If you grew up in Manchester in the 1980s, one constant was always Granada Television. Like most things in this fantastic city, it was much more than just a regional variant of something that existed in London, it was something that lived and breathed its own unique air. To list all the things it did for Manchester would take ages, but suffice to say our current status as prolific creators of film, TV and music in the UK owe it a huge debt.
When I was a kid, the place signified something magical. I remember driving past it hundreds of times and trying to peek into it, just to catch a glimpse of the Coronation Street set or maybe even Mancunian music mogul and local broadcasting legend Tony Wilson turning up for a day at the office. Then one day in 1988, the studio threw its doors open to the public, with a kind of museum/theme park dedicated to TV.
The Granada Studios Tour offered not just the opportunity to see the inner workings of a modern television production facility, it had all sorts of other treats. You could walk through a Victorian street, wander into downtown New York, visit the news studio, even have a pint of ale (or Vimto in my case) at the Rovers Return. The Granada Studios Tour was a golden ticket to Tony Wilson’s Telly Factory, and in the years that followed it was even a place for a couple of New Years Eve parties I wish I could say remember fondly.
The Tour closed down in the late 90s, but the studio carried on as the home of ITV Manchester for many years after. However, when Media City arrived in Salford back in 2013, ITV headed there and the building has been largely unused since. Last week, as part of a special tour arranged by Manchester Architects and Levitt Bernstein – the architect practice now masterminding the building’s reinvention as a luxury hotel, apartment, office, leisure and creative complex – I was given the chance to see what it looks like now and hear about the plans for its future.
So, here’s my one last peek behind the magical gates of ‘Granadaland’… before it’s gone forever: