Great Britain’s largest independently owned tv and film production facility outside London is based not in Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh or even Cardiff, but in Caernarfon in north Wales.
The Barcud complex, which overlooks the town’s medieval castle, boasts two studios (including a recently opened 6,500-sq.-ft. lot with seating for 300), three editing suites, two sound dubbing studios, an outside broadcast unit, and post-production and graphics facilities. It has a permanent staff of 47.
Caernarfon seems an unlikely site for a major facility – a town of 10,000 inhabitants about 160 miles north of Cardiff – but it’s one of the main population centers of northwest Wales, which contains the bulk of the Welsh-speaking community.
Barcud is one of a host of facility firms which have grown on the back of Welsh-lingo web S4C. “The whole idea of an independently owned facility industry was made possible by the creation of S4C,” acknowledges media entrepreneur Huw Jones, chairman and founder of Barcud.
Because of the necessity of translating English and foreign programming into Welsh, the principality also boasts some of Britain’s leading dubbing and subtitling companies, such as Cardiff-based Atsain and Eco.
Jones, a co-founder of Sain Records (Wales’s largest indie diskery, also based in Caernarfon) and head of leading indie tv producer Teledu’r Tir Glas, explains: “We realized that if indie producers in the northwest wanted to compete on equal terms with producers in Cardiff and Swansea, we needed an independent facility to be based permanently in this region.”
The exec says he also wanted to bring a new industry to the Welsh-speaking area, which has been blighted by high levels of unemployment. According to Jones, Caernarfon now has about 800 people who work full or part-time in media-related activities. Among those attracted to the area, partly because of the presence of Barcud, are a dozen indie production companies.
Besides servicing indie suppliers to S4C, Barcud has done outside broadcast work for the BBC, and is beginning to lure indie producers based in metropolitan centers like Manchester (about a two-hour drive away) and Liverpool.