BLOG: Creative industries can engage our fast growing, young, diverse population

Championing unheard voices

Since taking on the role as Chair of the Combined Authority I�ve spent a lot of time with our Trade & Investment team to better understand the primary business drivers that are making our city region an increasingly popular place to invest. In many respects, it�s a vital component to our overall agenda to ensure young people have great career opportunities, businesses can thrive and our overall economy can grow.

One particular project that I am personally excited that could make a huge positive impact on this agenda is the burgeoning opportunity to attract part of Channel 4�s main activities to the region. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has come about due to the Culture Secretary announcing the desire for Channel 4 to relocate from London, spread their impact and to inspire a broadening � some say rebalancing - of the creative industries sector across the UK.

In many ways the very essence of this requirement is tightly aligned to Channel 4 public service remit which is to champion unheard voices, innovate and take bold creative risks to inspire change in the way we lead our lives and to stand up for diversity across the UK.

Young and diverse

I represent Bradford which has one of the youngest and most-ethnically diverse cities in the United Kingdom with nearly a quarter of our population under the age of 16. Across the wider Leeds City Region our under twenty-one population has grown at more than three times the UK national average and since 2010 our sixteen-to-twenty four population has grown at more than eight times the UK national average.

Our ability to provide young talented workers is further boosted by the popularity of Universities who are attracting thousands of students each year. They don�t just study here, they stay - with fifty six percent of graduates choosing to live and work here. This is further fuelled by our talented young students returning, as seventy percent of graduates originally born in the region move back here for work after studying elsewhere.

In some respects the prospect of Channel 4 coming to our region has already had a profound impact on our behaviour as a Combined Authority and a collective of Councils. Many will have seen our #4sparks campaign which has been a massive success and has engaged and unearthed a great range of creative champions who are characteristically going about their fascinating work in the typically unpretentious but distinctive style that we have become accustomed to. I was delighted and inspired that our promising young Bradford creatives backed the campaign including Maariah Hussain, star of Ackley Bridge and Suman Hanif a new voice in the world of documentary. I�d like to personally thank all the champions for giving their time and support.

This reaction to our own campaign has convinced many, and myself, that the creative industries provide a primary route for engaging with our fast growing, young diverse population. I believe that, in lots of ways these folks are the beating heart of our next revolution, the digital pioneers or our future � the creators, thinkers and enablers that will play a fundamental role in bringing about the social and economic progression we need.

The right conditions for growth

Channel 4 have a stronger relationship with young people than any other public service broadcaster in the world and by potentially coming to this region they provide us with an unmissable chance to engage with their audience at an age where they will be developing a clear sense of who they are, starting to make choices about their own interests as they become more independent and define their own work habits, plans and expectations.

We�ve developed the infrastructure to help businesses grow through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership�s (LEP) Growth Service. It has been a national beacon of excellence for supporting small-medium sized businesses with the growth hub service having assisted 3,700 business in the past two and a half years. This dynamic business culture could be a real asset to an organisation like Channel 4 that seeks itself to grow new and exciting businesses to create world-class content.

I think this Channel 4 opportunity could be a stimulus for us to provide our young talent with the resources they need to be creative and to show the world what they are capable of. With Channel 4 navigating the way, our young people can forge ahead knowing that we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them by encouraging entrepreneurship, supporting businesses to start up, scale up and operate more commercially.

To find out more about the #4sparks campaign to bring Channel 4 to the region, please click here.