Our Friend

Tom Wrathmell: Our Friend Across The Regions

Tom Wrathmell poses in front of the camera

Over the past year or so I’m sure many of you reading this have enjoyed the likes of Blue Lights, The Responder, Happy Valley and The Way. All huge BBC dramas. They have something else in common – they’re rooted in towns and cities across the UK.

This is no accident. In March 2021, we laid out our “Across the UK” blueprint for the BBC’s biggest transformation in decades, designed to move more of our programming and decision-making across the UK. The goal: to bring us closer to our audiences.

Our Friend in the Midlands: Kully Khaila

The year 1983 was a year rich in history for British television. It was the year Blackadder, Blockbusters and The Bill began… and there were many shows not beginning with B, too. One television start-up that became a stalwart that year was The Television Workshop, an institution from the Midlands that has been responsible for shaping the careers of so many talents on screen today.

Our Friend in the East: Rachel Watson

Rachel Watson

The east of England is so endlessly flat that there’s nothing between Cambridge and Siberia but Ely Cathedral. That’s why it gets so icy cold in the winter, I was told when I moved to the region to work as a BBC news producer and first experienced the freezing Fens.

At this time of year, Ely Cathedral soars from the surrounding levels towards big skies that are bright, bold and stone-cold blue. The light and the landscape are stunning, and it can be very attractive to film-makers.

Our Friend in the South: Stephanie Farmer

Stephanie Farmer

Along with many others, I was there in August, camera poised, looking out into the ethereal purple sky as the incredible supermoon rose majestically above the Isle of Wight and cast its dazzling reflection far out along the calm waters of the South Coast.  

I thought of it as the last hurrah to the hot, hot summer of 2022. And what a summer we had. There was a great deal to broadcast about. The Platinum Jubilee cheered us up as we picked up our flags and headed out into our post-Covid street parties.  

Our Friend in the North West: Cat Lewis

Cat Lewis (Credit: Nine Lives Media)

The £6bn post-pandemic boom in TV and film production is welcome news amid the uncertainty caused by the freeze to the BBC licence fee and the planned privatisation of Channel 4. 

The global expansion of content platforms and the UK’s fantastic reputation as a country that delivers excellent programmes means that there is more TV and film being made here than ever before. But there is a problem: we are predicted to have a shortfall of 40,000 creative-sector workers by 2025. 

Our Friend in the West: Lynn Barlow

Lynn Barlow (credit: Jon Craig)

It’s all about the “cultural dividend” in the West of England this year. It’s about identifying the sweet spots between public and private sector agendas and using creativity and culture to drive economic growth and opportunity in the region. We are off to a flying start with a newly published West of England Cultural Strategy and some welcome news about the strength and depth of our creative community (see here).

Our Friend in the North West: Sir Phil Redmond

Sir Phil Redmond (Credit: Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

Liverpool. The global port that Carl Gustav Jung dubbed the “pool of life”. The UK’s most-filmed location outside the capital. From Lita Roza’s No 1 hit How Much Is That Doggy in the Window? through to the Beatles; football dominance; comedy, both singular and sitcom; the backdrop for socially realistic drama, from Days of Hope and Z Cars through Blackstuff, Brookside and Hollyoaks to the BBC’s Time and Channel 4’s Help, with its Rose D’Or drama award, keeping the flame lit. 

Our Friend in the Midlands: Ed Shedd

Ed Shedd (Credit: Create Central)

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.