Keep Casualty in Bristol - A Campaign Summary
The BBC confirmed in a press announcement on 26th March 2009 that Casualty will definitely move from Bristol to Cardiff by 2011. The news was met with shock by members of the Bristol and West General Branch of Equity who have been campaigning since May 2008 to keep the production in Bristol.
The following is a summary of the work that has been done to try and keep this flagship BBC series in the South West.
Please follow the links for more information.
The BBC series Casualty has been made in Bristol for more than 20 years and is estimated to be worth £24.7 million annually to the local economy.
In May 2008, following rumours of a proposed move, the Bristol and West General Branch meeting submitted the following motion to the Equity council:
The Bristol & West General Branch urge the Equity Council to speak to the BBC, to find out if they are committed to continuing TV drama production in Bristol or if they are going to replace Casualty with production of equal stature. We ask the Equity Council to support the ‘Keep Casualty in Bristol campaign' in cooperation with BECTU.
This motion kick-started the union's campaign for the BBC to back regional production and led to an Early Day Motion being put to the UK Parliament in July 2008. The full text of the EDM can be found here. The EDM received the signatures of 28 MP’s.
In August 2008, South West Screen (now known as Creative England) commissioned an independent assessment of the economic impact of the BBC's proposal to move production of Casualty from Bristol to Cardiff, and investigate the potential impact on the production base in Bristol and the surrounding area. The final figure was found to be in the region of £25 million.
On October 15th 2008, Jana Bennett, then the head of BBC Vision, officially announced the BBC’s intention to move production of Casualty during a keynote speech to the Royal Television Society (RTS) in London. Her speech, titled ‘BBC Beyond the M25’, "unveil[ed] how the BBC plans to significantly grow output and commissioning in the nations and achieve half of all network output outside London by 2016." Ms Bennett told the RTS that “given financial approval”, a final announcement of the move would be made in early 2009. The full text of Jana Bennett's speech can be found here.
This official announcement was quickly followed by criticism by long-time Equity activist Tony Robinson, former cast member Kwame Kwei-Armah, Bristol City Councillors and local MP’s. Various online petitions were also set up.
On November 11th 2008, the Bristol and West General Branch of Equity held a public meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for local interested parties such as; Equity, South West Screen, BECTU, local MP's and The Bristol City Council to discuss what was happening, share what they had been doing and in particular for Equity members to find out what can be done to support the ‘Keep Casualty in Bristol’ campaign.
On Saturday 13 December 2008 representatives from Equity and BECTU took to the streets of Bristol along with cast and crew from the show including Derek Thompson (‘Charlie Fairhead’). Christmas shoppers were told about the campaign and encouraged to send a postcard to BBC Director General Mark Thompson asking him to keep Casualty in Bristol.
Over 2,000 shoppers in Bristol city centre signed the postcards, displaying the ‘Keep Casualty in Bristol’ logo, which were put into a sack held by Father Christmas before being sent to the BBC (see image right).
Campaigners for 'Keep Casualty in Bristol' were featured in the BBC West show, Inside Out, on Wednesday 4th March on BBC1. The programme revealed that the BBC were discussing the possibility of moving production to the Paintworks, just off the A4 Bath Road, Bristol.
On Thursday March 26th 2009, the BBC officially announced that production of Casualty will be moved from Bristol to Cardiff by the end of 2011 as part of a commitment “to building a creatively sustainable centre of excellence for drama in Wales” and to “accelerate the development of the creative sector there”.
Casualty filmed its last episode in Bristol in August 2011.
The branch would like to publicly thank all branch members who sent in their postcards, attended meetings, and stood in the cold on a wintry Saturday in the centre of Bristol and all those who spoke to others raising the profile of this decision that the BBC tried very hard to sweep under the carpet.
We are very proud of the members of this branch who stand up for the rights of performers and stood shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in BECTU regarding this issue.
What have we learnt about the BBC?
That they are still not communicating effectively with us but they are aware that we exist and that we want to know what is going on in our area. The BBC has stated that in the future they will share more information with us about production developments. This can only mean a better relationship with them.
What have we learned about ourselves?
That in a crisis we can deliver. The contacts that the branch has made with the local media means that an issue in our area can make it onto the local TV (Inside Out West), radio (including BBC Radio Bristol, GWR, Original, Star Radio) and print media (Bristol Evening News, Bath Chronicle) when it happens. These relationships mean that going forward into the future we can generate publicity quickly and effectively. The branch also delivered in person by sending letters to MP’s, who did speak to the BBC in Parliament, letters to the BBC direct, postcards and placards.
Real-life drama - 07/08/08
BBC Productions and English Regions - Early Day Motion 2095
Beyond the M25: A BBC for all of the UK - Janna Bennett's Speech to the Royal Television Society
Casualty's Kwame joins call to keep show in Bristol - Bristol Evening Post 20/10/08
Tony Robinson criticises BBC plans to move Casualty - The Guardian 21/10/08
Bristol City Council fights to keep Casualty - Bristol Evening Post 21/10/08
Petition to keep Casualty in Bristol (Article on open meeting) - Bristol Evening Post 12/11/08
Charlie joins fight to keep Casualty in Bristol - Bristol Evening Post 14/12/08
Casualty to move to Cardiff - BECTU 26/03/09
Casualty's last scene in Bristol - Bristol Evening Post 08/08/11