Over the last two decades Manchester, and much of its immediate environs, has been re-planned, re-furbed, re-modelled and generally, re-defined. However, with the country’s first media city well and truly on its way, I think Manchester and Salford are about to be re-born.
I took a privileged private tour around the impressive looking site today courtesy of the MPA – many thanks to Cindy and Paul. We were given a guided tour of the main building which isn’t yet open to the public and has been built to a spec beyond anything else currently available in Europe. MediaCityUK, a mix of ultramodern looking buildings and one old pie factory, will be home to the BBC and ITV as well as Salford University and a multitude of associated companies offering creativity, production skills and futuristic technologies. The buzz has begun.
The area boasts a Piazza that overlooks the Manchester Ship Canal and the Lowry Theatre. Twice the size of Trafalgar Square, this will be used for outdoor events and performances. Connected by underground cabling to the studios, to provide easy and accessible cohesion between filming outside and in, it provides the perfect opportunity for large scale – the Piazza can hold up to 6,000 people – broadcasts.
The BBC will move around 2,500 staff to MediaCityUK, which will involve relocating five London-based departments, along with all local and network broadcasting currently operating out of Manchester city centre. A Question of Sport has just been filming there and we were treated to a visit to this studio and to the dressing rooms of some of the stars – the one most recently occupied by Sue Barker in fact.
ITV has just received planning permission approval for their Manchester-based operations, including Coronation Street and ITV Granada regional news. The University of Salford will also have a presence, with a purpose built, brand new campus for more than 1500 students and staff and a range of specialist courses, designed in conjunction with the BBC, to help student’s access job opportunities on site.
I know ‘state-of-the-art’ is a boringly overused term but it’s the only one I can think of that reflects the imagination, innovation and high level specification that have gone into making MediaCityUK a facility without compare, not just in the UK but probably the whole of Europe. As you’d expect from an undertaking of this size, the studios will be available to hire for other production companies too.
Neighbouring facilities such as the Pie Factory and the Greenhouse will provide additional production and office space for associated industries. The Pie Factory is already being hailed a successful TV and commercial production site with recent filming including The Street, The Royle Family Christmas special and Paradox.
To top it all off, a selection of bars, cafés, restaurants and shops will amplify the natural dynamism and energy you’d expect of a creative hub designed to accommodate over 5,000 people, on a 24 hour basis – as dictated by shift work, the nature of the industry and no doubt an ever growing interest and attraction to MediaCityUK!
I left inspired and excited – anyone fancy moving?