Bristol makes it onto shortlist for new Channel 4 headquarters

Bristol has been included on a seven-strong shortlist of cities competing to become the location for Channel 4’s new headquarters.

The city, along with Cardiff, Glasgow, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and the West Midlands, will now be invited to submit more information to the broadcaster to back its bid. 

Bristol faces intense competition from its rivals to bring the broadcaster and around 300 staff to the city. 

The new Channel 4 national HQ will operate alongside its London base, pictured below, and will include a TV studio as well as hosting executive and board meetings. Importantly, it will also bring millions of pounds of additional work for local and regional companies linked to programme commissions. 

The Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees met Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon last month to put the case for the city. The bid – which draws on Bristol’s reputation for being unorthodox, diverse, rebellious and pioneering – has powerful backing from the city’s MPs, Bristol City Council and its leading creative and cultural bodies.

The city has based its bid on its already established and highly innovative creative and tech sectors while also celebrating its rich diversity.

Mayor Rees is urging the city as a whole to get behind the bid and champion its vibrant arts and cultural scene. 

He believes that while Bristol’s bid has not been as high profile as some others, it has a more compelling offer as it can draw on its creative sector heavyweights such as the BBC’s Natural History Unit, Wallace & Gromit maker Aardman Animations and the Bottle Yard film and TV studios while also boasting enviable grassroots creative, music, arts and tech scenes alongside a packed and varied calendar of festivals and cultural events.

Mayor Rees said this afternoon: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted by Channel 4 to become its new national HQ or one of two new creative hubs.

“Bristol has a culture of innovation which disrupts and has always been a city that makes things happen. We are city which reflects the diversity of the UK and the globe, with a commitment to inclusion which stretches from our grassroots organisations to the top of political leadership.

“Channel 4 is built on innovative and distinctive broadcasting which stimulates debate and champions alternative points of view. It is committed to diversity and nurturing new talent to change people’s lives. These are values we share and want in Bristol and it is because of this that I believe that Channel 4 would be good for Bristol and Bristol would be good for Channel 4.

“Now, with our fantastic partners across the city’s creative and media sectors, we look forward to welcoming Channel 4 in the coming weeks to show them our talent, creativity and the possibilities of our city. We will discuss how we could work together and develop their vision for the future beside ours.”

Bristol’s bid is also strengthened by the fact that over recent years it has established itself as a magnet for the TV and film industry with the Bristol Film Office and Bottle Yard Studios helping bring a wide range of productions to the city, from hard-hitting dramas such as Channel 4’s Kiri to the Crystal Maze (also Channel 4) and the BBC’s Poldark.

In addition, earlier this year Bristol become one of 13 cities across the world – and one of just two in the UK – to be awarded UNESCO City of Film status. 

In his introduction to the official bid document, Mayor Rees said: “Bristol is the city of diversity where we champion the fact that we experience the same raw material of urban life in very different ways. It’s in this we find the city’s true wealth: its culture of creativity, unorthodoxy, innovation, questioning and restlessness. It’s this culture that’s resulted in Aardman Animations, the Natural History Unit, Martin Parr, Banksy, Helen Dunmore, Massive Attack and Paul Stephenson.

“Every city will offer a nice building in a nice location with the best digital connection they can provide. That can be taken as read and Bristol will do the same.

“But my belief is that in Bristol, Channel 4 will find a city with whom it shares values and a group of people it wants to work with.”

Channel 4, which received more than 30 submissions for the first round of the bidding process, has three key criteria for the location of its new HQ: A working population of more than 200,000, a travel time to London of up to three hours and a high level of physical and digital connectivity/infrastructure – all of which Bristol meets.

Channel 4 bosses and their consultants will visit the shortlisted cities next month to find out more before the final decision is announced on October 1. 

Earlier this month researchers from property consultancy Barton Willmore’s development economics team analysed the suitability of each of the contending cities in England, Scotland and Wales across four key areas. These include having: a large, qualified labour force; decent housing affordability and quality of life; an established creative media industry and strong university links. 

Bristol, along with Glasgow and Leeds, was ranked in the top five in the majority of these categories and, according to Barton Willmore, should be “considered frontrunners for the new HQ” ahead of more established favourites such as Birmingham. 

This afternoon Barton Willmore Bristol partner Simon Prescott, pictured, said: “Channel 4’s decision to shortlist the digital and cultural capital of the South West reflects our own research that ranked Bristol as a front-runner.

“It is yet another vote of confidence for this great city. I also strongly believe today’s announcement confirms the attractiveness of Bristol as a place to work and is another significant stepping-stone in increasing investor confidence in the region and delivering socio-economics benefits.

“Reaching this exciting next stage really is testament to both the hard work carried out by Mayor Rees as well as the council, but also the diverse, innovative and creative nature of Bristol that would be the perfect fit for Channel 4.”

Belfast, Brighton, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Stoke-on-Trent are being considered by Channel 4 as sites for two new ‘creative hubs’. The losing cities on the shortlist for the national HQ will also be considered as sites for a creative hub. 

Channel 4 chief commercial officer Jonathan Allan, who is running the bid process, said: “After careful consideration by the Channel 4 executive team, we’ve selected 13 cities that are best able to meet our vision for our new hubs in the nations and regions.

“We look forward to visiting all those on the shortlist as part of our second phase, but we will also be continuing to work with all cities and regions as part of our strategy to increase investment and support creative businesses, jobs and growth across the UK.”

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