We were first given a tour of The University of Salford’s MediaCityUK building back in 2010 when MediaCity and Orange Tower was just a concrete shell. Even then, between the artist’s impressions and 3D models, you could feel the excitement and potential building from the place with the BBC and ITV also taking up residence.
Fast forward several years and our state of the art campus is in its third successful academic year. I’ve had the pleasure to teach and work at MediaCityUK from the start of the journey. I began by teaching the first digital journalism module and being based at MCUK running EDinteractive. I have seen our campus progress from the ideas stage to the drawing board through to a fully fledged living and breathing resource of cutting edge creativity and inspiration. It’s been a real pleasure to be able to run short courses here in Web, WordPress and Search and Social Media Marketing.
Our campus consists of three large floors of what is considered to be one of the best buildings at MediaCityUK. Floors two and three are offices, teaching and training spaces used for a variety of learning events. Above us, we can see right into ITV’s space and the BBC are another major organisation here, based directly next door. A stones throw from us is The Landing, a home for creative and digital businesses including Origin, a hotdesking space for startup companies and freelancers. This all provides wonderful opportunities for our students.
Our ground floor space is where much of the interaction, events and innovations are showcased. This state of the art reception space is called ‘the Egg’ – it’s open to the public and allows you to wander in for a coffee or a sandwich at our café. Whilst you are sipping an Americano, you can witness the latest developments and best work on our state of the art Christie tile walls and HD multi-touch tables. The tiles are super-high resolution and configurable into different shapes depending on what events or conferences are happening. Essentially, they are very large, high quality screens showing some of the exciting work happening at the University and MediaCityUK. There are also large plasma screens showing creative work throughout the building.
I had the pleasure to stage one of the first events at our MediaCityUK space called Creative Hive Live. This was an event showcasing all kinds of creative work from sculpture, interactive performance to comedy and design. There were over 70 people performing and showcasing their work not just from our own organisation, but from all over the North-West and beyond.
We used the Christie tile walls to show Tweets from the event and showed many different creative and interactive works on the tiles. We ran creative speed networking events using the interactive touch tables to show off everything from video to painting to photography.
We packed out our Egg Suite space, which is behind the tile wall and is ideal for running presentations, workshops and discussions. We ran a series of creative media discussions and presentations in this space, everything from digital media to fairytales and fashion. In our two state of the art TV studios, we had interactive installations, one called Light of Tree featuring sculpture and photography and another exciting digital, interactive performance piece about a Polish boy’s day out at the seaside where visitors became part of the performance.
The jewel in the crown of our space in my view is our Digital Performance Lab, located at the far end of our ground floor space. This is a traditional theatre with very high specification audio and lighting. It features the largest HD screen in Europe which makes it ideal for all kinds of performances. I have seen major keynote speakers present here, discussion panels with the BBC, conferences, comedy performances with Peter Kay and John Thompson and I have even seen the entire space filled with dry ice for an art installation. The recent Digital Economy Conference and the Salford Media Festival were really excellent events featuring some of the countries best speakers and world class inspirational events. The Next Generation part of the media festival saw our doors open to industry experts and guests to join with our students in a truly exciting and innovative event. We had the pleassure to run a masterclass event called GeoStoryworlds (part of Alex’s research) in our Digital performance lab which was attended by senior staff, students and guests from the BBC and beyond. The technology is all simple to use and interacts with social media.
The words MediaCity often make people think about digital media and TV. MediaCityUK and our space though are about so much more than that. The entire philosophy of the space is that it breaks down silos and allows the writer to work with the film producer and the graphic artist. Technology is obviously synonymous with this space, but creative input from all different kinds of disciplines is the lifeblood and underlying principle of it. There is the technology support and talent here to truly enable technology to bring ideas to life.
I run the Creative Hive project at MediaCity, which offers a free web space to allow anyone of any discipline to showcase their creative talents, creating opportunities for all at MediaCity and beyond. All are welcomed to browse or join this – it’s all free and contains a lot of creative writing at www.creativehive.org – we have well over 900 members now from many different disciplines and Universities.
Other projects we’re excited about at the moment are StoryWorld and OnLocation. The former is working with Bolton University and the latter, Salford University. Both of these are geo-digital story-telling platforms. Basically, they allow you to tell real and fictional stories using maps to weave together the narrative and navigate physical areas, reaching out into the community. The exciting part for us is getting journalists and writers to interact with the video producers and graphic designers to make something that is greater than the sum of their parts. We’re at the prototype stage with OnLocation but anyone is welcome to get involved.
It’s the first step on the MediaCityUK ladder, but we believe there is a wealth of opportunity here, not just for us as a University – but for you also. That’s the whole point of MediaCityUK – there are opportunities, entertainment and inspiration here for all. That creative spark is all important – MediaCity is here to help those ideas come to life and share them with the world, drop us a line if you want to discuss this further or share this article on social media if you enjoyed it.