BBC staff can expect a warm welcome up the Mancunian Way

With a BBC exodus from London to Manchester imminent, Ciar Byrne explores what awaits them

A young woman from the south finds herself transported to a grim northern town and learns to love the strange city and its inhabitants. The BBC's adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South reached its romantic conclusion just two days before Mark Thompson announced that 1,800 employees in children's television, sport, Radio Five Live, new media, research and development and learning must decide whether to move to Manchester or lose their jobs. Was there a subliminal message in the costume drama for those in the affected departments?

Staff, who have been given just 18 months to make the life-changing decision, are understandably concerned. As one employee in BBC Sport who has spent most of his working life in London says: "It's not that it's Manchester. It's just that it's potentially a colossal upheaval. My family and all my friends are down here. It means huge change, and for what?"

Peter Salmon, the BBC's director of sport, who is heading up the strategy, explains: "We're not just looking at Manchester, but the whole of the north. It feels like the north is much more joined up as a media region than it once was. We want to build a honey pot centred on Manchester, where there's already a tradition of journalism and drama and current affairs."

As well as being ideally placed in the middle of the UK, it is Manchester's broadcasting heritage that has won it the status of the BBC's second city. "There's a tradition of programme-making from Coronation Street to Cold Feet, via World in Action, and Mrs Merton," says Salmon, who used to work for Granada, where most of these programmes were made.

Visiting BBC Manchester's shabby headquarters on Oxford Road, one of the main thoroughfares into the city centre, it is difficult to share Thompson's vision of a thrusting media hub of the future. But talks with the city council and regional development agencies about building a new broadcast centre are well under way - the entire cost of the move is estimated at £500m - and those already who already work for BBC Manchester are evangelical.

"In Manchester there's huge potential to develop a major centre," says Ruth Pitt, creative director of documentaries, religion and ethics. "It's a good choice geographically because it's in the centre of the British Isles. And culturally it's got a very young profile, a huge student population."

Alan Bookbinder, the head of the BBC's religion department, which moved up to Manchester a decade ago, believes it is vital to achieve a "critical mass of talent". "We need more people coming into television who think of the north as a place to make their lives and careers. The gravitational force to London is huge and we need another gravitational force that keeps people here."

Bookbinder believes that the experience of the religion department provides a valuable lesson for the move to come. "There was for a while a creative loss. A lot of people jumped ship and it took quite a while for the department to rebuild itself. That's unlikely to happen this time, because it's on a much bigger scale and people are going to see the BBC really means it.

"A lot of people who have come here have found huge personal benefits - quality of life, housing, schools, environment. There are lots of things about living up here that are much better than London."

The hope is that the BBC's commitment to Manchester will foster a vibrant independent production sector. At present there is only a handful of successful indies in the city, notably the drama production company Red, run by Nicola Shindler, whose credits include Queer as Folk, Clocking Off and The Second Coming. "There will be a stronger, bigger workforce and a bigger pool of people to work for. Hopefully it will mean more talent stays up here," says Andrew Crutchley, Red's managing director.

The current edition of the BBC's in-house journal Ariel devotes its centre spread to workers who have already made the transition to Manchester. Nick Holden, a researcher who moved up from London 10 years ago, admits he was surprised to find that vegetarian food in M&S was labelled "vegetable accompaniments" and that people dressed up to go shopping at the weekend.

These days, with a revamped city centre boasting branches of Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, Mancunians remain as fashion conscious as ever, but BBC staff pondering the move should rest assured that vegetarians are now catered for.

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Ad Sales - UK Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global mul...

Head of Sales

£35k £40k DOE + £15k Commission + Results based share options: Savvy Media Ltd...

Social Media Executive - Cornwall

£18-23K: Savvy Media Ltd: You know the latest viral videos going round on Face...

SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER

£40k basic, £70K with OTE: Savvy Media Ltd: If you want to work for a global l...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past