29 Jan Channel 4: Bring it to the Black Country!
This piece was written by Mathilde, our Admin and Communications Coordinator, the views are her own.
I’m sure almost everyone from the Black Country can remember a time when they’ve had this conversation with somebody from a different country:
“Where are you from?”
“Oh, so you live in London?”
“No, I’m from Wolverhampton”
“Is that near London?”
“No, it’s in the Black Country”
The Black Country native then becomes incredibly aware that their hometown is completely unknown to this individual, and their only option is to tell them that they are from Birmingham, England’s second city. I think I have probably told just about everyone I’ve ever met from outside of the West Midlands that I am from Birmingham – my London based friends from University still think I’m a Brummie.
The Black Country has long lived in the shadow of its industrial counterpart, and the people of Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley have long been commuting to Birmingham for music, theatre, and exhibitions and particularly for employment/training within creative industries. The Black Country is not void of culture and creativity; in fact it is quite the opposite. Aside from a large international city, I have never been somewhere with so many different languages, foods and religions. This melting pot creates a unique community surrounded by vast inspirations, but not many places to express them. The Black Country is an area with one of the lowest arts engagement in the country. Take my sister for example, she has been determined to work in the TV industry since she was at school. She studied Media and TV production at university in Birmingham, moved back home and spent two years trying to get her foot in the door. Yet, no matter what came around she just couldn’t afford to live in London; so she did the sensible thing and moved to Barcelona. She no has a perfect job and an incredibly happy lifestyle. I couldn’t be happier for her, but that’s just one of the many creative and capable young people the Black Country loses every year.
However, the creative hole once found in the Black Country is slowly being filled by some amazing and dedicated organisations. There are youth theatres, community makerspaces, arts centres and galleries (to name just a few).
The proposed relocation of Channel 4 to the West Midlands would provide unprecedented opportunities for creatives, artists, young people and everyone else, but the impact of these opportunities would certainly be felt most in the Black Country. Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has proposed Dudley as one of the four areas in the West Midlands that Channel 4 could find a new home; an area that is calling out for redevelopment and regeneration. The current social climate means fewer young people are getting a chance to go to university and even those that do, cannot afford to move out of their parent’s home and stay in the city they’ve studied in. There is an abundance of creative young people that are hungry to learn, develop and work in the Creative Sector. The Black Country seems to have more willing young people than ever, some have no choice but to be here, so let’s give them something to stay for.
Birmingham, as the UK’s second city, has an incredible arts scene that should certainly be celebrated; along with Coventry’s recent victory in becoming City of Culture 2021. Birmingham and Coventry have so much going on, so it maybe feels natural to add more by moving Channel 4 to one of them. But just imagine how much more could be achieved if we broke old patterns and put the new investment into the area that had the least. Birmingham and Coventry would still have their own incredible arts scene, but now the Black Country could have its own too. Sure, these two cities are full of innovation and creativity, but they only cover half of the West Midlands. The Black Country makes up the other half. If just the city of Birmingham can produce so many genuinely amazing organisations and talented people, just imagine what would be unleashed from the Black Country if given the investment by an organisation with the drive and calibre of Channel 4.
Admin and Communications Coordinator – Black Country Touring.
The logo above belongs to Channel 4 but has been added to by Black Country Touring, for this blog only.