Farewell Quay Street, Hello MediaCityUK: Homage to Granadaland

Historical link with Granadaland broken next week

Awaiting new occupants: Ralph Tubbs' iconic Granada Television studios.
Awaiting new occupants: Ralph Tubbs’ iconic Granada Television studios. Photographed in 2005 when the red illuminated sign remained in situ.

Each time I returned home by train from deepest Lancashire, particularly during the long winter nights, there was always one thing which meant ‘I was on my way home’.

The landmark in question was Ralph Tubbs’ Quay Street studios, purpose built for Granada Television. On approaching Deansgate or Salford Central, the illuminated red Stymie Bold ‘Granada TV’ always screamed ‘nearly there’. It meant the end of a good day trip to Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, Southport or Morecambe. It was much a part of Manchester city centre along with its orange and white buses. I had hoped the sign would remain in situ if I left Dukinfield for Melbourne [Victoria, Australia] and returned home some time in 2030 for the sole purpose of celebrating Whit Friday. It was joined at the hip with the modernist masterpiece along with Coronation Street, Anthony H. Wilson and the now late Sir Denis Forman.

Alas this wasn’t so, and the rot set in with the formation of a single ITV. Then the legendary sign was taken down. Then they started moving to MediaCityUK along with the BBC, so the removal of the red sign more or less sealed its fate. Though the technology’s state-of-the-art, it doesn’t scream ‘Granadaland’. Instead it screams ‘Monolithic Commercial Broadcaster’ (and the DNA test shows that ITV Productions is the father of several other lost franchisees). Granada, alas, is just a mere ITV region instead of a state of mind (hence the adoption of ‘Granadaland’). It is survived by daily news bulletins and the odd regional advertisement. Whereas MediaCityUK has emerged over the last three years, with the help of Peel Holdings, the Granada Studios was built over an eight year period.

The Granada Studios

Construction started in 1954 with extensions added where needed. Its first studios were situated in a two storey building which opened in 1956. This continued till 1962, but subsequent additions included the purchase of the nearby Bonded Warehouse. The studios were renovated in 1987, thus incorporating the Granada Studios Tour (1988 – 1999).

In recent years, it has become synonymous as the studios for The Jeremy Kyle Show, The Chase, Countdown and Take Me Out, as well as Coronation Street and University Challenge. The studios are owned by BBC Manchester and ITV Granada, under the guise of 3SixtyMedia.

It is anticipated that the main office block will be converted to flats. At present, it is not clear as to whether the Stage One studio would be demolished or put to different uses. The Coronation Street outdoor set, built in 1982, is slated for transfer to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

MediaCityUK

Their new location is situated on the northern side of the Manchester Ship Canal. They will be situated in the Orange Building with the University of Salford. The advantage of their new location will be the ability to share studios with the BBC as well the University of Salford and independent production companies. Though technically excellent, there has been negative criticism over its buildings lacking the same panache as Granada’s base, or that of the BBC’s former facility on Oxford Road. It was slated by architectural critic Owen Hatherley as “an enclave, easily closed off from the life of the rest of the city”.

‘Don’t Forget to Switch Off Your Television Set…’

Along with the loss of closedowns in favour of 24 hour broadcasting in February 1988, Granada Reports’ last report from Quay Street will mark a more significant End Of An Era. It marks the loss of Manchester’s historic link with Granada proper. Once the last recordings of University Challenge and Jeremy Kyle, it would be hard to believe how ghostly Britain’s first purpose built television studios would be. The corridors would vibrate to Tony Warren thrashing out a deal for his soon to be phenomenal soap; the dulcet tones of Jim Pope or Charles Foster would silently trill in the former Studio Four.

But, along with changes of ownership, it also reflects how televisual technology has moved on. Ralph Tubbs’ studio was built in an age of 405 line VHF broadcasting, though lasted well in to the digital age. Though we’ve gained something technologically, we have lost the early mystique which the 1950s and 1960s purpose built studios had. I doubt as if the architecturally nondescript nature of MediaCityUK would give audiences the same goosebumps as New Broadcasting House, Quay Street, and BBC Television Centre ever did. Whether they will have a similar effect to younger generations, we’ll never know.

From everyone here at East of the M60, a peaceful night to you, and from me, take good care of yourself. Goodnight…

S.V., 22 March 2013.

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