Mehjabeen Price about England's creative South West
Championing the creative media industries is what the South West Screen is about
Championing the creative media industries is what the South West Screen is about. The organisation covers the whole of the South West of England, a large area from the coastline of Cornwall on the south west tip of the country, north to Gloucestershire and east to the counties of Wiltshire and Dorset. Mehjabeen Price has been Acting Chief Executive since June this year while Chief Executive Caroline Norbury is seconded to the post of Creative England Establishment Director.
Mehjabeen, due to a cause of current interest: How about the Bristol-based regional screen agency after the riots?
The riots in London did unfortunately spread to the South West, with unrest in Bristol and Gloucester. The problems did not have a major impact on South West Screen. Although some staff live in affected areas of the city, thankfully the problems were not as serious as in London. However, obviously any period of unrest is unsettling and damaging for wider communities as a whole.
Not easy to handle this…
We hope that we don’t see any repeats of the problems that have spread across the UK in the last week. The riots have been very damaging to all kinds of businesses, but especially to small and medium sized companies, and often creative industry companies fall into this category.
To South West Screen: You are closely involved with the European Creative Business Network (ECBN). What is this network about?
South West Screen was a founding member of the ECBN and so I am of course very passionate about both the network. The ECBN is a network of local partners in Europe that have come together to establish the EU as a more accessible, effective and rewarding single market for small creative and cultural entrepreneurs. The ECBN is present on the ground, inside the industry. We are working within the industry day-to-day and that’s the unique thing about the ECBN. The aim is to provide opportunities for businesses in the region to connect with businesses across Europe, trying to create a single market for businesses and make it easier for them to connect with each other.
How does England’s creative sector work together with the European- and international wide sectors?
England’s creative sector has long worked together with the European and international sectors, and we are doing our best to ensure more of this cross-collaboration. For example a brilliant project supported by South West Screen sees us work with the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) on the joint, ground-breaking Multi-Platform Content Across Continents initiative. Over the last two years, six projects have been selected by the MDA and South West Screen, and awarded up to £15,000 each in development funding to be split between the Singaporean and British co-development partners.
How does that feel?
I am very proud of the work done by Content Across Continents. It’s a great example of how pro-active support and pro-active matchmaking can work. We support companies thousands of miles away to come together, come up with something new, develop it and then hopefully take it to market. We don’t just put these companies together; we help them beyond that, which is of crucial importance.
What’s the direction of South West Screen, what are the challenges?
I have taken the helm of South West Screen at a challenging time. South West Screen will soon become part of Creative England, supporting the creative industries across the country, and one of my most important jobs currently is to ensure a smooth transition. South West Screen is in a very interesting position at the moment. It’s a very important time, not just in the life of South West Screen but for Creative England, the new organisation with the backing of the Government to support the creative industries in the country outside London.
The South West of England is a hotbed of creative talent, and at the heart of that we do our best to champion the creative media industries and be the first point of contact for anybody working in the industry. Bristol, the lead city in the South West where many of the region’s major companies are based, is less than two hours away from London by car, and this can be a blessing but also a curse, with talent easily able to drain away to the capital. One of the principle aims of South West Screen is to retain talent in the South West region, and I believe that the South West competes well with the capital, and often we see professionals choose to move out to the South west, where they can enjoy the benefits of this part of the country, whilst still working creatively in close proximity to London.
photos: South West Screen | Gary Newman | Swantje Diepenhorst