I knew the area that is now MediaCityUK when it was wasteland, a scene of abandoned quaysides, scruffy vegetation amongst the rubble, a place of ghosts. When I was a young photographer, an older friend of mine, a mentor really, asked me to assist him in archiving the area before it received its makeover.
We couldn’t imagine then the glass buildings, the nation’s television companies beaming out programmes from their Salford headquarters. Thinking back to this time, decades ago, reminds me that the future requires not only imagination, but a sense of humility, to accept that things will change, but that we may not know in what way.
There is no land left to waste in this district now. The morning paths, defined and sunlit, bring people from all over the country to make their careers in the offices and studios here. The footsteps of local pioneers can now also be clearly heard.
Hannah Hadfield, now twenty, has lived her whole life in Salford and we meet, appropriately, in the Tomorrow Building. She introduces herself as a YouTuber and blogger, stating clearly that this is her full time job.
“What does that mean?” I ask, feeling old as I pose the question.
“I upload videos to the internet, mostly to do with make-up and fashion. I post content twice a week. I’m quite proud of it, actually” she replies, her crisp, green eyes unblinking.
And no wonder she’s proud. She has over 400,000 followers, who avidly watch her do make-up tutorials and try on clothes she’s bought, which she calls ‘clothes hauls’. It provides her with a decent income through advertising and endorsements.
“I’ve been doing it for about three years now. I film in my bedroom and edit on my laptop. I like to keep it that way as I feel it keeps it genuine.”
Her face is made up perfectly, and she sips from a water bottle whilst we chat. I wonder how she knew that her ideas would work?
“I watched people in America. No-one in Manchester was really doing it. But I just winged it at first. I’ve learned what works.”
“Do your parents understand what you do?” I ask. “Just a few years ago, this job didn’t exist.”
“When I was younger I never knew what I wanted to do. It freaked out my dad a bit, as he always knew what he wanted to do. Around my 16th birthday I started my channel. At first my mum and dad thought it could just be a hobby, but they get it now”
“Do you consider the future?”
“This job definitely has a shelf life. I don’t actually like to spend too much time on the internet, or wear make-up all the time. And it can be lonely being a YouTuber”
She smiles at the idea of being surrounded by the loneliness of half a million people.
“I won’t be making fashion and video channels forever and there’s no other content I’d like to produce. I don’t know what the internet will be in 10 years. I think it will be a shame if it overtakes life. I have a successful career in something I’m wary of. I enjoy what it is now, but I don’t know where it will be in ten years.”
We shake hands.
“Anyone can do what I do. I can’t take credit for all of it.” she says. I’m silenced by such humility from someone so young, someone so able to understand that the future is unknowable.