It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham, and to put Cardiff’s case for Channel 4. As we are talking about Channel 4, it is right that I should use four Cs to put my case: that we are a creative cultural capital, that we have a diverse community, that we have the cutting-edge capacity that Channel 4 needs and, crucially, that we already deliver a commitment to Channel 4 in our city.
My first speech in this place was about Cardiff and how it has changed over many years. We were at the heart of the industrial revolution and coal and steel exporting across the world; the first £1 million cheque was signed in the coal exchange. I spoke about how the smoke stacks and docks of old were giving way to the brand new creative cutting-edge industries of the future, and the opportunities that they were giving young people in our diverse capital city. That is where I see Cardiff’s future, and I know that view is shared by my colleagues and hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin), for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) and indeed for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), although I know he will have to take a careful and balanced view today from the Front Bench. That view is also taken by Cardiff City Council, the city region, our leader Huw Thomas, the Welsh Government and all our arts and cultural institutions, including those in the television and film production sector in Cardiff.
Independent TV already generates £350 million in the Cardiff economy every year. We already have 15,000 people employed in creative and cultural activities— a ready-made resource of expertise for Channel 4 to tap into. We have 7,000 students studying in the creative sectors in Cardiff at a range of institutions, which I will come on to. We have 3,000 creative companies and facilities located in Cardiff, including those in television and film production. Some are very large, including the famous BBC Drama Village, Pinewood Studios and Wolf Studios Wales. A strong relationship already exists between Channel 4 and Sianel Pedwar Cymru—S4C—the fourth channel in Wales, and its facilities are not far down the road. We also have the new ITV facility in Assembly Square.
We have fantastic facilities such as NoFit State Circus, the Wales Millennium Centre and the Cardiff Animation Festival, and community facilities such as Indycube in my constituency, which provides facilities for small, start-up creatives that are often supplying the larger facilities, right there and being supported in our community. We also have fantastic locations such as the TramShed.
We have a diverse community; I know many cities around the UK will share that, but Cardiff truly is remarkably diverse, with 100 languages, 100 nationalities and one of the oldest Muslim communities in the UK. In my own constituency alone I have six mosques, three Hindu temples, a synagogue just on the edge, a Sikh gurdwara, a Greek Orthodox church and people who have come from far and wide because of Cardiff’s maritime heritage and our welcoming city. It is a remarkable community to draw on and represents the Wales and Britain of today—a perfect place for Channel 4.
Of course, diversity goes well beyond issues of ethnicity, religion and national origin. As a gay MP, I am proud that Cardiff hosts the Iris prize, one of the leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film festivals, every year, that we are the host of Pride Cymru and part of the Big Weekend, one of the biggest LGBT celebrations across the UK, and that I am likely to bump into people such as Russell T. Davies down in Cardiff bay. He is the creator of one of Channel 4’s most famous programmes, “Queer as Folk”, and more recently things such as “Cucumber” and “Banana”, as well of course “Doctor Who”, produced in Cardiff.
We have a strong commitment to another issue that Channel 4 is also committed to—disability and Paralympic sport. We are the birthplace of Tanni Grey-Thompson, who learned to swim in the Splott pool in my own constituency and went to St Cyres School in Penarth, and of Paralympic champions such as Aled Davies and others whom Channel 4 has done so much to champion.
We have cutting-edge capacity. We were No. 1 for quality of life in the EU’s city index in 2016. We have the digital connectivity and infrastructure that is driving so many creative film and TV companies to Cardiff. We have those three universities, the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the University of South Wales, and we have the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama generating talent, skills, technical capacity and all the other supplies that Channel 4 will need to be successful in Cardiff. We have that crucial working population of one quarter of a million in Cardiff, and of course we have the wider capital city region. We have places such as Cardiff and Vale College in my own constituency, which I am proud to see building up young people to go into the creative sectors.
Crucially, we are already delivering a commitment for Channel 4. The broadcast award-winning Boomerang, one of the largest suppliers to Channel 4 covering primetime, daytime and sports coverage, is located locally. We have companies such as Nimble Dragon, Avanti, Sugar and Boom Cymru already working with Channel 4, and others are leading the way: One Tribe TV, Tarian, Vox Pictures, Orchard, Bad Wolf and Wolf Studios Wales. We have fantastic post-production facilities, with cutting-edge companies such as Gorilla, and visual effects companies such as Bait Studio, Milk VFX and Reel SFX. Fitting with what Channel 4 is looking for, the executive producer of “Doctor Who”, Chris Chibnall, said, “The talent base here is simply extraordinary, it is ambitious, bold and takes risks.”
That is very much the Channel 4 that I know and love, and that is what Channel 4 can gain from coming to Cardiff. I hope the Minister will listen closely; I hope Channel 4 will listen closely, and I look forward to supporting the bid with all my Cardiff colleagues and those in the wider region in the days and weeks to come.