Now that the BBC, amongst others, are comfortably settled at Media City UK – their new home in the North of England, I dropped in for a visit, just before Christmas, to check on progress. I came away feeling that the vision has truly come to life and that things are ticking over quite soundly.
Over the last few years, much has been written about the BBC’s move out of London. The majority of this commentary has complained about the cost and the upheaval caused. From a personal perspective, I wanted to make my own assessment of how things are playing out on the ground. Admittedly, as one of the team who shaped the original vision, I have a vested interest in this story. However, the facts speak for themselves and one cannot but marvel at how much has been achieved in such a short period of time.
During my mid-December visit, I couldn’t help noticing that the BBC now has a new neighbour in the form of ITV’s Coronation Street studios which is just about to open its doors. It was so rewarding to see the fulfilment (after some delays) of the original concept to co-locate Britain’s two largest Broadcasters: the BBC and ITV on a single campus. Back in 2005 when the BBC and ITV/Granada first opened a dialogue to explore the possibilities for co-location, I felt that we were taking the first steps on a pioneering journey to break with convention whilst launching a fresh approach to place making.
Supported by the now defunct North West Development Agency and Salford URC, we crafted a vision, originally designed to make the relocation from London less risky whilst maximising the appeal of a new place. This vision extended far beyond the BBC to embrace the wider British broadcasting industry as well as the local community, academia and other commercial operators. Fortunately, the leaders of Salford University bought into the vision and became the first academic institution to commit to Media City. Their new facility providing digital learning, teaching and research for 1,500 students opened its doors in 2011. They will soon be joined by another arm of Academia – the University Technical College which will educate 14-19 year olds from September.
According to Stephen Wild, managing director of MediaCityUK there are now about 120 businesses operating in the area. For me, mixing the provision of future talent with those currently in the workforce is an interesting strategy and one that appears to be paying dividends. Now that Coronation Street has moved in across the canal, one can really start to appreciate how this new piece of Britain’s urban form is coming together in a vibrant, open, and (despite the weather) hugely engaging community. It has prompted me to dig further into how things are shaping up and I plan to post further blogs in the weeks ahead on the people/human aspect of working in a new place and sharing the experience of some of the BBC folk who made the journey north.