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MediaCity: A cultural place where people want to be

“Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future” said the early 20th century French philosopher Albert Camus. But why are Camus’ reflections relevant to today’s placemaking agenda?

The past shaping the future

Without a doubt, MediaCity has been built on the ‘authentic creations’ of its past. It’s a place with history – built on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal where some of the greatest social movements and defining inventions of all time were born. These moments of social history were captured by artist LS Lowry whose works are celebrated today in The Lowry which overlooks the iconic MediaCity skyline. But is it enough for MediaCity to dine out on its rich cultural heritage to build its future?

Culture feeds creativity

For MediaCity to further grow and truly succeed as a creative, tech and digital hub our challenge is to create a place where culture and creativity is given the opportunity to creep out of every pore. It has to be authentic, not tokenistic and we have to provide a genuine platform for it to grow. Culture fuels and inspires creativity and without it, we’re simply left with a soulless cluster of shiny new, albeit highly sustainable buildings – where creatives just don’t see themselves.

Over the past decade, there’s been growing recognition that cultural activity within communities and places brings demonstrable social and economic value. So as MediaCity fine-tunes its masterplan vision for the next decade, culture will shape its regeneration plans and not the other way round.

A testbed for ideas

The MediaCity place team is constantly evolving ideas which give local artists and creatives a platform, we look at our spaces and watch how people instinctively and naturally use the environment. Engaging with our local communities is key – what do they want to see and do here?

The process is bringing fresh thinking on how we can continue to be a magnet for creatives and the industries they work within. And it all comes back to culture.  It started with our collective pop-up of independent food and drink vendors which originally started as a response to supporting artists and the hospitality sectors during the pandemic. During the summer months, Kargo on the Docks is an established part of MediaCity and continues to give a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work.

Experience has taught us, that if we’re generous with our public realm, give creatives the chance and embrace artist led activity it softens spaces and brings people together. It becomes a happy place where people want to be.

The success of the summer F&B pop-up influenced the direction for Central Bay – our new food and drink destination which opened in Autumn 2023 is now all about celebrating local independent foodie talent. It was a brave move – creating the largest independent food hall in the North in what was Quayside shopping centre’s service yard area backing on to the Manchester Ship Canal. This underused water frontage has been transformed into a food and drink destination which echoes a Seine-esque boulevard – on a sunny day of course. It overlooks Old Trafford, the Millennium Bridge and the Imperial War Museum North – and you really need to see it to believe it. We listened to the community and this is what they wanted to see more of.

Our boldest activation to date, was delivering, for the first time last summer, an entirely free cultural festival ‘We Invented the Weekend’ which used every conceivable space across MediaCity and the Quays to host 200 music, art, sport and everything in-between-led activities. Attracting over 60,000 people from the local area and beyond it created £3.2million for the local economy and was hailed a tremendous success with ‘incredible social value’ by Salford Mayor Paul Dennett. It was born through a shared passion and vision with our founding partners Peel, HemingwayDesign, the BBC and The Lowry and brought new audiences to MediaCity while engaging with the local community.


By giving permission and a platform for culture to thrive we’re inspiring, energising and drawing in like-minded people who want to innovate and create within a place that enables it to happen. It’s a place where people simply want to be. It’s where they want to work, live, spend their leisure time and study which ultimately helps keeps talent and opportunity in the region. MediaCity’s cultural tapestry supports that ecosystem.

No one has ever complained about a place having too much culture, so as we embrace the next phase of MediaCity, its identity and its people, as Camus reflected – it will be MediaCity’s ‘gift’ for generations to come.

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