Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees: Channel 4 and Bristol share the vision of an inclusive growing economy where nobody is left behind
Channel 4 executives visited Bristol recently to hear why the city should become the site of its new national HQ. Here Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees reflects on Bristol’s bid – one of seven from across the UK – and how it has galvanized the city.
Bristol is a great city, it’s my city. I say that having lived the best and worst of what it has to offer. At its worst it’s been a city of inequality, racism and social division in which it was hard to be poor, harder to be poor and black, and in which my mother faced huge struggles as a single white woman bringing up mixed-race children.
At its best it’s been the city that’s wrestled with itself and faced up to its contradictions and sought to be better. It’s the city that gave a lost kid like me a messy combination of inspiration, hope and imperfect opportunity that became the pathway to becoming Europe’s first directly-elected mayor of African heritage.
This captures the essence of the city for me. We are a city that holds together high aspiration with gritty reality. From tech to digital to media and finance we are a world-leading city that looks forward while we grapple with our difficult past. We are a city loved and defended by its people who simultaneously are relentless in publicly debating its challenges. 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 BBC’s Natural History Unit, Martin Parr, Banksy, Helen Dunmore, Massive Attack and Paul Stephenson. It’s given us the title of the leading global smart city and the best place to live in the UK.
We celebrated last month when Bristol was shortlisted as one of seven cities in the running for Channel 4’s national HQ, which will be home to a new studio and a new digital production unit that will create compelling short-form digital content targeted at young audiences.
We know every shortlisted 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. We will all talk up our existing media businesses and proximity to London. And we will all talk about the positive economic impact locating Channel 4 in our respective cities will generate. We will all have strong cases.
There’s no doubt that we tick the boxes. Our strong media sector, already home to more than 130 production and post-production companies, our working population, travel links to London, our physical and digital infrastructure. Based here, Channel 4 could be part of a major media sector and a fast-growing tech sector, part of a city already globally recognised as a digital innovation centre across multiple technology platforms. The second largest tech hub in the country, we offer access to existing R&D initiatives around immersive technologies, 5G connectivity and more.
But I also believe that in Bristol, Channel 4 will find a city with whom it shares values and a group of people it wants to work with. We currently have an amazing partnership between public, private, voluntary, education and faith organisations working together for our common good: inclusive and sustainable development. Our One City plan is bringing together city partners, business, volunteers, communities, universities and city institutions; to set targets the whole city is pointed at – for an inclusive growing economy where nobody is left behind. We want Channel 4 to be a part of that.
Together, not only could we continue to create world-class content, but we could work to break down the race and class barriers that have locked many talented people out of the creative sector.
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 it is because of this that I believe that Channel 4 would be good for Bristol and Bristol would be good for Channel 4.
With support from Bristol’s creative and media businesses and partners over the past months, we’ve made a strong case for what we have to offer. We’ve showcased our talent and the possibilities of what Channel 4 and our city could do together. We’ve shown we are a united city that can galvanize cross-sector support quickly when faced with an opportunity we know would be good for our city. And that’s something we can all be proud of.
Channel 4 will announce its decision in October.