Stephen Kingston’s Salford Star: reclaiming Salford for the scallies

‘The BBC Move North Debate’ Circle Club ManchesterWith nobody against the BBC’s move to Salford, where it is almost certain to become mediacity:uk’s anchor tenant, there appeared to be little to debate at the Circle Club on Tuesday night. Salford City Council leader John Merry happily explained that the remaining tees to be crossed were relatively minor issues, like quayside mooring rights, and that the final final announcement could be expected within a couple of weeks. So that’s that then.

But no. Late last year the Audit Commission found that the master plan produced for a major regeneration project failed to demonstrate how redevelopment would ‘integrate with the wider area and act as a catalyst for physical change’, implying a missed opportunity… might the same happen with the BBC?

Stephen Kingston, who almost single-handedly writes and publishes the Salford Star, a surprisingly successful freesheet, was here to argue that case. Kingston’s magazine is not only attracting vital advertising revenue but, more importantly to its proprietor, forcing Salford’s establishment to reconsider its relationship to the city’s scally population; bad press in the Star prompted the Lowry to hire out its facilities to a community film festival for next to nowt. And Kingston’s campaign to save Salford Film Festival was a success too. Cool.

With the debate moving onto the more complex social aspects of Salford’s regeneration, at least one panellist fell out of her depth. On hearing that few Salford homes are online, North West Vision’s Lynne McCadden said: ‘But I bet they’re all texting’. Maybe so, but John Merry reckons that just one in five homes have t’internet access. Every child can get online at school, but it’s clear that the web is not part of Salfordians’ everyday lives. The scallies aren’t hooked up to social networking sites and the aspirational few that make it to university, will appear freakish to their new peers who’ve been living an online life from their early teens. The danger is that while the BBC will attract a great many related businesses to Salford, Salfordians will remain disengaged and fail to take advantage of the opportunities on their doorstep.

So Kingston’s Salford Star is all about reclaiming Salford for a population that might otherwise be simply displaced. Consequently, the magazine’s focus is squarely on affordable housing. Salford has a radical policy that says at least twenty per cent of dwellings in new developments should be affordable. But a recent planning meeting observed by Kingston approved 1600 units, none of which fell into the city council’s affordable criteria and in the period September 2006 to March 2007, just two per cent of new units approved for central Salford were classified affordable.

Affordability is always going to be difficult in a city where, just a few years ago, terraced houses sold on the open market for just £5,000. Salford City Council has been demolishing street after street, to make way for a new Salford. It’s not good news for everyone. Forcibly evicted Guy Griffiths was first offered £18,000, later raised to £36,500, plus a £25,000 grant to sell up and make way for new playing fields. That left him £75,000 short of being able to buy a new officially affordable home, built just fifty yards away on old playing fields: ‘the houses weren’t unfit… they’ve used government powers to the benefit of a private company.’

But on the night my sympathies lay, though certainly not uncritically, with John Merry, leader of Salford City Council.

Presenting himself as something of a fish out of water, Stephen Kingston was clearly uncomfortable on stage. There was no shortage of sympathetic questions from the floor – ‘what are you doing to ensure local people get a share of the jobs… what happens to those displaced by regeneration?’ – but he made little effort to engage the audience, suffering perhaps from the ‘them and us’ attitude all agree Salford’s scallies need to shake off. By the end of the night, not one penny found its way into the Salford Star’s charity collection tin.

Maybe that was stage fright. One to one over a pint (I let him buy me a £3.30 shandy, as I was driving) the ex-pat Scouser is as focussed, passionate and articulate as his writing. Able to quote statistics at the drop of a hat, his arguments are impeccably researched and his understanding of the old Salford culture and mindset near perfect: ‘The Star could only work in Salford or Liverpool, not Manchester, maybe Glasgow.’

I wanted to know what an affordable house would look like. Kingston wants us to understand that the average annual wage is just £13,000 with average household income just £19,500. On a three times multiplier, that’s less than £60k I say: ‘That’s right, affordable is less than £60,000.’ Officially affordable houses on the estate Guy Griffiths looked at ranged from £115,000 to £138,000. Oh dear.

The circle to be squared is that old Salford was simply not desirable. The population was in freefall (a phenomenon only reversed in the last year) and anti-social behaviour both chronic and acute. That’s why a decent terraced house could sell for a highly affordable £5k. And why nobody would invest in such a property, except, says Kingston, private landlords who moved in ASBO families (probably the only tenants a landlord who won’t spend money can find) and waited for the council to buy at inflated compulsory purchase rates.

Just as there is a consensus that relocating the BBC is a good thing, so is there a consensus that something radical had to be done to renew Salford. Yet if people want to live somewhere, they will inevitably bid up the price of housing. Those private property developers may greedily fight for every penny of profit, but they have added value to Salford by making it somewhere people actually want to live.

On a wind-up I suggest Kingston has fallen for the Thatcherite lie that home ownership is for everyone and that he should not be campaigning for massive compensation packages. Giving money to today’s homeowners or forcing developers to sell units off cheap, will not benefit their children – today’s teenagers and younger – who will have to pay the full market price tomorrow. Instead he should fight for significant quantities of new build social housing: ‘Social landlords are shit.’ Do they have to be?

I’m reminded of Ken Dobson now, rather bizarrely, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Manchester city centre. As an east Manchester councillor he opposed the Commonwealth Games (he still lives just a couple of streets down from the stadium) because it only created jobs for ‘outsiders’. It’s a view Kingston shares: the legacy wasn’t for the people like Ken. Somehow the jobs of the old Salford – or east Manchester – are romanticised, as if working long hours for low pay in heavy industry was great fun.

The old jobs aren’t coming back and the challenge is to enable and convince each Salford scally that they can acquire the skills and talent to secure one of the 15,000 jobs the BBC’s investment is expected to create at mediacity:uk and beyond.

Transition is painful and victims like Guy Griffiths require and deserve the support of the wider community. The Lowry should not have required bullying before it put on a community film festival that offered its participants a chance to acquire precisely the skills the BBC will be looking for.

While I lean towards cock-up theory, Kingston is a frequent conspiracist who is too often confrontational in a way that leads the establishment to close ranks, batten down the hatches and write him off as a lone nutter (‘That’s just your view, Stephen,’ was a frequent retort during this debate). As John Merry left I shook his hand and told him he’d acquitted himself well but needed to pay more attention to Kingston. He clearly took me for a wind-up merchant. Lynne McCadden, who appears so out of touch with the Salford redevelopment threatens to displace, and yet is tasked with administering a huge training budget, is hardly likely to invite Kingston in for a chat.

Imagine a Salford where instead of harking back to the days when their kids would grow up to work in a hateful factory, parents assume they’ll work for the BBC. A politically savvy Salford Star could be more than the City Council and the Quangos’ conscience, it could help them engage with the community and make that happen. Or it may simply be bulldozed out of the way, along with the rest of old Salford.

18 thoughts on “Stephen Kingston’s Salford Star: reclaiming Salford for the scallies

  1. Mmmmm – working for the BBC, hey? Well that might just happen when there is a good transport network into Salford Quays from all parts of Salford. At present, it seems, only those who can afford cars (on top of their mortgage!) can access Salford Quays (and isn’t it chockablock with traffic!).
    Don’t believe me? Try getting to Salford Quays from, say, Irlams o’th’ Height. Nuff said.

    Written by Cath
    (earning less than £11,000 pa)

  2. When the BBC starts recruiting working class people then maybe Salford folk might think of them as potential employers.

    The BBC has a lot to answer for with regards its recruitment policy.

    The only way people I know have got a foot in the door is to do unpaid work placement for a couple of weeks which has led to a job offer further down the line.

    Working class people just cannot afford that, so the BBC is staffed by people who had parents rich enough to subsidise them.

  3. Absolutely. It’s always going to be difficult to break into television, but the industry needs to stamp out the practice of accepting offers to work for free from those whose parents can see them through.

    It’s something I wrote about twice in 2004. Who killed (Saturday Night) TV?: ‘…only way for fresh faces to get into television is to work for free on extended work experience placements. Television’s creativity has been destroyed by nepotism…’ and Selling out British TV: ‘Television is a career for those who can afford to work for free in their early years. And creativity has clearly suffered.’

    Nevertheless, with Cath’s attitude you’d be unlikely to get a decently paid job in any industry.

  4. the first compulsory purchase order was taken out 12 years ago and still 12 years on thay are pulling down houses everything the regeneration board do goes t-ts up you the british tax payer are subsidising urban splash in langwothy can to the tune of 22.5 million and counting people are having there homes taken away for a pittance in compensation and being told thay will have to take out another council loan to buy there next house the salford star is the best thing that as happened in salford for a long time it exposes a dictatorship council and if you dont believe that statement wait until urban splash want your house to as was reported in the salford avdertiser on the 12/o6/2003 build affordable housing for local people estimated to cost between 40.000 and 60.000 the people who think it is all rosy in langworthy need to have a word with themselves

  5. I thought readers might be interested to know the current status of the actual build for MediaCity:UK in Salford Quays.

    The site now consists of 7 cranes with a 8th on the way (crane base in place). Most of the concrete cores of the new BBC building look to be in place or started, rising to 9-10 stories (maybe more) for the highest cores.

    The land for the taller buildings off to the side of the main BBC building (right from the Lowry Centre side) is still being dug and prepared but more temporary cabins are in place off Broadway (the road that runs through the back of the Quays) presumably to house more MediaCIty:UK project staff and a contingent of the BBC (cameramen) looking at the latest articles across the internet.

    The current phase of the build occupies 35-40 acres (next to the City Lofts flats) with other phases planned across the water on the Imperial War Museum side.

    The overall site is something of the order of 200 acres but no visible signs of development has started outside the main phase 1 area currently. No doubt this will depend on discussions with other media companies being persuaded to join the MediaCity:UK estate.

    For a photographic timeline for November / December and beyond (and pictures back to June of this year), go to Google and search on ‘media city uk salford quays timeline q4’.

    Judging be the pace of the development, there is a big push on to meet the 2010/11 date for the first phase completion.

    Those currently thinking about a career in the media by way of a chosen degree (media studies, photography etc.) might be one of the 15,500 new jobs to be created between now and 2011 in the first phase of this build. Also, the price of properties (and especially flats) in the area will almost certainly rise as a result of the considerable development occuring in this location with new flats being built currently.

    I have worked as an IT Manager in Salford Quays for 12 years and live in North Bolton. When I first came here, the skyline of the Quays area was relatively flat but now houses such buildings as The Designer Outlet (80 outlet stores), The iconic Lowry and Imperial War Museum Buildings and new flat developments which continue to be built in anticipation of the BBC move and general growth in this area.

  6. as we all know the bbc is coming and house prices are rising .the basic urban splash house is £145.000 but salford council valuers have told seedley home owners their property is for demolition and is only worth £60.000. even dick turpin wore a mask…

  7. Salford Star have, over the past couple of years consistently exposed local government as being completely inept. Their standard of journalism is highly commended and reveals blatant disregard for working class communities, cleared and fragmented to pave the way for big business to move in. Is anyone else exposing this level of corruption?

  8. Pingback: Salfford Star troubles

  9. Salford Star is a superb magazine.Because the truth is told ,after being researched , the council hate it .The council are exposed as inept bunglers , squanderers and wasters , which is true of all councils .They use the extorted council tax as a bottomless cess-pit to wallow in , to the detriment of the People they pretend to serve.More power to the Salford Star.

  10. Salford Star exposes the dirty dealings of the arrogant , grossly inefficient ,wasteful and clueless council and tells what really goes on in Rotton Salford .Grubby deals with greedy business chums , squandering of taxpayers money wasted on pathetic schemes , cheating people out of their homes .Salford council are scum . More attitude to the Star.

  11. Salford clouncil are corrupt shite , and are as much use as dogshit in a toddlers playground .

  12. Salford Bullshit Council have swindled , lied and cheated for years .They are corrupt traitors and should be hanged .

  13. A council that supports that Grinning Rat Blears – the corrupt , swindling , lying , expense-cheating bitch – is itself corrupt . Would not trust Salford Council to run a bath .

Leave a Reply