field notes from granadaland
The Granada Building opened in 1962 after Granada House in 1956, and was designed by Ralph Tubbs - an architect renowned for his work on the Dome of Discovery for the Festival of Britain (1951). The exterior of the building is untouched, grey granite and built in a curtain wall fashion (according to the 20th Century Society one of the first Manchester buildings to be made that way). The planned redevelopment of the building as a hotel for St John’s is a remarkably fitting conversion given that the building was designed in such a way to allow it to function as a hotel if the TV studio failed.
There's an engineered notion of size here. Founder Bernstein had falsely created the illusion of a powerhouse of television to rival the BBC, long before it had actually earned that reputation, by bending the public’s perception of space - numbering the studios found in Granada House and Granada Television Building only in even numbers to effectively double the perceived size and capacity of the site.
The beacon that mounted the roof of the Granada building on Quay Street until 2008 was symbolic to a generation of Mancunians as their homecoming. Like the Polaris star, guiding people home to ‘Granadaland’.
Granadaland was the term coined for the reach of the TV network but it was something that transcended meaning, went beyond TV viewers; it was an intangible place and the beacon was a welcoming symbol to visitors; to sleepy children and long distance lorry drivers returning home in the dark, it was the ever familiar light on the horizon viewed through the window of a Salford high rise. The Old Granada Studios site has been a metaphor for home for millions and for decades.
The first commercial building to be built in the city following the war, the importance of this being how it was instrumental in setting into motion further quality post-war developments.
In this transitional time, before Old Granada Studios becomes St John's, Hayley Flynn and Andrew Brooks explored the site - from the underground canal to the relics of broadcasting that cling to the rooftops to this day. These notes document the experiences they had and are accompanied in the galleries by an extensive collection of fine art photography.
We were beckoned by a ladder with a come hither look about it to somewhere we were not strictly meant to be - the roof of the Bonded Warehouse. Approaching the parapet, no longer obscured by the tops of the M-shaped roof, the modern city skyline rose around us.
The mirrored hallway. An infinity of tourists once reflected off these mirrored walls, the ghosts of them polar to those Victorian ghosts who live in your imagination - these hall of mirrors apparitions are dressed in popper pants and baggy jumpers, they have their hair in curtains like two gelled parentheses...
We are in a dark, damp, cavern - an underground canal. The tow paths here are narrow, stalactites form above us, and spindly roots from weeds in the pavement above break through between the brick work. There’s one light at the end of the canal tunnel, before that we rely on torches alone.
A camcorder recording fizzes and flickers into life; white noise lightning scars the screen. The picture clears and a woman with Brookside Close hair grimaces at the camera. This is one of a collection of home movies on YouTube filmed by tourists who came to the TV studio tours.
The hole in the wall isn’t extraordinary but when we shine a torch through out of sheer exploratory habit the space behind it; small and pokey, like a space for wires, is painted like a cloud spattered sky. Why would a sky mural be hidden behind a false wall in a lobby area of an office?
In the heart of the site lies the most cavernous of spaces - the studios. Here in these chambers, light melts away from the edges, cables and wires lay themselves down like roots breaking through the ceiling above and they dangle down sporadically, their connections no longer complete.