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The future of the West Midlands on TV

Written by
Heather Kincaid

Since the closure of Pebble Mill Studios in 2004, would-be crews and creators in the Midlands have become increasingly frustrated by the region’s lack of representation in national media. Despite its status as the UK's second largest city, in the years before 'Peaky Blinders', Birmingham barely featured on our tellies. Spurred on by this perceived bias, in February 2013 a group of like-minded people gathered to launch a community grassroots campaign, the Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands.  

With the BBC's recent, rather pricey relocation from Wood Lane to Salford Quays, at the time the development of a significant Birmingham base seemed a long way off, but change was closer than expected: later that year, Brummie screenwriting legend Steven Knight put the city back on the map with the soaring success of 'Peaky Blinders'. Though not filmed in Birmingham, the show delves into local history and mythology, as well as making use of talent from the area.

Knight's last feature, 'Locke', is also partly set in Birmingham, taking place on a car journey to the capital; during last year's Birmingham Literature Festival, he told an enthusiastic audience of his hopes of seeing a new movie studio built in the area.

While that could still be some way off, here are a few reasons to be hopeful about Birmingham's on-screen future. 

1. Raised by Wolves 

Channel 4 may have beaten the Beeb to filming the West Midlands' first great show in some time, but Caitlin and Caroline Moran's hilarious Wolverhampton-based sitcom is sure to have a wider impact on the industry. 'Raised By Wolves' smashes all the conventions and stereotypes you could hope for – not only are the majority of its characters independent and intelligent girls and women, they're also working-class West Midlanders, and they're portrayed without a whiff of your usual patronising tokenism. Bursting with Caitlin Moran’s usual flair and fearsome wit, it's also probably the funniest thing that's been on TV for years.

2. The Game 

Unlike 'Raised By Wolves', 'The Game' doesn’t have a local setting, but what’s exciting is that it was filmed and created in Brum and has the generally excellent Toby Whithouse as its scribe. While it may not be the most original narrative, if we're to calculate success according viewing figures and the Twittersphere buzz, there's no denying the show’s popularity. In terms of paving the way for future investment, 'The Game' is looking very promising indeed.

The Mailbox

The Mailbox, home of BBC Birmingham

3. BBC Academy 

It's worth noting that all this optimism about re-allocating resources to the area isn't simply based on past success and idle speculation. The BBC has already committed to relocate two vital departments to Birmingham. One of these is the broadcaster's digital innovation arm, while the other is the BBC Academy, designed to train up young graduates and apprentices for careers in journalism, media and production. This Birmingham transfer hints at a commitment to sourcing talent from outside the London and Manchester areas, and will hopefully give recruiters an overview of the region’s diverse creative offerings.

4. BBC Digital 

With the planned closure of BBC Three and its re-establishment as an online-only platform, the BBC now has a lot of work to do on creating digital content that will engage and inspire younger generations. This year, the BBC is all abuzz with 'Make It Digital, an exciting initiative that's likely to result in a lot of investment and growth in the months and years to come. With its Birmingham base expanding to house an up-to-date digital department, Birmingham and the West Midlands are set to play host to a new hub of online innovation. 

5. Future Talent 

Earlier this year, West Midlands-based film-makers were invited to shoot and submit a five-minute pilot and programme proposal for consideration by BBC Writersroom. Called 'Future Talent', this scheme aims to unearth local stories and voices as well as supporting BBC Three’s transition from TV channel to digital platform. We've still yet to see the results of the project, but if the BBC's last big web project 'The Last Hours of Laura K' is anything to judge by, you can expect them to be worth the wait. 

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