Bristol film sector gathers to launch the city's new UNESCO City of Film status

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Thu 1st Feb 2018

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Bristol's new UNESCO City of Film status has been officially launched at a celebratory event. Production Guild CEO Alison Small was in attendance at the Watershed  Media Centre, which was also attended by leading figures from the city’s film sector.

The permanent status was awarded to Bristol by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in November 2017, in recognition of its work as a world-leading film centre. Bristol now stands alongside Bitola, Bradford, Busan, Galway, Łódź, Qingdao, Rome, Santos, Sofia, Sydney, Terrassa and Yamagata as an official City of Film.

Opened by Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, the event will mark the official beginning of the City of Film programme and will feature presentations from key delivery partners revealing more about what the new status means for Bristol.

Bristol's five-time BAFTA-winning screenwriter Jack Thorne (Kiri, National Treasure, This is England ’86, ’88, '90) said: “Bristol is my home city, so I'm biased, but I think it's the most fascinating city in the country. There's always something to do and experience; from the incredible outdoor spaces to the People's Republic of Stokes Croft; from the brilliant Bristol Old Vic to the amazing carnival. I'm so proud it's got this new City of Film status, it's a place where stories should be told.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol says: “Tonight marks the beginning of a new opportunity for Bristol to grow our already booming cultural sector and connect the industry’s success to communities across the city. As a UNESCO City of Film we have a unique chance to harness the power of a diverse industry and empower people to collaborate on combating inequality and break down the barriers to opportunity.

“Bristol is an outward looking city that understands the benefits of cooperating with partners across the world. Being part of the global UNESCO network with fellow creative cities means we’re expanding our ability to build international relationships and exciting new partnerships. Our goal is to ensure that those relationships directly benefit all communities across the city and help establish opportunities to support filmmaking talent, education, training and employment, whilst also widening cultural participation and engagement for our film audiences.”

Mark Cosgrove, Watershed Cinema Curator and Film Hub South West & West Midlands Chair said: "The UNESCO City of Film award is fantastic recognition of the rich film culture in Bristol and of the vital role film plays in the creative life of the city. Since 1982 Watershed has been presenting and celebrating the diversity of world cinemas. Audiences continue to be passionate and enthusiastic- and this passion and enthusiasm I am sure contributed to the UNESCO recognition. We very much look forward to working with partners across the city to develop local talent, production and audiences and to promote Bristol as a unique City of Film destination."

Four overarching priorities will guide the first four years of activity. These are:

1. Film Production: enhancing Bristol’s reputation as a dynamic creative film hub, attracting and supporting TV and film production and inward investment

2. Film Culture: broadening engagement with Bristol cinema-goers through screen heritage projects and festivals, attracting visitors to the city and increasing screen tourism

3. Film Learning: unlocking talent, improving skills and increasing cultural capital by widening participation, engaging with schools and higher education providers

4. Reducing Inequalities: removing barriers and promoting inclusivity, using film as a tool to broaden learning and community engagement, inspire creativity and harness the potential of Bristol’s dynamic multiculturalityAs well as showcasing existing successful film projects that helped Bristol achieve its UNESCO status, the event will also preview a selection of City of Film projects and collaborations in development, eg:

  • A new Media Production Diploma at The Bottle Yard Studios for 16-19 yr olds, delivered by education provider Boomsatsuma
  • Bringing together existing city film and music initiatives in order to broaden content and audience participation.
  • Supporting and developing Film our City, a competition which invites Bristol’s young filmmaking talent to capture the diversity and dynamism of Bristol on screen

Bristol is home to world-leading media. Aardman Animations set up studios in Bristol in 1976, finding fame with Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep, and more recently Early Man, which opened in UK cinemas on 26 January 2018. BBC Bristol produces globally recognised radio, drama, factual and wildlife television, and the city is home to the largest production facility in the West of England, The Bottle Yard Studios, whose productions include Poldark, Broadchurch, and Wolf Hall. BBC Bristol also houses the globally significant Natural History Unit, spawning ‘Green Hollywood’, the world’s largest concentration of firms producing wildlife content. With 11 community-driven international festivals dedicated to film annually, 10 cinemas, and 2 major universities (University of the West of England and University of Bristol) providing 28 film related degrees, Bristol will play a central role in this global network of like-minded cities.

Bristol City of Film is led by Bristol City Council, Bristol Film Office, UWE Bristol, University of Bristol, Screenology, Destination Bristol and The Bottle Yard Studios. City partners working together to develop City of Film projects include Watershed, Aardman Animations, Icon Films, Knowle West Media Centre, Calling The Shots, BBC Bristol, Slapstick Festival, Encounters Festival, Bristol Festivals, BFI SWWM Film Hub, Boomsatsuma, Bath Film Office, Afrika Eye Festival, We the Curious, Royal Television Society Bristol, Ujima Radio, Wildscreen Festival and many more.

Created in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network is a network of creative cities working together towards a common mission for cultural diversity and sustainable urban development. The Creative Cities Network is currently formed by 116 Members from 54 countries covering seven creative fields: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music and Media Arts.