Creative England: Ready to 'Start Afresh'

Screen International, October 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

Creative England: Ready to 'Start Afresh'


In the week when Creative England opens for business, Sarah Cooper looks at the formation of the new regional organisation, and the challenges that lie ahead.

This week Creative England officially opened for business, with the appointment of seven board members and three senior managers who will head up the body's three core strands - talent development, location and production services and film culture. The new body will now be responsible for administering DCMS grant in aid funding of £1m and BFI lottery funding of £1m to the regions, with its film culture fund opening on Oct 17 and a talent development fund due to be up and running by November.

But the path to its creation has been anything but smooth with tensions between the regions, issues over transparency, changes over the proposed structure and a complicated legal process involving the transfer of employees from the regional screen agencies to the new body which is not yet complete.

And the end product is not quite the "reconfiguration of the regional screen agencies" that was envisaged back in November 2010 when culture minister Ed Vaizey first announced the new umbrella body.

Because as it stands, the only regional screen agency to have fully folded into Creative England is Screen West Midlands, whilst Screen Yorkshire, Screen South, EM Media and Northern Film And Media have all opted to not become part of Creative England, instead remaining as private companies. Manchester-based Vision and Media and Bristol based South West Screen are also still operating as private companies, although it is likely that they will become part of Creative England when their existing contracts are up.

So if Creative England is not an amalgamation of the Regional Screen Agencies, what is it? And does it really reflect the "simpler more efficient structure" set out in its remit?

"Creative England is a new company that is seeking to build on that work, but start afresh," says Creative England's new CEO Caroline Norbury, who was chosen from over 60 applicants for the role, although few were surprised by her appointment, given that she has been one of the key players in driving the formation of Creative England from the start.

"I find it tiresome that what we keep doing is having a discussion about the past. Things change, funding streams change and we have to change," adds Norbury.

So is it just a case of the RSA's trying desperately to protect their own interests?

Far from it, says Jo Nolan, CEO of Screen South, who had every intention to merge with Creative England until July, when she says the board took the decision to opt out, partly due to Creative England's decision to change the structure from three separate "hubs" (Creative South, Creative Central and Creative North) into one single operation.

"I always believed in a single business plan for film in the English regions and ideally we would all be working together. But we have £3/4m worth of projects going on over the next year and it is vitally important that we have a clear line of process. We do not want to undermine Creative England's position and we intend to work in collaboration with partners who are willing to have the same vision. …

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