By Ruth Pitt

MANY years ago I worked briefly in one corner of a large London media company where cogs whirr and brains crank enthusiastically in the service of that most vexing of activities known as How To Change The Culture Of Big Organisations. In this case our challenge was to increase programme production outside London with a view to reflecting UK audiences better. As someone who lived in the North of England I hatched what I knew could be a blindingly simple and yet effective plot: identify some of the top producers and directors who’d been forced down to London by a lack of opportunity in their home towns and persuade them (with a promise of plum commissions) to go back home.

We set up a high-level meeting and I laid my idea optimistically on the table. It would be fair to say it did not go down well. Chins fell to the floor and the assembled ranks of senior leaders shook their heads as one, like a many-headed hydra. Their esteemed leader spoke first with a knowing smile. “Why would anyone, once in London, ever want to go back home?” He sat back in his very large chair and honked with amusement. Emboldened by his example, the hydra similarly shook with the sort of demented laughter normally reserved for Prime Minister’s Questions. I retired wounded and never mentioned it again.

The hydra is not laughing now, as broadcasters and programme-makers upgrade their response to the call for better UK-wide representation and media production pours out of London, landing in Glasgow, Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh, Manchester, Salford, Brighton and just about anywhere else that you can plonk an edit suite, a camera, a whiteboard and a handful of talented people.

In Scotland an already impressive production sector has snowballed as record amounts of drama, factual, entertainment and comedy content emerge from the major Scottish cities (and even some of the smallest towns), spreading across the UK and the wider world. Synchronicity’s harrowing The Cry, STV’s deeply moving Elizabeth is Missing, Kirstie and Phil’s property juggernauts, Antiques Road Trip, The Victim, Emma Willis Delivering Babies and hundreds upon hundreds more, a veritable tidal wave of great programmes that audiences want to watch and distributors want to buy. There are pockets of excellence everywhere you look.

It’s why we’re bringing this year’s Creative Cities Convention to Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall on April 23 and 24, as we celebrate the exponential growth of the screen industries right across the UK, and it’s no accident that our theme for 2020 is Going Global. Production of film and TV outside London has come of age and the revolution in how we view content makes it possible to get great content into the stratosphere from anywhere on earth.

It’s all fantastic news for producers who want to get off the London treadmill and go home, where house prices fall at least slightly below the ridiculous, the air is fresher, the people are generally less craven and the pace of life is marginally less insane.

Meeting the increased demand for more content made outside London won’t happen overnight – building global volume needs careful planning and patience. But even as producers benefit, the audience are the real winners. Long may it last.

Ruth Pitt is director of the Creative Cities Convention