of Covid recovery and Brexit, I am optimistic that as an enterprising region we can build on our investments with a shared belief in our vision and a commitment to take our rightful place in the UK.”

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen and his combined authority are also due to sign off this week on their £4.5m contribution.

He said: “Ever since Ridley Scott filmed his first film ‘Boy and Bicycle’ in West Hartlepool and Seaton Carew our region has had a strong connection with film and TV production which has culminated in Hartlepool now being home to the only dedicated large-scale film and TV studios in the north east.

“This funding will allow us to develop and nurture the existing industry and help create the jobs of the future. We have to be proactive and invest now to make the most of what the BBC is doing, as well as to attract other production to our area. Ultimately, this will help upskill and create opportunities for the creatives in our region but also, vitally, those hands-on crew members or electricians, engineers and make-up artists that could be involved at every level of production.”