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Lights, camera, action as Greater Manchester builds on its reputation as a world-class media production hub

Greater Manchester is set to build on its reputation as one of the most significant media production hubs on the planet as further studio facilities, staff and independent production companies begin operations – with almost one million sq ft of formal production space.

New research from the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GM LEP) reveals the scale of production space across the city-region is now equivalent to more than 15 full-size football pitches.

Ten years since the BBC first broadcast from its new base at MediaCityUK in Salford, the economic impact of Greater Manchester’s burgeoning digital, creative and tech sector is being felt across the city-region.
The BBC has announced an expansion of its MediaCityUK operations, boosting staff beyond the current 3,500 headcount and bringing new services to the North from London.

MediaCityUK is also home to 1,000 ITV staff from departments including the MultiStory label, Lifted Entertainment, as well as Coronation Street’s 7.7-acre (335,000 sq ft) production centre – the biggest single television production site in the world.

Also at MediaCityUK, studio and post-production facility Dock10 has hosted many of the biggest programmes on British television, including The Voice UK, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and the British Soap Awards.
Employing more than 150 staff, Dock10 has two divisions: studios and post productions. It spans a total of 157,000 sq ft of production space, including the UK’s biggest multi-camera TV studio for major productions.

Providing brilliant backdrops and cost-effective filming locations, Manchester city centre has become a magnet for high profile productions, with Screen Manchester facilitating productions including The Stranger, Peaky Blinders, The Crown, Das Boot, Years and Years, Curfew, Cold Feet, Darkest Hour and The A Word, and upcoming Sony Pictures production Morbius.

Other recent Manchester productions include It’s A Sin, which was written by Russell T Davies and produced by Manchester’s Red Production Company. Independent production companies include Nine Lives Media, Lion Eyes, Factory Create, Quay Street Productions and Studio Liddell. The ITV label, Quay Street Productions, is also based in Manchester centre.

Part of the Enterprise City development in Manchester’s St John’s District and operated by All Studios, Manchester Studios has more than 100,000 sq ft of studio and stage facilities available, including 41,400 sq ft of production space within the former ITV Studios 02, 06, 08 and 12.

Complementing production hubs in Salford and Manchester city centre, Space Studios in West Gorton is expanding to offer 105,000 sq ft of stage space across eight stages on a 17-acre site. And the Sharp Project in Newton Heath, Manchester has 50,000 sq ft of space dedicated to TV and film production.

In Stockport, the Vectar Project has committed to carbon neutral film production with studios totalling almost 4,000 sq ft.

Greater Manchester’s four universities and University Academy 92 also have production facilities and are producing a pipeline of talent.

Due to open in September 2021 and part-funded by the GM LEP and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), SODA – the School of Digital Arts – at Manchester Metropolitan University is a £35m investment into the workspaces, networks, teaching and research that will drive ideas and innovation across all forms of creative content.

In addition, Greater Manchester’s tech community is investing in bespoke media production facilities.

Among them is The Hut Group’s (THG) ICON development at Manchester Airport, which will include content creation facilities totalling 168,000 sq ft.

ICON will house around 2,000 people who will be focused on video production and photography, to be used across THG’s digital offering.

A thriving digital and creative sector is cited in the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy and Economic Vision as a key part of the city-region’s future prosperity. The 2019 publication of the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy highlighted the city-region’s strengths in the digital, creative and media sector, detailing how local leaders will “build on Greater Manchester’s position as a leading European digital city-region; enable the digitalisation of all sectors; and capitalise on the links between digital and creative industries that feed internationally significant clusters in broadcasting, content creation and media, and maximise growing assets in cyber security”.

Greater Manchester is already home to 19,000 tech, creative and digital companies, with 88,000 people working in creative and digital companies as part of a £5bn digital ecosystem.

Lou Cordwell, Chair of Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GM LEP), said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for media and digital content production in Greater Manchester, with the BBC expanding its base at MediaCityUK and new facilities providing opportunities for jobs and skills across the city-region.

“We now know that Greater Manchester has around a million sq ft of formal media production space as well as stunning locations across the city-region which are regularly utilised for film and TV.

“Across film and TV, Greater Manchester provides a production base for hundreds of hours of output annually – entertaining and informing millions of people across the world.

“The digital, creative and media sector is a cornerstone in the Greater Manchester Local industrial Strategy, and of our Economic Vision, and has always had a vibrant role in our cultural offer. The success of our growing media and content production base and can support us in further growth across our £5bn digital ecosystem, creating new jobs and opportunities.”

Cllr Elise Wilson, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) portfolio lead for Economy, said: “From Granada Television and Coronation Street in the 1960s, through to MediaCityUK, Space Studios and a wave of exciting new projects in the present day, Greater Manchester’s media production industry has become one of our biggest assets.

“We have so much to offer to those who make TV, film and content – outstanding facilities, dramatic locations and access to a huge pool of talent. The sector contributes enormously to our regional economy, employing thousands of people in skilled roles, while also helping the city-region maintain its status as a global cultural hub.

“With almost one million sq ft of production space now available, we’re excited to see more Greater Manchester productions hit screens around the world.”

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