diamond geezer

 Friday, April 22, 2016

Day out (continued): Salford
And then there's Salford, which definitely isn't part of Manchester proper. It's part of Greater Manchester, but that's different, Salford being an entirely separate place, attaining city status in 1926. The two are barely separated by the River Irwell, although it's for the old docks on the Manchester Ship Canal that Salford is now best known.

Salford Quays
After the decline of the third biggest port in Britain, which isn't bad for 40 miles inland, Salford City Council spent the 1980s intensively regenerating its quayside. They wiped away the cranes and gantries, dammed off the polluted waters, added roads and bridges, knocked up a whole new set of buildings and created a whole new urban landscape called Salford Quays. The original buildings look terribly dated these days, all low density lowrise surrounded by car park, and it's ever so easy to imagine Michael Heseltine turning up in a hard hat to oversee construction, then returning in a suit to open everything. A second burst of life has occurred over the last decade, kickstarted by the BBC's decision to move lots of its production out of London, and other media organisations have followed to create a proper entertainment cluster.

The first landmark building to be erected was The Lowry, a theatre/gallery complex on a tip of land at Pier 8. It looks classically alien from the front, like a collection of bold geometric shapes, and rather shinier and more steely from across the water. Inside The Lowry are two theatres and plenty of gallery space, including a unique collection of matchstalk paintings by its artist namesake... or so I'm told. I've walked past twice, once in 2003 and once at the weekend, and never quite felt sufficiently welcomed to push open the door and step inside. I walked up to the front this time and tried to work out if it was OK to go in and look at the pictures, there being no obvious signs, because all I could see from the outside was a box office and a dead-looking cafe, but seemingly best not. So I went in the shopping centre instead. The Lowry Outlet Mall is what drives the majority of non-working traffic to Salford Quays, because nothing beats wandering round double decker arcades lined by cavernous shops selling stuff slightly cheaper than you can no longer buy elsewhere. I didn't stay long.

Across the dock, past Nando's, is the rather more recent MediaCityUK. A splayed out crescent of glass towers curves round a paved piazza, not quite as excitingly as you might hope, thanks in part to the twin towers of a Holiday Inn rising behind. Stickers on the windows hint at what's made inside, with CBBC and Mastermind in the building by the bridge, BBC Breakfast and Match of the Day on the other side, and BBC 6Music broadcasting further back. The BBC must have entered its "We'd better not spend too much" phase when this was built, because its constituent blocks are capacious without ever quite being interesting, and the overarching effect left me cold. What's also missing is the opportunity to properly interact and go inside unless you've pre-booked on a tour, and a selfie opportunity with a fibreglass Pudsey doesn't quite cut it.

Thank goodness then for the Blue Peter Garden, northern version. This is located by the tramstop, and is fully open and accessible to the public, which shows a major level of trust given the overnight trashing its southern counterpart once endured. I was delighted to see that the Italian Sunken Garden still exists, if a covered rectangular pond surrounded by pots and paving counts, beautifully maintained with bright blooms and numerous representations of the Blue Peter ship. I was also reassured to see the original 1978 concrete footprints of Percy, Lesley, Simon, Shep and Goldie have been transferred to Salford, now augmented by similar indentations made by the show's current crew (precisely one year before my visit). And yes, Petra's statue watches over the lot, just as she did at Television Centre, except here anyone can pay homage.

Across the Media City footbridge, officially crossing from Salford into Trafford, sits the most peculiar building of the lot. It's the Imperial War Museum (North), a juxtaposition of three elemental 'shards' by Daniel Libeskind, and opened in 2002. The visitor experience is deliberately disorienting, and right-angle-free, entering through a minor doorway then bending back up the stairs to reach the main internal exhibition space. The museum focuses on first hand experiences of war, so isn't bursting over with artefacts to view, but tells the story of a century of war in sufficient grim detail around the irregular perimeter. Every hour the lighting dims and an immersive audio-visual experience is projected across the upper walls - I got memories of the Home Front, you might get a Baghdad air raid. And whereas last time I visited it was also possible to take the lift up the Air Shard for a grandstand panorama, alas the entrance to this windswept viewpoint appeared to be very boarded up, as if they don't like to talk about it any more.

Coronation Street

If you've ever wondered where ITV's flagship soap opera is filmed, the answer is on a backlot at Salford Quays. Specifically it's by the Ship Canal adjacent to the IWM, and immediately opposite the BBC's main building, and would be really quite public had the studios not been surrounded by a giant wall. The cobbles are well back from the water, behind a second screening wall, and the outer bailey has two giant metal street signs on it in an attempt to make potential visitors think they've actually seen something. Don't come expecting to see anything.

ITV's studios haven't been here at Trafford Wharf for long, with first filming in 2013 and a first appearance on screen in 2014. Previously they were in town, that's Manchester, coincidentally on Quay Street. Granada opened studios on former railway sidings at the start of its franchise in 1956, but it wasn't until 1968 that Coronation Street filming emerged from indoor studios to a specially constructed set on the backlot. Tours of a further-upgraded street were available for several years, except on Mondays when the cobbles between the Rovers and the Kabin were used for filming, and restarted in 2014 after the production team moved to Trafford. Unfortunately the Granada Studio Tour finished for good at the end of last year, so that the old set can be demolished and the land reused for much more profitable redevelopment. Some of the old studios are being retained for media, events and retail, but there'll be no tiny terraced houses on the refreshed site owned by harridans in hairnets, and nothing more than a small plaque in memoriam.

The original 1960 set was inspired by Archie Street in Ordsall, as seen in the opening credits for years, and which was bulldozed in 1971 so don't go looking. But there is a genuine Coronation Street a short distance away, on the northern edge of Ordsall, by chance approximately halfway between the soap's old and new filming locations. A few of the original streets around Regent Square survive, of which Coronation Street is one, with its one long terrace and some green metal railings in lieu of a front garden. The handful of streets opposite meet at fenced-off back alleys, or blossoming greenspace, while pigeons peck at the tarmac and the occasional postie goes by. It looks almost gentrified, were this Hackney, but this is no rich neighbourhood, as the extremely famous building at the end of the street affirms. For this Coronation Street is also the location of the Salford Lads Club immortalised by The Smiths on the inner sleeve of The Queen Is Dead, in all its redbrick glory, and still doing sterling recreational work keeping local youth off the street. A man several decades past being a lad was out front smoking when I passed, making it difficult for me to pose moodily outside, but if I'd realised the building is open to visitors on Saturdays (from 11am to 1.30pm) I could have eagerly explored inside.

My Manchester gallery
There are 75 photos altogether [slideshow] [24 Salford Quays photos]
(and that's how to do a day out!)

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream