Looking north

With Channel 4 moving its HQ to Leeds next month, Hazel Davis takes a look at the thriving cultural scene in the city, as well as the challenges it faces to attract talent

It might seem like a cliché but the long-established north-south divide is sadly alive and well. In the media, at least. When the BBC announced it was moving to Salford back in 2010, it was with great fanfare about how it would benefit the wider region. Yet the media reacted in predictable ways. Popular broadcasters claimed they couldn’t leave London and the usual ‘grim up North’ jokes abounded. By 2017 the Centre for Cities had announced a negligible effect on employment and the economy outside of MediaCity.

This year, when Channel 4 announced Leeds as its new HQ, employing around 300 people in the city’s former Majestic nightclub (the inspiration for the Kaiser Chiefs’ song I Predict A Riot), a similarly mealy-mouthed reaction could be seen, with the Financial Times reporting that the broadcaster predicted up to 90% of its staff would opt for redundancy.

But the reaction from Leeds’ creative industries is healthy. “Everyone I speak to is really positive about the move, seeing it as a real endorsement for the region as a hub for ideas,” says Alex Halfpenny, Leeds-based Design Director at brand design consultancy Elmwood, which has studios has studios in Leeds, London, New York, Singapore, and Melbourne. “From designers to filmmakers, to set builders and graffiti artists, we all see the move as a great opportunity for the region to have a louder voice, but also for Channel 4 to reap the benefits of such a rich seam of creative talent on its doorstep.”