Death of Screen Yorkshire

On Tuesday 18 January 2011, Screen Yorkshire, the regional screen agency for the Yorkshire and Humber region, announced that it was entering into ‘a consultation process with a number of staff regarding the future of their posts as part of an ongoing review of the future of the organisation.’ The actual announcement can be read here.

Screen Yorkshire’s announcement followed from the previous night’s (17 January 2011) BBC Look North (Yorkshire) which led with the story that the agency had run out of money and was making staff redundant following the government’s decision to abolish the UK Film Council, the regional screen agencies, and the regional development agencies. A contract with Yorkshire Forward worth £10.2 million to promote the screen industries will end in March 2011. Since Screen Yorkshire is a regional screen agency jointly funded by the UK Film Council and Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency, this was inevitable. The government has proposed that as part of its restructuring of the industry that three major production hubs should be established in the UK as part of ‘Creative England,’ and the one for the North (covering the North East, the North West, and Yorkshire and Humber) is to be located at Manchester.

BBC Look North (Yorkshire) announces that Screen Yorkshire has run out of funding (17/01/11)

According to reports, the ‘restructuring’ will see up to 15 of the agency’s 19 members of staff made redundant.

Screen Yorkshire’s situation is not unique:

  • Last December, North West Vision+Media announced that 25 posts were under review out of a total staffing of 35, and that it’s funding beyond March 2011 is also unclear. However, this is less of a problem due to the government’s decision to locate a Creative England hub in Manchester. Staff at Vision+Media are already working four-day weeks following 20% pay cuts in November 2010.
  • Screen East went into liquidation last year with debts of £4 million, and this is a region that is close to London and includes Leavesden Studios (where the Star Wars prequels were shot).

Screen Yorkshire has announced that it will continue to deliver its existing contracts over the next year, but it seems likely that it will not be able to function properly as a regional screen agency from April 1 until the creation of the ‘Creative England’ hub for the North. The due diligence process for replacing the UK Film Council with the ‘new BFI’ has not been completed, and no plans for ‘Creative England’ have been released by the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport. Although one round of consultations has apparently been completed on the ‘new BFI’ and Creative England, the next round has not yet begun, while the reality of the recession is overtaking the regional screen agencies. This is not an orderly transition from one policy regime to another, and the fact that we are seeing regional screen agencies running out of funding before the final decisions about the future of film institutions have been taken only reinforces the image of film policy at the DCMS under Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey as incoherent, poorly planned, and incompetently executed.

The future of bodies such as Screen Yorkshire may be in providing regional support outside of the major CE hubs, but this is a return to the days of the old screen commissions of the 1990s when bodies such as the Yorkshire Screen Commission, based in Sheffield, were the only source of contact for producers from both within and without. These commissions had low levels of staffing and were largely cut off from the other bodies responsible for film policy. The introduction of the regional screen agencies was, in part, supposed to remedy precisely this problem. As I have discussed elsewhere, part of the introduction of the regional screen agencies was a process of bureaucratization and professionalization that saw specialized staff hired to fulfil specific roles on a full-time basis in an organized manner. (See Redfern N 2005 Film in the English regions, International Journal of Regional and Local Studies 1 (2): 52-64). Under the government’s announced restructuring of film policy, Yorkshire will have no dedicated film body, with production/funding/distribution funding distributed from Manchester and Film London responsible for promoting locations. If Screen Yorkshire can survive in some form to fulfil this role then that will at least preserve some useful knowledge and key relationships at the regional level. If it cannot, then that bureaucratization and professionalization will be undone.

The impact will not only be felt in the film and television industries, but will also have severe consequences for video games developers in the region. Game Republic is a part of Screen Yorkshire, and the loss of funding to the regional screen agency will lead to the closure of the network unless funding can be secured from private sources.

This story has been followed up by (here), The Guardian (here and here), The Telegraph and Argus (here), Yorkshire Evening Post (here), The New Statesman (here), The Stage (here), The Drum (here), and Develop (here).

About Nick Redfern

I am an independent academic with over 15 years experience teaching film in higher education in the UK. I have taught film analysis, film industries, film theories, film history, science fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, and Leeds Trinity University, where I was programme leader for film from 2016 to 2020. My research interests include computational film analysis, horror cinema, sound design, science fiction, film trailers, British cinema, and regional film cultures.

Posted on January 20, 2011, in British Cinema, Film Industry, Film Policy, Film Studies, Regionalism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Suzanne Alizart

    A very interesting view. It is worth noting that a) DCMS does not have as direct a relationship with the (ex) RSAs as it does with BFI or UKFC and is not in control of their evolution; b)the first consultation alluded to was not public; c)the decision of where to base the hubs came as an acceptance of those that nominated themselves. Hardly strategic or aligned with national changes.

    I understand a measure of consultation is due before April as to future plans – possibly too late for Screeen Yorkshire, maybe for others too. The fact that agencies are running out of funds is helping shore up a decidedly awkward process and providing a suitable landscape for renewing centralised authorities (in the 3 hubs) with a stranglehold on policy and resources.

    A far cry from the achievements of a network that saw agencies raise more funds than given in public finance for film and support the development of award winning writers and directors across England. Maybe the regions are expected to be grateful for still being considered at all in the plans that only affect the “real” industry, in Soho?

    In the meantime, it seems that what took ten years to build in Yorkshire will be wiped away with little care, and even less regard afforded to those dependent on its support. Maybe this is only an extension of the policy making on-the-hoof displayed in other government areas, which is affecting end users first, not last, and resulting in “frontline services” disappearing before they can be protected.

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