The perception that English productions made outside the capital are inherently lacking in quality is unfair and outdated, so it’s time for a change of attitude.
If there’s one word I hate, it’s ‘regional’. Whichever way you cut it, it still smacks of some ghastly bargain-basement store at a designer outlet in Grimsville, where everything is cut-price, low-quality and past its sell-by date. We’ve tackled racism, sexism, even ageism - and now the only kid in the playground we feel free to mock is the one from out of town who suffers from that embarrassing disability - regionalism.
“We’re talent scouts par excellence, winkling out the great writers, producers and directors of tomorrow. Basically, if it’s on a screen, we support it”
But regionalism only exists if you accept London as the benchmark, and in the media it is time we moved on to more global perspectives. Is Fish Tank (made in Essex) a regional film? Is Broken Sword (created in York) a regional game? Is Lara Croft (born in Derby) a girl from the sticks? Are Skins (made in the South West) or Survivors (Birmingham) merely regional TV programmes? I don’t think so.
So, here’s a proposal: let’s park the word ‘regional’, shake off the shackles of regionalism and look at things differently. It’s by thinking differently that the nine screen agencies operating across England have decided to start working in a more joined up way under the auspices of Screen England. Together we know we can increase our core value to audiences and screen-industry professionals, lobby government at local and national level more effectively and, in these straitened times, find ways to
do it more efficiently.
As Ed Vaizey, shadow minister for culture, commented recently at the Screen International Film Summit, the Regional Screen Agencies will survive because they’ve already proved they can adapt to changing market conditions.
That readiness to collaborate and to think imaginatively has seen us grow from a network of small agencies - originally set up by the UK Film Council to develop talent, show films and preserve archives - into a series of independent companies that leverage funds from a range of sources including, importantly, Regional Development Agencies.
We serve communities in rural, as well as urban, areas. We connect the local to the national in unique ways, working with teenage film-makers from disadvantaged backgrounds on the one hand and wooing top Hollywood producers on the other. We bring every imaginable film culture to audiences across the land.
With our support, archive libraries are rapidly being digitised - and truly exciting new ways are being found so people can access them. We’re talent scouts par excellence, winkling out the great writers, producers and directors of tomorrow through workshops, short-film schemes and business support.
Basically, if it’s on a screen, we support it. Cinema, television, games and digital media across all platforms. That’s not about being regional - it’s about being ambitious. The UK’s place in the global economy will depend increasingly on digital and creative industries as the communication revolution envisioned in the government’s recent Digital Britain report becomes reality.
As politicians of all parties are fond of telling us, the UK will only prosper if we develop all the talents of all the people - and that includes the five out of every six who live outside the M25.
It no longer makes sense to think of ‘regional’ as the kid brother of ‘national’, so let’s outlaw the word and be done with it.