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Balancing Heritage and Progress: Reimagining the Potteries as a Centre for Digital Film Production

McKenna, Mark (2024) Balancing Heritage and Progress: Reimagining the Potteries as a Centre for Digital Film Production. In: Staffordshire University’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise Conference 2024, Tuesday 11th June, The Catalyst. (Unpublished)

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Abstract or description

In August 2021, representatives from Staffordshire University met with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to discuss the opportunities and obstacles presented by ‘The BBC Across the UK’ (2021) strategy. The implementation of this strategy coincided with an uncharacteristic period of growth for Stoke in which the region had benefited from £76 million from the government’s Levelling Up funds. This money accelerated progress on three transformational schemes across the city. However, while initiatives were both ambitious and necessary, in many ways they looked to Stoke’s historic past and to the redevelopment of heritage sites as a means of reimagining the region’s future. However, what separated these plans from similar projects seen elsewhere in the country, was a genuine desire to reimagine the Potteries as a Centre for Digital Production and, in doing so, imagine a future for the region that was not reliant upon this historic past. This vision was detailed in the Council’s ‘Silicon Stoke’ prospectus, a manifesto that set out the ambitions for the digital transformation of the region using £8.53m of government funding. The Council had already established a 113km full-fibre network right across the city providing the opportunity for 5G connectivity, and supported the introduction of a gaming hub, a full-fibre academy at Stoke-on-Trent College, as well as a new Digital Academy. When this digital rebrand coincided with the BBC’s devolution strategy, the council became interested in the opportunities that television and film production held for the region and commissioned a report to determine the viability of establishing a foothold in the region. However, this was not the first time that the region had flirted with film, and over a decade earlier, a previous report had led to the formation of a short-lived council run film office designed to stimulate film production in the region to some success. However, efforts were stymied by the relative proximity of the region to the more established media hubs of Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool leading to a local perception of the area as the Bermuda Triangle. This chapter will document this history, assessing the findings and application of that initial report, the recommendations of the second report before considering what has changed for the region in the intervening years and how the digital infrastructure offered by the 5G rollout offers an opportunity to reconceptualise the region as ‘the north-west passage’ – a ‘creative corridor’ productively connected to the three larger hubs (Haldane, 2023, online).

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty: School of Digital, Technologies and Arts > Film and Media
Event Title: Staffordshire University’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise Conference 2024
Event Location: The Catalyst
Event Dates: Tuesday 11th June
Depositing User: Mark MCKENNA
Date Deposited: 23 May 2024 10:48
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2024 01:38

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