Postcard from MediaCityUK, Manchester

MediaCityUK, the stylish new home in Salford Quays, Manchester of the BBC, Granada Drama, ITV, Google and other media organisations. Interesting to visit just now as the BBC is beginning to populate these bold new buildings.

Fast train to Manchester direct from London Euston, efficient transfer to a street tram. Emerging from under ground the first thing I saw was lawyers in olde worlde wigs outside Law Courts; soon followed by the Bridgewater concert hall,  the tram then rolling high above canals, an earlier transport system that first brought great wealth here.

The tram, still with a driver (unlike the London Docklands light railways - are we learning something here or is it just than Manchester trams need human eyes to avoid collisions with Mancunians?) rolls on through post-industrialised cityscape of railways and warehouses to share this terminus with a concentration of docks near the terminus of the Manchester Ship Canal.


A confluence of transport system histories, a clash of architectural styles and bold planning that may some day live up to the bold name: Media City UK.

Great names from the past adorn the landscape like lucky charms: the Lowry shopping centre, art gallery and theatre (lot of chain restaurants but no supermarket, does no-one live really here yet) and the Brian Redhead room (he co-presented the morning radio current affairs programme “Today” for a while from BBC Manchester with his colleague John Timpson in London).


I made time for a quick look around the Lowry gallery: a fine display of more than 400 of his artefacts including some of his most famous work. His paintings still look clear and vivid, some of them he never lacquered. His trademark stick-like figures looking bent over by an unseen pressure like the people around MediaCityUK but unlike the casual stance of the majority of people in central Manchester during my visit. But his restricted palette, equally his trademark, still rings true on a day that was grey at best.

It’s easy to see the people of today scurrying against the wind still dwarfed by this new clinical  techno architecture just as L.S. Lowry’s figures were dwarfed by the dirty industrial architecture and the imperial economy which it represented. For now, not so many of them and  they are mostly construction and technical installation people; will their labour nurture here a new breed of media professionals?

And nothing much has changed outside the immediate zone of investment... yet. That’s the big question, will all this investment and participation of the big names prime the pump to create what the bold name promises, Media City UK. Watch your screens!