Our Friend in Yorkshire: Lisa Holdsworth

Our Friend in Yorkshire: Lisa Holdsworth

By Lisa Holdsworth,
Wednesday, 16th November 2022
Lisa Holdsworth (credit: The Haworth Agency)
Lisa Holdsworth (credit: The Haworth Agency)
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Lisa Holdsworth hails the non-TV bodies helping to grow the region’s flourishing television sector.

If you look at the schedules, it would be reasonable to assume that everyone in Yorkshire goes about their day-to-day life followed by a camera crew. It seems we have every profession covered, including vets, farmers, midwives, shepherdesses, auctioneers and airport workers.

In addition, Yorkshire continues to inspire writers like me to write shows such as Gentleman Jack, Ackley Bridge, Hullraisers, Happy Valley and, of course, Emmerdale, which recently celebrated 50 years of being filmed in the region.

The big broadcasters are here: Sky, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, and we have a plethora of smaller production companies and facilities. However, there are other participants who help Yorkshire maintain its flourishing TV ecosystem.

Our universities are working hard to develop new talent in the region. I’ve seen evidence of that as I have been involved with RTS Yorkshire’s Student Television Awards for more than 10 years.

Across the board, there has been an extraordinary improvement in the quality and professionalism of the films. And when it comes to handing out the awards in February, we can guarantee that representatives from most of the local production companies will be there, hoping to snap up fresh talent.

The region’s industry is also supported by our local authorities, which understand that TV and film production bring jobs and money into the area. Tracy Brabin, the West Yorkshire Mayor, is a TV veteran herself, having been an actor and writer before she entered politics.

Leeds City Council is an excellent example of an industry-friendly authority, having supported the successful bid for the Channel 4 HQ. It helped fund the building of Versa Studios in central Leeds, which has doubled the city’s studio and production space. It has also attracted some big players to the region, including Marvel Studios.

It will be odd to see Leeds and Halifax doubling for Moscow when Secret Invasion is released later this year. I never thought I’d see Nick Fury walk down The Headrow. The six-part series stars Samuel L Jackson – who plays Fury- Emilia Clarke and Olivia Colman.

Finally, we cannot underestimate the influence of Screen Yorkshire. It has been supporting film and TV production in Yorkshire and Humber for more than 20 years. Its Yorkshire Content Fund provides production finance that has encouraged producers from across the globe to film in the county. It also delivers training and development programmes with partners such as ScreenSkills, the National Film and Television School and the British Film Institute to improve the skills and diversity of Yorkshire’s TV workforce.

Diversity and inclusion are now not only desirable for our industry; they are imperative. Audiences are demanding authentic stories that reflect their lived experiences, their families and their communities. If we don’t attract people from previously overlooked communities into our industry, we only have ourselves to blame when TV ceases to be relevant and younger viewers migrate en masse to platforms such as TikTok to find relatable content.

However, the pace of change is maddeningly slow. It could be that the time for schemes and competitions has passed and we all need to take a long, hard look at our own offices, production teams and writers rooms. It is important that we recognise the physical and mental barriers that block access to our industry. And then we need to tear them down.

When I graduated from university in London, I was warned that returning to Yorkshire would stifle my career and I should stay in the metropolis. It was a load of rubbish back then and it certainly is now. I’m proud to be part of a true community of programme-makers, educators and civil servants who work together to produce some of the best TV in the world. Made in Yorkshire.

Lisa Holdsworth is a screenwriter whose credits include Ackley Bridge, Call the Midwife and Waterloo Road and is Chair of RTS Yorkshire.