Sun, sea and scriptwriters - creatives flock to Cornwall

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Once Cornwall was seen as a relaxing holiday spot far removed from the bustle of the capital, a place where stressed-out city high-flyers can dream of a new life of sea and sun. But now digital technology, European investment and a demand for a life-work balance has created a boom in the creative industries.

Home-grown talent schooled in the county's new university, buoyed by returning media executives who have learnt their trade in exile, and those who have simply fallen for the region's laidback charm, have led to a flourishing of film and television production, the county's business leaders claim.

And today the emerging band of Cornish creatives are getting their chance to pitch at the highest level when Channel 4 plays host to the "Cream of Cornish Films". Alongside a showcase of short films made in the county in the past year, budding scriptwriters will present their ideas in a kind of Dragons' Den forum to BBC Films, the UK Film Council and Channel 4.

Pippa Best, project director for Cornwall Film, which was established by the Cornwall Enterprise development agency, said that among television and film executives outside the county there was a growing realisation that there were stories they were missing.

She said: "There's a whole rural perspective that hasn't been exploited. My background is working in screenplay development in London and when I came here it felt as though the stories were very fresh. They weren't things I was getting on my desk every day in Soho."

And whereas once it might have been impossible to get them made in Cornwall by people living in the county, things have changed.

Part of the drive has been helped by European investment, as the county was deemed so poor that in 2000 it qualified for Objective 1 status and funding, the only area in Britain to do so.

But Cornwall has also been helped by new technology that has overcome the problem of distance, an increasing focus outside London from broadcasters, and new terms of trade which see producers retain more rights.

Ms Best said: "There's always been a strong artistic community in Cornwall such as the Newlyn school of painters. But film and video is a new sector."

She said there was a synergy between Cornish born-and-bred talent, like many of those visiting Channel 4 today, people with a connection to the county who have decided to return and those who have decided it would be a good place to work.

New companies include Seven Stones Media, which was set up in Cornwall last year by a team including Jeremy Gibson, formerly of BBC documentaries, and Denham Productions, which produced Rick Stein's French Odyssey and The Gardeners of Eden for BBC2.

Spider Eye, a digital animation company, has been working on film, television and commercials from St Just in Penwith, rather than London, for the past five years.

Ms Best said: "Often there are people who had to go away because there weren't opportunities, now they are coming back and setting up their own companies. And there are some people who are drawn here because it's a wonderful place to live.

"There's been a perception shift. People who thought it was a fantastic place for holidays have realised it can also be a fantastic place to live and work."

John Berry, managing director for Cornwall Enterprise, said: "The county has successfully produced the very best in culture and the arts by coupling a work-life balance which inspires creativity with a framework of business support and investment."