The BBC is moving to Salford Quays.
For people living in the twin cities of Manchester and Salford, this has been the biggest news in years. For Manchester residents, it's a tragedy to see the 1960s office block that housed the BBC headquarters on Oxford Road in the city centre becoming boarded up and empty. For residents of Salford, it's a joy to see famous names move down the river to the brand spanking-new tower blocks that call themselves 'Mediacity', the new home of the BBC in the north west of England.
It's no surprise to hear that the BBC doesn't want to make such a huge upheaval without 'consulting' everybody; they have consulted their own employees, and found that some who now live in Manchester aren't bothered about relocating, but the ones who now work in London aren't looking forward to a move up to the savage north. The BBC haven't bothered consulting people in Manchester, of course, because most of them are gutted. They've 'consulted' with residents of Salford, though, and found two main responses: some are flattered and honoured at the prospect of being host city to the distinguished broadcaster, while hoping that they might find jobs in the shiny new offices. Others are more cynical, convinced that the few new jobs available will suit the unqualified residents who live nearby and unimpressed that the new bars and restaurants of Mediacity will have anything to tempt their palette.
I'm a resident of Salford. When I started thinking about my reaction to the plans, I had mixed feelings: I knew that nobody was going to offer me a job on Salford Quays, not even as a doorman. I also was sympathetic to local people who are having their expectations built up but aren't going to see their sons and daughters employed by the big corporation either, (mainly because of lack of paper qualifications). But, I was also keenly aware of a contradiction: Salford Quays is branding itself as 'Mediacity' but, in my experience, Salford itself is a media city.
When I thought about the message I wanted to get across to the BBC, it's simply this: the BBC is not the only producer of 'media' in Salford. Many Salford residents have skills and experience in making films; plays and drama; songs and music; art; sculpture; and other forms of writing like poetry, stories and books. Having been involved in maintaining a 'Creative Writing' group in the heart of Ordsall for eighteen months, I knew that local people had immense creativity and had come up with an amazing output. This has been showcased at the Ordsall Festival; weekly on Salford City Radio, our local station; and in a book produced in the summer of 2010 of selected writings.
Only one problem: the BBC don't want to hear that someone has written a book which will tell them all this. I've sent it for review to 'Front Row' and the Radio 2 Book show. I've given it to Radio Manchester. I've sent emails; Press Releases; and blogs. The blogs, in particular, are a real problem: if you try to make a link to a book on a BBC blog, they accuse you of 'being commercial' and delete the contribution. Let's be clear: I am completely happy to GIVE AWAY copies of the damn book, if only BBC would deign to read it, and hear the voices of people in Salford.
There is an old Zen saying: 'If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to see it, did it really happen?' We could update that for the modern age: 'If a book is written about the BBC, but they never read it, review it or even allow their employees to hear about it, does that book really exist?'
The BBC has given their answer.