How BBC North builds links with communities across the region

Director, BBC Studios (formerly Director, England)

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One of the key reasons for establishing a new base in the North of England was to bring the BBC closer to audiences across the region. Since we opened for business almost two years ago BBC North has made a concerted effort to support events as far afield as Newcastle, Carlisle, Middlesbrough and Sheffield.

At times these have involved thousands of people. Kirkstall Abbey for example played host to Frankenstein’s Wedding… Live in Leeds, there was The Preston Passion last Easter and will we ever forget the thousands of people who supported the Olympic Torch Relay across the UK. In a few months it will be a Bollywood Carmen from Bradford.

While these events are in part about getting out to the audience, just as importantly they are about getting the audience involved. None of the events would have been possible without the involvement of the audience and communities themselves.

New drama The Village was filmed in Hayfield

Community involvement was equally true earlier this week. BBC North held what must be its smallest - and maybe highest - premiere in the village of Hayfield in the Peak District - to celebrate the forthcoming BBC One drama The Village. Written by Peter Moffat and starring a brilliant cast including Maxine Peake and John Simm, this moving new drama was filmed in Hayfield and the surrounding area and featured many of the local villagers themselves. Their goodwill, cooperation and support during filming played no small part in ensuring that an exceptional and authentic drama will make it to screen for the enjoyment of viewers right across the UK.

A few days earlier, the Religion and Ethics team based here at MediaCityUK recorded Songs of Praise’s School Choir Of The Year in Liverpool. The standard of performance from the participating schools was astounding and a real testament to the hard work, dedication and raw talent of all the pupils and teachers involved.

And on an even more local and personal level yesterday I was honoured to speak to the Old Salfordians Association. There was a grammar school in Salford from the 1730s to the 1970s and the association itself was founded in 1908. Both have been an important part of the Salford community for decades and among the alumni is the brilliant Salfordian artist Harold Riley, himself so influenced by that other great local artist, the legendary LS Lowry.

Today that sense of community is magnified to national proportions with Red Nose Day - one of the biggest community-focused events in the UK. Across the country people will join forces at work, in schools and in community groups across the country to have a laugh, have some fun and raise much needed funds for the UK and Africa.

And finally while there is no denying that the BBC itself has been going through some turbulence, one thing seems to have gone almost unnoticed. Simply, that day in, day out the vast majority of our staff have simply gone about their jobs of making programmes and getting them out to the audience. The greater community of the BBC – everyone from our programme makers to the technical teams – have just done the business. It’s something we are incredibly proud of. Over the next few days witness just some of the output from the production community based in this region - the 6 Nations from BBC Sport and BBC radio 5 live; the powerful BBC One drama The Syndicate filmed in Leeds and Bradford, and In The Flesh, new to BBC Three and filmed across the North West and Old Jack's Boat for CBeebies shot in Staithes, on the Yorkshire coast.

I have said it before but it is worth repeating. Along the side of the Manchester Ship Canal by the Lowry Theatre is a sign that says  "Communities are built from bricks and mortar but mainly by people."

How true. Community and a sense of camaraderie doesn’t only get us all through the difficult times but it makes celebrating success and the good times all the more enjoyable.

Peter Salmon is Director of BBC North.

Follow @BBCNorth on twitter.

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