The Creative Cities Convention - Exciting Opportunities Coming to the North East

I must admit that I wasn’t expecting such incredible things from the Creative Cities Convention. I have attended events similar in the past and I had always found them to be preaching to the converted or not offering enough on the table. However, I was blown away by this year’s Creative Cities Convention at Teesside University.

Darcie Rawlings
16th May 2023
Photo showing Creative Cities Convention host Kema Sikawe giving a closing statement at Creative Cities Convention at Teesside University (image credit: Darcie May Anne Rawlings.)
I must admit that I wasn’t expecting such incredible things from the Creative Cities Convention. I have attended events similar in the past and I had always found them to be preaching to the converted or not offering enough on the table. However, I was blown away by this year’s Creative Cities Convention at Teesside University.

I have never felt a larger sense of Northern pride than sitting listening to the talents on the multiple panels discuss the area and the bursting creative potential for the North East. The convention wasn’t just focused on presenting jobs to students; it opened up conversations not only about creative industries but about politics, funding, and class. Host Kema Sikawe did a great job at adding humour and warmth to the whole experience and it was incredibly enjoyable. 

Arguably one of the most exciting discussions across the event was with Fulwell 73 CEO Johnny Moore. I was quite starstruck hearing from production company CEO about all the work the production company heads, such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Late Late Show with James Corden, Carpool Karaoke and more. I was even more intrigued to hear that three of the company’s partners were from Sunderland and that alongside their offices in Los Angeles and London, Fullwell 73 have an office in Sunderland too.

I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing when Moore explained the companies plan to open a production company in the heart of Sunderland. “This would be bigger than Nissan for Sunderland” he explained. Fullwell Cains Studios plans to create 8,450 jobs in the North East over the next decade and will be one of the largest filmmaking complexes in Europe. Leo Pearlman, managing partner at Fullwell 73, wasn’t in attendance at the convention, but issued this statement “Through delivering the studios, we will create a long-term production industry infrastructure, attract even more significant high-end production to the UK and ensure that future generations of North Eastern talent can develop and prosper at home within the region”. All that hangs in the balance is awaiting the government’s response and help to kickstart this project that would benefit the well-deserving creating industry in the North East. However, with the current governments promises to level up North East industry everyone in the crowd agreed that there would be no reason not to support this endeavour. 

Fullwell Cains Studios plans to create 8,450 jobs in the North East over the next decade and will be one of the largest filmmaking complexes in Europe

Director Jamie Childs also provided some really great insight into the film industry. Even as a journalism student, I found myself completely entranced with what he was saying. He discussed filmmaking in Newcastle and its international context, highlighting that while films about Newcastle are great, that sci-fi, dystopian, horror genres for an international audience also have a place here. With city, country, and coastline, the North East is a hive of scenery for film. Middlechild, a production company, were represented by their creative director Andrew Eastel, who made some amazing points about the North East TV scene and its jaunts with poverty porn. Unfortunately, we have seen an abundance of shows that represent the North East in a negative light. However, Middlechild production companies new Newcastle office Northernchild hopes to shine a more positive light on Northern reality TV. 

Stephen Uppal was also incredibly inspiring. I found that even though we would be working in almost opposite creative spaces I could absolutely relate to what he was saying about being working class. I also believed working creatively wasn’t a ‘real job’ or that doing a creative degree would be a waste of my time. I even completed an entire science degree before I took the leap and decided to pursue what I was passionate about. Stephen was really inspiring. I honestly can’t believe how ignorant I was to all of the productions being led by Newcastle natives and the opportunities available here. I was always aware of the talent and creativity in the North East but I didn’t quite gauge how many success stories have stemmed not only from Northern but Northern and working-class backgrounds. 

The North East is going to be a very exciting place with an abundance of opportunity within the creative industries

To highlight, some of the best advice from all of the panellists was essentially to start from the bottom up. Cait Fitzsimon, editor of 5 News, explained that in your industry you should learn about every aspect and role of production and that technical skills are vital so if any job roles open up in the surrounding industries you should take those opportunities. In the film industry, the panellists laughed about how many of them started their careers as runners on TV sets. Johnny Moore also highlighted that while some fantastic opportunities will be headed to the North East, in the creative industry we should also be making our own opportunities by pushing ourselves creatively. Stephen Uppal added that leading with your own interests will always be the right choice, despite what’s trending and popular. 

I think regardless of profession, whether you were born, raised or schooled in the area, if you are currently living the North East and if you plan on living here in the coming years it’s going to be a very exciting place with an abundance of opportunity within the creative industries.

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