In a letter to the industry, the Creative England chair has defended concerns over the newly formed body’s remit and regional diversity; over 500 submissions were made as part of the consultation process.

Creative England chair John Newbigin has issued a letter to the industry addressing concerns over the formation of the new regional body, which he confirmed will be fully operational by October.  

In his letter, Newbigin revealed that more than 500 parties, including industry organisations such as Skillset, Channel 4, Pact, Pinewood Studios and Directors UK, as well as freelancers and individual film-makers, had submitted a response during the consultation period, which ended March 31. He said that those submissions would now be evaluated by an independent assessor and that the agency would “offer full feedback in due course.”

Addressing concerns over the replacement of the existing regional screen agencies with a new structure based around the three “hub” cities of Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol (all of which are on the west side of the country), Newbigin said he intended to “work by forming alliances and partnerships that can give us the necessary reach across the full geographic and talent spread of England.”

The location of the three hubs was never up for consultation, but Newbigin said in his letter that the decision had been made last year by “the Regional Screen Agency Chairs and CEOs together.”  

In a potentially pointed statement, Newbigin said that Creative England’s remit was to “serve the needs of industry and communities, not to perpetuate the life of particular agencies.”

He also revealed that the agency would shortly be advertising for the key posts in the new Creative England operating companies, adding that “these will be openly advertised jobs independent of the existing Regional Screen Agencies.”

As Screen reported previously, there is already a shadow Creative England board in existence made up of the chairs of Screen West Midlands, South West Screen, Vision and Media and Screen South, which Newbigin set up to “drive things forward”.

Addressing this concern over the lack of representation for the east of the UK, Newbigin said that Elstree Studios MD Roger Morris would head up a “group of representative industry and cultural voices who can speak for the region as plans for Creative England.”.

He also defended concerns from the wider creative industries that Creative England was too narrowly focused on film, saying that it was “emphatically not the case.”

“We have focused on film in the first instance because Creative England will receive circa £2.5m grant in aid and circa £2m Lottery funding for film from the BFI, and this core support will be used to leverage additional funds from public and private sources.”

“We are already in discussion about funding for this larger remit and, when we have confirmation on this, we will, as with film, consult with the industry to identify priorities and concerns,” he added.

Between now and October Newbigin said that a priority for Creative England was to develop working relationships with the BFI and Film London.  

Newbigin said that despite the concerns, the consultation has been a positive one. “The majority of submissions broadly agree with our proposals and welcome the Government’s continued recognition of the value of film in the regions.”