From my 15th floor kitchen window in Salford I can clearly see MediaCityUK. When the skyline, all at differing heights, glistens in the late afternoon sunshine, I’m reminded of a graphic equaliser
There are several ways for me to get there, but I derive the most pleasure from taking the least easy option, where I walk and follow my nose, so that I end up on delightful detours through streets of red, terraced houses. It’s the Salford as depicted for decades in Coronation Street, when the nation’s favourite barmaid, Bet Lynch, exchanged love and wisdom with the regulars of the Rovers Return.
The journey is always a little longer than I intend, but there’s a clear moment when I’ve arrived, when I cross a wide, busy road and follow the tram tracks down to the low level buildings that surround the high rise towers at the core of this regeneration. Very quickly, when I look behind me, the older city is no longer in view.
At Dock 10, amongst primary colours, I find Holly Musgrove. She’s originally from Surrey, and currently works as a runner for studios where audiences arrive to watch competing choirs, and ex-footballers spout their two ‘pennorth on Match Of The Day.
I’m not exactly sure what a runner does, so Holly explains.
“I look after the galleries, which is where the production team work, putting together the shows. There are no windows, and the hours are long, so it’s important that we make them comfortable with drinks and snacks. I also make sure the Green Room is tidy and well stocked. That’s where guests wait and so it’s essential we get that right.”
A red light pings on further down the corridor, like someone just had an idea.
“What got you here from Surrey then?” I ask.
“I’d always loved the north when I was a kid, even though I’d never been. I loved its music. Joy Division, The Smiths, and the television drama Life On Mars was amazing. When it was time to go to university I chose Manchester, and was just so excited when I saw all the places I’d seen on that show.”
“So you loved Manchester,” I said, “But how did you end up here, in this job?”
“After I finished my degree in philosophy, I got a job in a bar here. I knew this was the place to be if I wanted to work in television. It’s amazing who you get chatting to when they’ve had a couple of glasses of prosecco, and I made a load of contacts that way. Then I went to work at Penelope’s Deli, which supplied catering to a lot of the studios. I met more people whilst I was a manager there, and one of my connections got me a job as a runner. TV is a meritocracy, and nearly everyone, no matter how high up they are, has been a runner at some point. So it pays to be enthusiastic, reliable and polite.”
Does she know where she wants to go, I wonder?
“People who work in bars tend to have big dreams. I love the camaraderie of working in a team, so I want to work my way up to becoming a floor manager, and then I can work directly with the director on productions. I’ve discovered a lot about myself as I’ve made my way here, and I’ve also learned a piece of wisdom. You can tell a lot about a person based on how they treat bar and waiting staff. Always be lovely to bar staff.”
I can’t help but think that Bet, Liz and Michelle back at the Rovers would agree.