Our Friend in the Midlands: Ed Shedd

Our Friend in the Midlands: Ed Shedd

Ed Shedd (Credit: Create Central)
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Proud Brummie Ed Shedd celebrates his region’s renaissance.

The West Midlands sits at the heart of the country. It’s not just a geographical crossroads, where the nation’s canals, railways and roads meet, it’s a cultural crossroads, too. 

The historic home of Shakespeare and Tolkien, it is also the birthplace of Peaky Blinders and creative tour de force Sir Lenny Henry, backdrop to Great British Menu and The Archers, and Leamington Spa (or Silicon Spa) is a centre of global video games production. Oh, and Coventry is UK City of Culture 2021. 

One of the youngest, most diverse regions in Europe, the West Midlands is a cultural smorgasbord, where more than 100 languages are spoken. It is full of talented people with stories to tell and a desire to explore all forms of content creation to tell them – from TV to film, VR to AR, theatre to video games. At Create Central, we are deter­mined to make sure they get the chance. 

Create Central was set up in late 2019 by the creative community in the West Midlands to promote the region as the “Home of Original Story­telling”. Business-led and backed by key local creatives such as Steven Knight, Debbie Isitt and Kit de Waal (and many, many more), we are on a mission to turbocharge the region’s creative content sector.

As a first step, in February of this year, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership announced a £3m investment in an £18m creative content hub in the heart of Birmingham. An early brainchild of Create Central’s founding members, this campus-style hub will act as a magnet for new talent and creative companies across the region, as well as existing indies, such as North One and Optomen. 

Recognising the importance of the public service broadcasters investing much more in the region than at present, this announcement was swiftly followed in March by the signing of a major partnership agreement with the BBC. 

Backed by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, as well as Create Central, this includes specific commitments to the region – three prime-time factual shows will move to Birmingham; there will be a new network drama series and a new network entertainment show; and BBC Asian Network will return to Brum and be joined by BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat. 

But the importance of the agreement goes far beyond the specifics. Tim Davie and his team have been enthusiastic partners and share our desire to ensure that the BBC’s investment in the region generates a wider creative evolution, with the licence fee acting as venture capital for our local creative economy. 

Of course, it’s not just about the BBC. We are actively talking to other major broadcasters in the UK, including Channel 4, which remains for us a crucial partner if we are to achieve our ambitions for the local indie sector. 

We are also focusing on the international market. Investment in film and high-end TV in the UK is at near record levels, and 80% of this is inward investment, so we absolutely want to build partnerships with the likes of YouTube and Netflix, too. 

There will be lots more to come – not least the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Festival in 2022 and Steven Knight’s Mercian Studios. The journey ahead will doubtless be long and arduous, but it will also be fun. To echo Samwise Gamgee in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” So, we’ve decided that we better get on with it. 

Ed Shedd is Chair of Create Central and runs Deloitte’s north and south Europe Technology, Media & Telecoms Practice.