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NIGEL PIVARO ON MEDIACITYUK AND SALFORD
 

Star date: 5th July 2011

Hurray for Sollywood? Musings on the branding of MCUK Salford.

"…the intended heartwarming ten minute film showing cherubic ten year olds being shown the ropes in aspirational jobs…made me ill"

Last week Nigel Pivaro went to the Impact of MediaCityUK event to see if he could be persuaded that the benefits of MediaCityUK would be positive for Salford and the North.

Nigel, who lived for many years across the road from the Media City site, remains unconvinced.

Click here to see musings on the Docks, the jobs and the hype


Hurray for Sollywood? Musings on the branding of MCUK Salford by Nigel Pivaro

I wonder if I am blessed or cursed by my memory of the Docks in their 60s heyday. The beautiful sleek red and white Manchester liners, their mighty superstructures proud above the dock wall gliding past the terraced streets was a common sight of rare beauty.

The Docks, Manchester Ship Canal, Trafford Park Industrial Estate - the intermodal transport hub par excellence of its day - provided the focus for many thousands who lived amidst its congested, smoky, polluted vibrancy. You smelt it, heard it, sweated it. In a way it owned us, but in return we felt ownership of it.

It was with that knowledge I attended the 'How Do' conference on The Impact of Media City last week and amidst the very polished presentations, films and panels that extolled the virtues of everything Media City, I confess to feeling Jeremiah-like, a lone voice challenging the 'on message' exaltations and announcements of BBC outreach projects, corporate additions to the complex of a Booths supermarket and a Prezzo restaurant.

Hitherto, men and boys from the neighbourhoods of Ordsall, Weaste, Old Trafford, Hulme, Greengate and Pendleton worked as dockers, sailors, tug pilots, engineers, builders, railway men, millers, drivers, shipwrights and more. Women were there too, shipping clerks, textile workers, clerical staff at the dock offices, the factories and mills allied to the Docks.

Further downstream along the maritime corridor from Eccles to Eastham, thousands more worked on or by the Ship Canal in industries that were located there because of it…

Forty years on, and 25 since the docks beyond Mode Wheel at Weaste ceased to be a port of any note, the company that ran and owned the Ship Canal has been bought in a fire sale and we have the office blocks and studio buildings of Sollywood…otherwise known as MediaCityUK (MCUK) with its tenants the BBC and soon to be followed by ITV and the Telegraph Group.

The hope is that MCUK will have an economic ripple effect across the north from Liverpool to Newcastle where 25 per cent of the BBC's license payers are located. Hailed as the most important coming since the establishment of Ford Motor Plant in 1911, I am not so sure. Notwithstanding an exaggerated significance attributed to Fords short term tenure in Trafford Park before moving south to Dagenham.
 
To put it in context the BBC move at the total cost of £877million in public funds will initially create only around 500 new jobs in the whole region, the rest being 1800 staff previously based in Manchester and London changing location at great expense.

In the short term, barring the 500 new BBC jobs, the only realistic dividend Greater Manchester and the North West Region will receive from the corp will be an increase in house prices mainly in the already affluent areas such as Didsbury, Chorlton, Wilmslow and Ramsbottom. The only areas to benefit in Salford are likely to be Worsley and, of course, the apartment blocks at Salford Quays.

There was much thoughtful talk from Malcolm Allan, a planning consultant, of the need for organic growth if the whole Media City project is to realise its full potential (the BBC, ITV etc is only the first phase 37 acres of a 200 acre development) and become a true media hub that can compete with similar models in Seoul, Dubai, Stockholm, Oslo and Berlin.

The fundamental flaw it seems here is that unlike organic media hubs such as Soho/ Clerkenwell, Tribeca, New York and Mediaspree Berlin, our version is a top down version dominated by one overarching land owning authority who have nether the desire, experience or vision to know organic creative growth if it rose up and bit them.

Peel Holdings are corporate and profit driven to the core and it's no use pretending they are anything else. And in my experience there is nothing creative individuals distrust and abhor more than the exec in a suit with pound signs in his pupils and a cash register in place of his soul.

The way Media City has been configured there is no real scope for the Mam and Dad cafes, restaurants, bars, grocers, shops that attract and sustain a vibrant population to a neighbourhood. The sort of places that make Berlin's Media Spree, Soho and Tribeca so attractive, contributing to their success. MediaCityUK is just not configured to accommodate that kind of low level economic development.

I raised this briefly with Peel's very slick head of communications Paul Newman "Yes of course there will be room for independents we have just signed up Booths." (a family run supermarket chain)

Yes but they are not exactly the corner shop are they? They are a super market chain…

Newman shuffling his notes with the confidence of a detective superintendent about to conclude a difficult case replied: "Yes but they are independent- they are a family run firm."

Oh, that's alright then.

Much was made of the need to create an organic brand for MediaCityUK to attract the next phases of development from beyond the corporate UK media giants of BBC and ITV Coronation Street. This is where historically visual creatives fall down in this country - for too long the industry has been in the hands of rich corporations who controlled the means of production and distribution.

Compare this to the music industry which since at least 1979 has been far more open to new talent with technology and a mindset to encourage production and distribution rather than stifle it.

This has made popular British music with a medium sized home market constant world leaders in their output, and guess what? It is a bottom up development that has been able to sidestep the corporate giants and coalesce with them when it suited.

Now for the first time a combination of cheaper camera equipment and the internet, the same evolution is happening with visual media.

So if you want to see what a real "organic" media city looks like then go no further than Islington Mill in Salford. One old mill oozing creativity from small film makers, scene builders, artists and musicians, a self contained cross fertilizing community.

The only way the BBC will be able to achieve anything of that order is via the various tick boxing publicly funded outreach programmes that BBC Chief Operating Officer, Alice Webb, described to the conference delegates with the help of some sugar frosted films.

Astoundingly there was very little said about the impact that Media City has had on the communities around it, something which the Salford Star has documented tirelessly over the years. We have documented whole areas 'socially cleansed' in readiness for the expected influx of higher income, middle class media types.

For the working class of Salford, The Docks was theirs, the aim surely of replacing the lost jobs from its shameful short sighted under investment should have been for their benefit. Not to play musical chairs with media professionals who already have employment in other cities.

A lone voice at the conference I enquired about these unfortunates of the broken and lost communities of Langworthy, Weaste and Ordsall. What, after all the upheaval and loss, was in it for them?

"Local people are being catered for, they are working in the Holiday Inn, the shops, restaurants, security…" stated Mr. Newman.
 
And is that what local people can expect is it? Ancillary jobs but not core professional jobs?

"What do want? Would you prefer if it was still a car park" replied Newman.

I countered `Of course I don't want to see it as a car park I have been working in the media for thirty years, I want to see Media City succeed, but I want it to be for the benefit of people in the neighbourhood and my concern is that it is not inclusive.'

Veteran political commentator Jim Hancock rounded on me, snapping like an elderly rottweiler who been woken from his slumber "Haven't you seen the film with all those kids in?"

`Of course I have, so what? The film is a small snapshot, it does not tell the story as we know it' I said.

In fact the intended heartwarming ten minute film showing cherubic ten year olds being shown the ropes in aspirational jobs such as radio reporter, cameraman, director...all but programme controller (got to save some jobs for the Tristans)... made me ill. Nothing the kids did, just the blatant manipulation on the part of the PR tick boxers...

...Especially when you know the reality is the experience of Salfordian would-be media worker, Dawn, who told me... "When I applied to the BBC and got through to the journalist pool I was thrilled but I have not heard anything since except for the odd generic email. I do not know what is happening now.

"I do not think there is much communication, and from my experience the people high up in Media City do not seem very approachable" she added "I have a good 2:1 and have done placements with ITV and a PR agency. There are students who work very hard through adversity to get where they are today. I can only hope that I eventually get an interview with the BBC."

That's not some year five pupil musing into a wistful future ten years on, it is a graduate ready and raring to go now this minute, four months after her initial application.

We shall see how the current job ready generation of graduates fair in the next year and if the BBC/ MCUK offers opportunities to local graduates and media professionals and stops the exodus from the North West.

My instinct is that it will not but we shall meet back at this subject I am sure 18 months from now.

Lastly we talked a little about water and its value to the project, which brings us round 360 degrees to where this report started. The Ship Canal and its largely redundant waters over which the MCUK presides.

I have to declare an interest here. No way would I have considered non maritime development on any part of a navigable waterway as important as the Ship Canal. Because I am of the view that the diminution of The Docks was largely due to a lack of vision and under investment and is strategically short sighted.

It is something that may come back to bite us in years to come in a time of war or crisis, not least the ever increasing road congestion and HGV pollution enlarging the carbon footprint. Three days prior to the conference I interviewed a stevedore on one of the last small ships to berth and discharge its 1000 tonne cargo of corn under the gaze of the MCUK towers.

The stevedore spoke in no uncertain terms what he felt about the media people pushing him and his boat off the canal…"You can build an office block and some studios anywhere there's loads of brownfield sites you can put them, but there is only one way you can get thousands of tonnes of cargo to the heart of a major industrial conurbation in one go" he said "and that's using this waterway."

His logic was simple but unquestionable and while us media types may be around the site for at least the next twenty years I have a sneaking suspicion the boats will be back big time at some stage.

And if Peel and its brand advisers have any sense they will retain that little grain boat chugging up and down once a week with its cargo of corn for the flour mill across from its berth, which in turn supplies the North West's bakeries with flour.

Why? Because that ship gives the water a purpose other than as a gigantic stress reliever for overpaid TV executives.

Without a ship the water is just a large open relief drain, stagnant and sterile. A ship is trade, movement, hope…people will come to the Quays and Media City, see the boats going about their business and understand `Ahh that's why they built MCUK here, it stands to reason because it was a gateway to the rest of the world' not just because the land was cheap and available.

Besides it will be cheaper and more authentic than some future over funded arts project employing street performers to ponce around the Quays with a giant paper mache cut out ship flapping around in the wind in a programme `designed to raise awareness of Salford's maritime heritage'...

See the first part of Nigel Pivaro's report on The Impact of MediaCityUK - MediaCityUK and Democracy - click here

Photo by Andrew Goudie


 

alan kimber-nickelson wrote
at 4:19:37 AM on Monday, September 12, 2011
Dear Sirs,Can anyone please tell me when the Manchester Ship Canal was accidently drained,by pulling the PLUG out during cleaning,possibly about 20 years ago. Very many thanks. [I beleive this fact was reported in the Daily Telegraph] Signed A K-N.
 
James wrote
at 7:49:16 AM on Friday, July 08, 2011
Jim to compare Peel Holdings to the NOTW seems a little over the top. Unfortunatley big corporations have an obligation to their shareholders to create value and have to balance this primary objective against the needs of other stakeholders. In what way are Peel Holdings not accountable? Also if the council are in their back pocket why do some Peel schemes get turned down. Peel don't encounter this kind of negative press in Birkenhead where the £4.5bn they propose to invest is welcomed. I guess given I am a capitalist who believes revenue growth and profit is a good thing we are unlikely to ever agree.
 
Jim Devine wrote
at 4:18:31 AM on Friday, July 08, 2011
Think James is missing the point again in reference to the Star. He is missing the importance of total accountability and transparency and to my eyes the Star are the only ones being proactive in monitoring these, theres enough print out there glorifying Peels projects. Just look at the shambolic state the News OF The World has ended up in through nobody, absolutely nobody in that organisation obeying those two fundamentals. All the feckin wise after the event politicians are now queuing up with their condemnmation yet lay in bed with the worst perpetrators at News International.
 
James wrote
at 9:35:58 PM on Thursday, July 07, 2011
I am not a "PR bod" just a simple lad who grew up in Pendleton and still managed to find employment. I was born in the early 80's and at that time Salford was terrible. Things are changing for the better, admittidly slowly and it's no utopia but if people decided to do something for themselves rather than looking to blame everyone else for their lack of oppertunity then we would live in a proud city once more. Did you realise Peel wanted to develop the waterways to encourage trade and shipping to use them once more? We are in a fantastic geographical position next to one of the fastest growing cities in the country. We can benefit from that if we chose to.
 
clarkey wrote
at 9:02:58 AM on Thursday, July 07, 2011
Perhaps if the one billion spent on MCUK thus far had been spent on the docks and shipping related trades then we would not be having many of the discussions here. However I am not against the idea of bringing creative and entertainment industries into one place after all the region has a long track record in those fields and it makes sense to bring them together.Hopefully this will create an economy of scale with mutual cooperation and synergy between the occupants of MCUK, but as the piece points out its where it is located, how it is managed and who it will be benefit and who will be paying for it (i.e. public subsidy) who will be included and who locked out and who will profit?that should be open to scrutiny. Will the project succeed in its current format will it attract genuine organic growth without further subsidy. These are questions that are legitimately raised here. It does not have to be an either or debate more a Who, how, and how much discussion.
 
Nachtschlepper wrote
at 9:02:15 AM on Thursday, July 07, 2011
This is not a question of 'old farts' reminiscing or 'class war'. It's a question of a bunch of bungling idiots presiding over the demise of a once industrious & proud city. There were things about the past one would not want to see again, the miserable housing for instance (which I am old enough to have endured). Any idea though that modern Salford is some kind of Utopia is be frank utter bollocks. I suggets James that you take a walk around Broughton & tell me you would want to live there, with no job & little hope. I for one would aspire to more for my children than that they end flipping burgers, carrying luggage or sitting in a car park all night keeping watch over somebodys Mercedes. The Salford Star must be getting under some pretty thick skin if the PR bods have to post on the site to try to win hearts & minds.
 
Brian Timmins wrote
at 9:01:48 AM on Thursday, July 07, 2011
It seems not only do MCUK, Peel Holdings and the Councils think they know it all, so does someone who openly admits he wasn't around in the days of the docks and near full employment in Salford ! Stop being so bloody blinkered James ! "on the quays for those who achieve" , my God you just don't realise do you? Through no fault of their own a LOT of Salfords citizens can't achieve, simple as, even if academically brilliant with University fees and student loans to look forward to several will have turned down the opportunity to achieve. It is quite obvious you weren't around in the period being discussed or you'll know Dockers , miners and other manual workers were on a bloody good wage and most had added benefits, they worked hard and were paid for it. Yeah , some of the old buggers will tell you "I was on £4 a week for a 60 hour week" they were, when a pack of fags cost 1d and a house was £500, and yes they did cost that my Grandad bought for less. Don't forget as I said in my earlier post a lot of other manufacturing trades were also in the area,most of these now in China, Japan and India. It wasn't all about the Docks and the pits it was about manual labour, the reason there was so much manual labour here was manyfold, a large population to draw from being one of them, a good transport network, cost in relation to London etc. If Salford was full of people who had achieved your argument would still have faults,not enough jobs too provide them all with work either. You and people who think like you have to consider the wider picture , if you don't, Salford will once again become Poverty capital as it was in the 18th C. You will be paying higher Taxes to support the unemployed, do something now to stop the rot setting in, make job opportuniteis for the masses ,not just the lucky ones who have been privileged enough to be able to achieve. Salford people ,men and women, in the 60s and 70s could leave a job of their own free will on a Friday and be in employment by the Monday, I know, I did it on more than one occasion, there was plenty of jobs, take a look around now. Salford became a NIMBY City and closed down the factories creating the most pollution. They are now in Asia, the workers who relied on them aren't. They should have looked at cleaning them up instead of closing them down, as a 15 year old in 1972 I suggested recycling plastic in a school project and was laughed at, "You can't recycle plastic it gets buried end of." At Salford Tech in 1976 me and 2 other apprentice plumbers "invented" what became 20 years later the Condensing boiler, "Good idea but too complicated." If we were "bright" enough to come up with things like that surely those further up the food chain could have been a little more forward thinking. Not only has Salford suffered this fate but Sheffield , Doncaster, Halifax, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hartlepool and many more industrialised Cities of the North. Salford City Councils attitude seems a little " Sod the workers , lets get some cash in from land sales and let central Government pay the JSA" If it was unitarian , self governing AND financing they would have done something about it years ago. In a nutshell Salford workers are in the main ,hardworking, diligent, work hard play hard people, with few qualifications but the desire to be paid a fair wage for a fair days work, usually in the manual sector. Show me James if you will, the jobs created at MCUK for that stereotype , other than mundane jobs an immigrant with little or no English could do? And yes you could leave your bloody doors open, you could trust your neighbours. No rose tinted glasses just the truth.
 
Ant wrote
at 2:22:24 AM on Thursday, July 07, 2011
Great writing ... JAMES you know little the money and perks on the docks were great! My mother worked on them she love her days.
 
John Cooper wrote
at 12:29:35 AM on Thursday, July 07, 2011
The class war goes on ,James , get used to it .
 
Green when I can wrote
at 4:06:04 PM on Wednesday, July 06, 2011
I think Robert Thomas is missing one of the points of this piece and that is that the there is room for both high tech media development and a basic but irreplacable transport option but not in the same place where one cancels out the other. Surely anything that can get HGVs off the road is a good thing and if that means a return to basics over technology then im back to basics anytime.
 
james wrote
at 4:05:03 PM on Wednesday, July 06, 2011
I have never heard such negative drizzle. I wasn't born when the docks were in full force however my research suggests they were lawless, dangerous, filthy, polluted and didn't drag anyone out of poverty in a hurry. So the opening paragraph made me laugh: "I wonder if I am blessed or cursed by my memory of the Docks in their 60s heyday. The beautiful sleek red and white Manchester liners, their mighty superstructures proud above the dock wall gliding past the terraced streets was a common sight of rare beauty." I bet you didn't have to lock your doors did you Nigel? And I bet the kids play could play safely in the street? I know a child who said he didn't like sprouts, we persuaded him to try. On touching the fork to his tongue he made a screwed up face. You remind me of that child Nigel. I personally don't want to go back to the Salford of old where I have no employment prospects beyond working on the docks for next to no money in harsh conditions. I much prefer the Salford I live in with professional modern well paid work on the Quays for those who achieve. Boring Boring star. You are a disgrace. The class war died in the 1980's - Get over it.
 
Brian Timmins wrote
at 2:14:50 PM on Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Well, regenerate, redevelop, rebuild, call it what you will , the way I see it is this. The BBC amongst others see an opportunity to grab a bit of land/ buildings etc on the cheap, no doubt saving themselves £Millions per annum compared to London rates. They'll make a few jobs for local people, after all they need ,cooks, cleaners,groundsmen etc; I can't see any of the present employees in any better jobs (a) taking redundancy (b) moving North full time, why on Earth should they? They will not be taking a drop in pay and still enjoying the salaries they were getting in London, probably get a good Union rep to wangle them "Subsistance allowance" for overnight stays whilst working and "Travel allowance" to see their families, hey you never know if they work it right they may just about be able to afford a second property "oop North" paid for by us the Tax and Tv Licence payers, then let out spare rooms to co-workers and make a nice little second income. This MCUK to me sounds like a load of old rubbish. The CITY and IT'S PEOPLE NEED , job's , they need redevelopment of areas into useable, industrial and industrious uses for local people. How many locals are going to be employed within MCUK in anything other than menial jobs? And exclude the local people already working for BBC / ITV etc; moving "home" with their present employer. Salford is and always has been in the main a Town that thrives on manual work within the Industries that altered as the Town developed, cottagers hand weaving, industrial scale weaving, mining, various rubber and electrical manufacturers, chemicals, mechanical, the list goes on. All hard working but manual. Where are the redevlopments that cover these? " the intermodal transport hub par excellence of its day - provided the focus for many thousands who lived amidst its congested, smoky, polluted vibrancy. You smelt it, heard it, sweated it. In a way it owned us, but in return we felt ownership of it." Your right mate, where are those thousands going to work now? What will they own? Will the "bad old days" return? Instead of the "Rent man" turning them out because of failure to pay the rent be replaced by the Courts giving orders for repossession to the Mortgage holder? Salford City Council , Greater Manchester, and Central government could well be "improving" the area by attracting the Media, but they should also be looking "to their own" and making sure "the Locals" are looked after first and foremost, after all a saying that was lamented a lot when I was a youngster was "Charity begins at home",let Peel holdings and the Councils really invest in the area, FORCE them by Statute to invest every single penny they get from MCUK into something beneficial for the people and the area, places of employment and training to fill those places with local people. Salford Quays may be "prettier" than Salford Docks and the pollution may be under control, but, the unemployment situation will grow with every acre of land that is removed form Industry and replaced with white collar work. Will MCUK eventually put Salford on the map for a more sinister reason, highest unemployment in the NW, highest crime rate Etc; ? who knows only time will tell.
 
Arnold Crostic wrote
at 2:14:31 PM on Wednesday, July 06, 2011
V. mcbain .Do you not aspire for your little ' un to be better than a cleaner or waitress ? If you do , you will need to emigrate , or at least leave this Dead City . You are missing the vital point Nigel is making .Thousands of jobs lost , a few may be created .As for the part of this inept council in this farce , everything the inept goons touch fails or becomes desolate , whilst they crow about job creation . The clueless council cretins are devoid of any business acumen , and this is fatal .Thanks to Nigel and the Star for a great article .
 
joe oneill wrote
at 9:36:01 AM on Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Steve this amused me "Local people are being catered for, they are working in the Holiday Inn, the shops, restaurants, security…" stated Mr. Newman. And is that what local people can expect is it? Ancillary jobs but not core professional jobs? "What do want? Would you prefer if it was still a car park" replied Newman. It brought back to me a meeting i had with John Merry i still smile today when i asked over local jobs for local people he said. what do you want me to do bring back the pits,the reality is all our eggs are floating in one basket jobs for Salford people will be scarce if any, we are out Two million a year on our BBC band what great value what minds we have sitting in the Labour camp never seen from one year to the next till May.But who do we have to blame but our selves. Joe Oneill Salford Green party
 
Vincent McBain wrote
at 9:34:36 AM on Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Perhaps the docks should have been left destitute and run down so that blinkered old farts like Pivaro and Flowers can reminisce about the "glory days" inbetween waiting for the nurse to come and change their adult diapers? Why is it so bad for a big company to step in and make something of an area that was doing bugger all? The wonderful locals have proven incapable of giving Salford the economic jab up the backside it so desperately needs, but when someone else does all they do is whinge. So Peel makes a profit - good! Maybe there'll be some jobs going at Media City by the time my little 'un leaves school - but it is a certainty that the "look-back-with-rose-tinted-goggles" brigade couldn't create a fart after eating a crate of beans, never mind a new creative sector.
 
Robert Lomas wrote
at 9:33:09 AM on Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Less of the doom and gloom, whingeing and cringeing. There are not many investors in the area prepared to put up money for projects which may take 20 years to show profits. Investment is needed in the North West so get behind these projects now as they will disappear to other areas where support rather is forthcoming. Nostalgia is a lovely word but for good or bad technology moves on. Derelict docks are not what we should be mourning for but embracing new ideas and thinking positively or the future.
 
Bob Flowers wrote
at 1:06:24 AM on Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Excellent article .So when we cut through all the council bluff , bullshit and bluster , there will be only a few jobs for Salford people .Most of us already knew this , but someone should wake the inept council up , and let them know , ASSUMING THEY HAVE ANY INTEREST IN THE CITIZENS OF THIS DEAD CITY THEY HELPED TO CREATE .
 
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SALFORD UNIVERSITY STAFF FORCED OUT BY SECURITY AS PROF MARTIN HALL'S LEGACY HITS HOME

Horrified and stunned University of Salford staff have threatened industrial action as two members of staff were physically forced out of their workplace last week in what bosses called `a redundancy matter'.

The workers, from the University's marketing department, hadn't done anything wrong but they were ordered to clear their desks and leave immediately, escorted by security. This is yet another appalling legacy of retiring Vice Chancellor Martin Hall.

Full details here...

 



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