Drama in North London, but not a crisis

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

It can’t be easy, wearing a wig and crinoline on the warmest day of the year in London, but the suffragette intent on her i-pad seemed unperturbed by it.

I am in a former factory in North London which has been converted into the set for a new ITV Studio’s production. ‘Mr Selfridge‘ will chart the life and times of Harry Gordon Selfridge, the larger than life entrepreneur from Chicago who transformed shopping and turned retail into an art form.

The visit, arranged by ITV, is part of a programme of work I have been doing to learn about the UK television industry. It’s all possible due to an organisation here at Westminster, called the Industry and Parliament Trust, which develops and improves the relationship between Parliamentarians and industries of all kinds.

One of their most popular activities is the Fellowship Scheme in which you spend 18 days learning in depth about an industry, sector or company.  It’s a big commitment, both for the Parliamentarian and for the organisations involved, but really worthwhile.

My Fellowship in UK television has led me to a much better understanding of how it works as an industry, how each of the organisations operates and how they relate to each other to create a sector which is regarded as one of the best in the world. UK television doesn’t just provide us with our entertainment, it’s a major job creator, generates exports and helps to keep us influential in ways and in places where more traditional methods can’t.

As television is a highly regulated area, it’s essential that there are Members in both Houses who really understand how it works.  Even a fun visit such the one I undertook today improves my understanding of some key issues – how much effort and skill it takes to produce high-end costume drama and why it is so expensive.  Why it is important to remain competitive as a place to make programmes in an increasingly globalised industry. The potential significance of the tax breaks for high quality TV drama announced by the Chancellor in the last budget. How important it is for UK companies to make programmes which can appeal to export markets, generating income for investing in what we will be seeing on our screens.

‘Mr Selfridge’ has already been pre-sold to the US, Australia, Israel and Sweden.  And ITV Studio’s ‘Titanic’, broadcast on ITV1 earlier this year, has been sold to over 100 territories worldwide.   The ladies in the crinolines may not know it, but they are playing their part in the economic success of the UK, as well as giving us some damn good telly!

10 comments for “Drama in North London, but not a crisis

  1. MilesJSD
    21/08/2012 at 12:04 am

    Selfridge’s self-centred opportunistic motive and policy was
    “Pleasures before Necessities”.

    I can’t see how promoting worldwide
    on behalf of “Great Britain”
    such an irresponsible American ‘playboy’

    can help Britain’s and its Peoples’ real needs & hows today
    and forward into all Tomorrows.

    • Baroness Scott of Needham Market
      Baroness Scott of Needham Market
      21/08/2012 at 12:29 pm

      It’s the quality of the television programme which matters and the UK produces high quality drama. You can produce good film about things which you don’t agree with, people you don’t like or even about evil.

      • MilesJSD
        22/08/2012 at 1:54 am

        Wholeheartedly we seem to agree, in support of the established record of historically well-detailed British TV drama, and little doubt, of documentaries;

        both surely have been world-leading in both quality and choice of content;

        and both have been emulable models,
        provided another country can afford the same support for such creativity as Britain has been (somehow) able to do.
        The escaping overarching Point here,

        as also in many Lords of the Blog posts being subject to political competition,
        (but being worse totally avoided by The Media which sells spectaculars, sensationals, and sleazes, for immediate cash-profits, to the neglect of long-term sustainworthy individual and national human development and constructivity-building),

        is the compound one of

        Overshadowing-Contextualities being concealed.

        (Also included up-front for exposure should be any already known ‘sub-problems’, as ‘sub-topics/issues’, of ‘underlurking-spanners-in-the-works’).

        The prevailing snapshooting, band-aiding and spin-doctoring of currently-uncomfortable issues has become an insidiously corrupting malfeasance:
        it is without doubt plain “bad business”;
        and is unworthy of anyone seriously trying to be an Earth- and/or British- citizen.
        That it is rife throughout British Leadership, Governance, and Media (including the Education sector) is becoming a straitjacket out of which this Nation has little likelihood of escaping,
        regardless of how many other Nations are in similar straits.

        Herein, Baroness Scott, surely
        Elizabeth Fry
        even perhaps Stephen Fry
        or Germaine Greer
        would have been ‘cleaner’ and ‘more sustainworthy’ British characters to have put onto the world-quality drama/documentary stage,
        as excellence of not just singularly ‘British Film Quality’
        but more importantly (
        and I ween urgently)
        of longer-term ‘British Sustain-worthiness(es) ‘ ?

  2. Twm O'r Nant
    21/08/2012 at 8:30 am

    I wonder why Selfridge? Just so happens?
    Debenhams is an interesting business; gets bigger and bigger but not in the same place.
    It’s the location in the Centre of London
    which makes Selfridge so valuable. Derry+Toms; Army+Navy; Harrods; and others.

    • Baroness Scott of Needham Market
      Baroness Scott of Needham Market
      21/08/2012 at 12:31 pm

      The series is as much about the individual as the store, and the historical context. He was a colourful character apparently.

  3. maude elwes
    21/08/2012 at 2:48 pm

    This thread smacks of public relations for the American audience to me. Which is why they have highlighted the playboy yank.

    Americans don’t buy productions that do not centre on one of their own. So, now you know why every British film must have an American as a main character. Preferably playing the hero of the story. The production company believes he will only make maximum money if it is US sold.

    And we follow naively along believing it is in our best interests to bring growth to our nation and in comes ‘The Duke’ to the rescue.

  4. Twm
    24/08/2012 at 2:22 pm

    Appointed to go out from the Club in to the big wide world to see how things are organised.

  5. Senex
    24/08/2012 at 5:55 pm

    The link to the ‘Industry and Parliament Trust’ shows a picture of Lord Sugar. They say he keeps a special place in his heart for Engineers so cue Lord Baker of Dorking and his association with the ‘Baker Dearing Trust’:


    A modest man Lord Baker but then so is Lord Sugar?

    If only life could imitate art in the television and film industries. Each day of our lives recorded and then the great editor in the sky putting the best of us together in an epic best selling soap. Perhaps this is how the angels are entertained in heaven. Would the worst of us end up on the cutting room floor awaiting a fear worst than death?

    California and Hollywood!

  6. Twm
    28/08/2012 at 11:35 am

    All of us mere pieces of celluloid, which we may well be. DNA!

    • MilesJSD
      29/08/2012 at 1:02 pm


      Did you research this matter vis a vis a current TV documentary “Horizon: have we stopped evolving ?”

      We (Humankind) have separated ourselves from Evolution
      we have “conquered” our Part in it,

      Trouble could be that all other lifeforms on Earth are still being evolved by Nature
      (if not by ‘God’)
      and are strengthening their survival “competitiveness”
      (including to resist our best poisons, and to become more successful ‘human-flesh-eaters’);

      especially reported are resurgent Cholera and The Blsck Death, amongst the possible Worldwide Pandemic pathogens that could extinct the Human Race on Earth in quite short order …

      (check it out perhaps,
      perhaps with a view to seeing if our Celluloidal-ID is helping or hindering our so-far-apparently-successful Self-Removal from Earthlife Natural Evolution,

      and, by dint of our even stronger future Thrival-Survival, via “Best-Genes/DNA-Designer-Babies”, whether it genuinely constitutes a de facto Human quantum-leap forward
      in our obvious Solo-Human Divine-Task of

      why not ?

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