At MediaCityUK, you’ll find the studios of the BBC and ITV. The production centre for Coronation Street is located across the Manchester ship canal on the Trafford side, next to the Imperial War Museum with its crazy metallic fragmented shell.
The Lowry is a centre for art and performance and is also housed within in a shiny metallic structure full of strident angles, shapes and colours. The Lowry Outlet is a stylish shopping mall where you can buy discounted clothes and many other items. There’s a food court and a cinema there too.
Countless offices and apartments have been built all across Salford Quays. There are four impressive bridges two old and two new. Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is very close. Manchester city centre is a 20 minute tram ride away.
I remember visiting the Manchester Docks as a child. It was exciting to see ocean-going ships floating on the water so close to the heart of the city. I once went with my mother to visit a Royal Navy submarine named Grampus. It was docked close to where the Millennium lift bridge is now.
A few years later, containerisation and the growth in the size of ships made the Docks redundant. By the early 80s, the area was mostly derelict and unused. But people at Salford City Council devised a plan. It has taken many years to bring that plan to reality and the development is still ongoing but I’m sure if the dockers and crews of the past could look into the future and see what’s there today, they would be astonished.
Just a quick note about place names, which can be confusing in this part of the world. Unlike other major cities, whose boroughs form one unit – I’m thinking of London, Berlin, New York and many others – the Manchester conurbation is divided up among a number of local authorities. Salford is a separate city and sees itself as having a strong identity that’s separate to Manchester.
The Manchester Docks were not located inside the City of Manchester – apart from a small section – but inside the City of Salford. The name of the conurbation is known as Manchester, or Greater Manchester and they were referred to as the Manchester Docks. Visitors often find the geography of the local area quite difficult to understand!
And the confusion continues: The area we think of as Salford Quays is actually split between Salford on the north side of the water and Trafford on the south side. For this reason the name ‘The Quays’ has been introduced as a unifying identity. The trouble with this name is that it has no place identifier. If you type ‘The Quays’ into a search engine, you may well stumble on other locations, for instance a shopping centre of that name in Newry, Northern Ireland.
There are other controversies. Not everyone is keen on the strident and outlandish designs of the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum. Others say the architecture of MediaCityUK is too bland and not adventurous enough.
There is a sentiment within Salford that Salford Quays has received the lion’s share of local funding, to the detriment of poorer areas. I’m not going to go into that controversy here, I will just approach Salford Quays from the point of view of a visual artist, with an eye on its history. And in Salford Quays I can find plenty of visually arresting scenes that demand to be captured. I’ve done this mostly through the medium of photography but I’ve also completed one drawing so far and hope to do more.
A major reason to visit Salford Quays is to see the paintings of LS Lowry, which are on display in the Lowry. His work should be an inspiration to everyone.
My Salford Quays e-book brings together around 30 of my best photos of Salford Quays mostly taken from around 2000 onwards. The cover photo shows the Lowry in early 2002, around the time it was completed, with no buildings around it . At that time it was possible to see the complete outline of the structure. Since then, more buildings have appeared all around, and new ones are under construction today.
I only have a couple of images from the eighties, both taken on Trafford Road Bridge, one of the bridge itself and one of the view along the canal before any of the development started.
I was at the opening of the Lowry in 2002 and managed to capture the view of the shiny new building from the top of the car park. Now there is an office development on the site next to the car park. It’s nice when there is open space to photograph buildings, but you have to act quickly. Things change quickly in this part of the world.
I love seeing the Mersey Ferry arriving in Salford Quays after its journey from Liverpool. I’ve done the six hour Manchester Ship Canal Cruise from Salford to Liverpool twice and I have to say it’s stunning.
I really wish there were more ships on the water in Salford Quays. It’s much quieter than the Thames. HMS Bronington was previously moored on Trafford Wharf, as well as the theatre ship Fitzcarraldo but they have both since moved on.
The WAXI water taxi is the only regular passenger service operating on the canal. I went on a tour to the city centre and back and it was a great experience to see the Quays, bridges and the area along the water from new angles.
On most stretches of lakes and waterways around Manchester and Salford, waterfowl are in residence and they often add an attractive element to photographs. Humans can also be seen on the water. Rowers from the watersports centre often do their training there and occasionally there are swimming events.
MediaCityUK appeared later years on the northern side of Salford Quays, when the studios of both the BBC and ITV migrated here from the city centre. The view of MediaCityUK from the Lowry is great, especially on a sunny day when the water is still. It can appear as smooth as a piece of glass.
I love to take the tram from the city centre. There are amazing panoramic views all the way from Deansgate-Castlefield to MediaCityUK.
I’ve selected a small number of my best photos for this e-book, which I’m giving away in order to showcase my photos and provide some information about this very interesting and photogenic area.
Feel free to pass on the link to anyone else who might be interested. If you like the photos, please post a comment on social media or e-mail me directly.