In June 2020, within two months of the idea being conceived, MediaCityUK delivered 30 sheds and greenhouses transformed by local artists as dining pods for their restaurants as well as an immersive children’s art trail to rebuild visitor confidence and safely drive footfall.
Who is the developer/client of the project?
Peel Media Ltd (a JV between Peel L&P and Legal and General)
Describe the context of this project and its contribution to the urban life and user experience of the place.
Hospitality and culture have been two of the most-hardest hit industries throughout the pandemic and Box on the Docks (BOTD) was born out of MediaCityUK’s desire to support both its food and beverage operators throughout the pandemic as well as local creatives and artists.
In June 2020 MCUK invested in a combination of 30 sheds and greenhouses while commissioning 22 local artists to transform them into a stunning art display.
Each art-adorned shed/greenhouse became a dining pod for MediaCityUK’s restaurateurs to safely serve diners within their respective bubbles. BOTD’s summer season ran from July to the end of September, re-opening in early December, featuring a new and extended wave of commissioned artists.
To ensure the activation went beyond the immediate BOTD set-up an immersive children’s art trail was also curated. As well as supporting these industries BOTD also served to rebuild visitor confidence, safely drive footfall for the benefit of onsite retail and leisure operators as well as build on MediaCityUK’s as a visitor destination.
How has this project, event or installation enlivened the place in a creative way?
Within two months of the idea being conceived – it had been developed, branded, installed, curated, produced by the artists and launched – a huge challenge successfully met.
In order to capitalize on the easing of restrictions over the summer months. The Place team’s passion to deliver the project paid off. BOTD, which was only promoted by MediaCityUK’s social media platforms and a PR campaign went on to safely attract thousands of visitors over the summer, provided an invaluable boost to MediaCityUK’s restaurant scene as well as supported local artists.
Post summer, the announcement that Salford and Manchester would remain in tier 4 restrictions meant that BOTD would not be able to serve hospitality in the run up to Christmas. The Place team adapted and BOTD winter season was promoted as an immersive art trail and artist were given a further platform to promote their works online via ‘Box on the Docks: Unwrapped.’
Despite MediaCityUK’s eerily quiet workspace the destination’s spacious and attractive public realm became a safe haven for individuals and families to enjoy the gardens, walk, cycle and scooter across the piazza and browse the public art displays.
The pandemic has brought a positive evolution to how the public realm is activated and the Place team has successfully harnessed the opportunity to bring economic benefit to its hospitality businesses as well as the creative and local community.
What do you see as the greatest success of this project?
The uncertainty over shifting levels of restrictions and planning accordingly within short time frames meant we had to work closely with F&B operators and artists to successfully adapted the BOTD concept to comply with Government guidelines and restrictions. By changing the focus of the winter season to an immersive art trail it provided individuals and families with a point of interested while walking through the site.
To play a practical part in bolstering MediaCityUK’s hospitality trade during the summer months was incredibly rewarding. The demand for bookings exceeded expectations. BOTD was fully booked throughout the period and all participating restaurants reported an increase in projected takings. It allowed them to serve thousands more covers than what would have been normally possible.
Community outreach exceeded expectations; from giving the marginalized community a voice within the ‘Unheard Tales’ art installation to how Carbon Creative’s Salford Foodbank Giftbox inspired MediaCityUK’s businesses, local schools and residents to collate food parcels for families in need across Salford. It collated a record 2,190 kgs of food donations throughout December, equating to almost 140 food parcels or 2,740 meals.
It also provided artists and creatives a much-needed profile raising visibility on MediacityUK’s website, Instagram and twitter feeds.
BOTD achieved extensive regional as well as national coverage including a piece in The Guardian, mentions from Radio 6 DJ Mark Radcliff as well as extensive engagement across social media platforms. We even had the pleasure of hosting a Covid safe wedding breakfast.