I also pay tribute to Stewart Malcolm McDonald for securing today’s debate.
The spread of the creative industries across our country is of great importance to me. I am lucky to have worked in the creative industries for many years, and because of that experience I understand the positive impact that they can have on economic growth, skills, training, employment and regeneration. That is why I see Channel 4’s decision to move significant parts of its operation as a great step and a powerful catalyst for change. The opportunities the relocation brings have caught the attention of many regions, and the Leeds city region, which includes my constituency and the district of Kirklees, is among them. It hopes to spark a revolution in the creative and screen industries in Yorkshire.
Although I am happy to back that bid, I want to ensure that the decision makers do not overlook Leeds’s less well-known neighbours. I hope they look beyond the big cities when choosing where to relocate, and factor in what surrounds those cities. Our towns and villages, such as Batley and Spen, have just as much to offer, and arguably more to gain. This revolution needs to benefit the whole of Leeds and the city region, not just the city. In Kirklees, we have talent, creativity, technical know-how and digital infrastructure to rival what can be found anywhere in the nation.
We are well served for motorway access; we have wonderful picturesque towns and villages, boutique hotels, great restaurants, loads of ice cream parlours, a proud industrial heritage and a vibrant multicultural community, not to mention mile after mile of stunning countryside. Channel 4 need look no further for film locations, from sprawling manors steeped in history and beautiful country parks to thriving urban hubs and heavy industry. “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” and the miniseries “Gunpowder” were both filmed at the stunning Oakwell Hall and country park in Birstall. The Emmy award-winning “Hank Zipzer” filmed in Batley, and Kay Mellor’s series on births, marriages and deaths was filmed in Dewsbury town hall.
Last year, in memory of my predecessor Jo Cox, we brought an acclaimed production of “Les Mis” to the town of Batley. We had a diverse community of 100 young people from across our diverse schools, with an A-list west end professional team sharing their skills and enabling our young working-class kids to punch well above their weight. We proved it could be done, and we will do it again. While Channel 4 is at the forefront of promoting regional talent, we have talent in spades. I beg the Minister to impress on Channel 4 that talent lies not only in the cities, but in the towns that surround them, and that the opportunities in these communities must be part of its thinking when deciding where to relocate. I put my hat in the ring and say that Leeds city region is obviously where my heart lies, but I hope the regional element will also be factored in.