Martin Vander Weyer

How Game of Thrones gave Northern Ireland a £146 million boost

How Game of Thrones gave Northern Ireland a £146 million boost
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I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones, the epic television drama that has returned for a seventh season. This is a show that offers wisdom as well as bloody excitement — and parables for the Conservative leadership struggle, though I hope we’ll never have to watch Theresa May emulate Cersei Lannister’s naked walk of shame. It’s also a rich source of aphorisms for management gurus, emphasising as it does the importance of succession planning, the dangers of debt (especially to the merciless Iron Bank of Braavos), and the need to be prepared for a long economic winter ahead.

But most of all, Game of Thrones shows how the UK’s strengths in the ‘creative industries’ can be deployed to regenerate depressed areas. Much of it is filmed at the Titanic Studios in Belfast’s old shipyards, and on location around Northern Ireland. A quango called Northern Ireland Screen provided £14 million of funding for the first six series, and estimates that £146 million came back in spending, not least by ‘Thronie’ tourists — while a world-class skills base has been built up and busloads of our finest actors have been kept in steady work.

My Belfast correspondent, currently queuing to be a battle-scene extra, tells me ‘the impact of Game of Thrones has been really remarkable, a great boost to the economy of the entire region’. DUP leader Arlene Foster, in her previous role as enterprise minister, was eager to salute the show as the best thing to happen to Northern Ireland’s post-Troubles image abroad — a curious example of a real modern conflict being effaced by a fictional cod-medieval one. And if the show’s contribution passes £200 million after the final series next year, that’s £200 million which Tory ministers won’t have to bung Arlene to keep her onside.