The Creative Cities Convention has chosen OPPORTUNITY as its theme for 2023, to reflect the rapid growth of the screen sector outside London in all four corners of the UK.

The conference, which travels to a different city each year and provides the industry’s only dedicated platform for anyone working in film, TV or digital media outside London, will take place at the historic Boiler Shop in Newcastle, where Robert Stephenson built the first steam engine in the early 1800s.

‘The Victorians understood how to harness ingenuity and talent outside London and we’re doing the same,’ says conference director Ruth Pitt. ‘We’re channelling opportunity as a theme because the growth of our industry in the Nations and Regions is starting to make a real difference to local economies and communities.’

The 2023 event is being delivered with support from the twelve local authorities and three combined authorities in the North East – who have collaborated to form the North East Screen Industries Partnership.

‘We are thrilled to welcome the Creative Cities Convention to Newcastle, the heart of the North East,’ says Invest Newcastle director Jen Hartley. ‘Our city and wider region have recently experienced tremendous growth in the creative industries sector, with ambitious plans being brought forward for new production facilities and jobs being created for local residents at all levels. We can’t wait to showcase our city and welcome everyone here later in April.’

As well as the main event in Newcastle, several other activities will take place across the region.

On Teesside a morning of masterclasses for over 100 students will run at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, with students from colleges and universities arriving by coach from across the region. And in Darlington a small leaders’ breakfast will be hosted by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, to discuss the strategic development of the industry – boosted recently by government levelling-up funds to establish a media village in Hartlepool.

In Sunderland on April 24th there will also be an address to students at the University of Sunderland by Rhodri Talfan Davies, the BBC’s Director of Nations, whose speech “More local than ever: The BBC at the heart of local communities” will explain the BBC’s plans to ‘transform its local services and the opportunity to offer local communities even more in the future’. Rhodri is in charge of BBC services for the nations and local audiences across Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

The University of Sunderland is also supporting a conference session on the growth of film and TV studios outside London, reflecting independent production company Fulwell 73’s plans to develop major studios on the banks of the Wear in Sunderland and deliver global industry impact.

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s Chief Content Officer says: ‘We are proud to be part of the boost to the screen sector in the North East. We’re now on track to exceed the £25 million we promised to the region and have already delivered six new commissions while supporting production, talent development and the creative sector. It’s the perfect location for this year’s Creative Cities Convention.’

Channel 4’s MD of Nations and Regions Sinead Rocks will talk to host Kirsty Wark about the channel’s plans for growth outside London now that privatisation is off the table, and Channel 4 head of drama Caroline Hollick, based in Leeds, will join a stellar panel including Nicola Shindler, the head of ITV Studios-owned indie Quay Street, to share thoughts on the strong new regional voice of drama. Glasgow based commissioner Deborah Dunnett and senior comedy commissioner Andy Brereton will also contribute on behalf of Channel 4.

Elsewhere, ITV’s group director of diversity and inclusion Ade Rawcliffe will join Channel 4 director of commissioning operations Emma Hardy and 5 News editor Cait Fitzsimons to discuss making TV a happier place to work, and ITV factual supremo Jo Clinton-Davis and UKTV’s Director of Commissioning Hilary Rosen will offer clues for delegates on the future of factual television.

The ongoing skills shortage will be tackled in depth, with Sonny Hanley, ITV Academy Director, among those assessing the areas of greatest need. He says: ‘Supporting the regions is at the heart of what we do at ITV. I am delighted to be a part of this year’s Creative Cities Convention. This is a step towards change in our industry and ensuring that the future is bright for talented creatives to pursue a career in a sector that needs them.’

Two of the industry’s leading figures – Pact CEO John McVay and ITV’s group director of Strategy, Policy and Regulation Magnus Brooke – will discuss what the newly published draft Media Bill could mean for broadcasters and producers.

As well as the convention’s original stakeholders – the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5/Paramount and Pact – the event is this year supported by Banijay UK, returning for a second year, and UKTV, who are partnering with the CCC for the first time.

Hilary Rosen, UKTV’s Director of Commissioning says, ‘It’s fantastic to be partnering with the Creative Cities Convention this year. Some of our most successful and returnable programmes are made by production partners based in the regions so we are excited to come to Newcastle and start more conversations about collaborating with North East indies.’

Conference discussions will range from the growth of studios to insights on factual television, the serious business of comedy, growing a successful indie outside London and bagging a big hit returning series, which will include the star of the successful series Robson Green’s Weekend Escapes. A session called Northern Treasures will welcome three more of the North East’s best known names – Sara Davies from Dragon’s Den, Si King from Hairy Bikers and Scarlett Moffatt of Gogglebox fame.

Delegates have already booked speed-dates with commissioning editors from all the main channels and a big networking party hosted by Banijay UK promises to maximise opportunities for connection and collaboration across the UK. A selection of shows made outside London will be explored in a Meet The Makers feature and an industry marketplace will house a range of industry organisations supporting the development of the screen sector.

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