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Interviewed – MediaCity’s chaplain, Hayley Matthews

Simon Binns meets the link between ‘old and new’ Salford

Written by . Published on February 22nd 2011.

Interviewed – MediaCity’s chaplain, Hayley Matthews

Who’s got the most important job on Peel Group’s soon-to-be-opened MediaCity?

Peter Salmon, director of BBC North, tasked with overseeing the Beeb’s move from the capital? Sinead Greenaway, the chief executive employed by Peel to steer the scheme to success?

“Some locals can see the jobs and the opportunities and the legacy for their children. Other think it’s not for them; that they’ve taken their docks away.”

Maybe. But how about Hayley Matthews, MediaCity’s new chaplain?

She’ll be the link between the new media-led community being created by Peel Group and the incumbent Salfordians on the other side of the tram tracks, in deprived areas like Langworthy, where she’s decided to live. It’s a job Matthews is not taking lightly.

“I see my role as being that bridge between the two communities,” she said. “MediaCity isn’t all about being a workplace. The university will be here, people will be living here too. It’s about linking the new community to the existing community.

“There are some varying opinions from the locals about MediaCity. Some can see the jobs and the opportunities and the legacy for their children. Other think it’s not for them; that they’ve taken their docks away.”

Matthews is not on the Peel pay roll – she’s actually employed by the Manchester Diocese - nor will she be tied to one faith. In fact, she wants to encourage people who don’t follow a religion to use her as a resource or just a ‘confidential ear.’

“It’s not a traditional chapel, and it won’t be single purpose,” she said. “Some people look at my appointment and think Peel are going to build me a church. That’s not going to happen. I think people could assume it’s just for Christians, but I’m here for every aspect of local people’s faith needs, even atheists of humanists.

“Obviously I’ll be on hand to help the movers feel that they are coming into a community too – I’m heading down to London to meet some of the BBC staff. They work in an industry where the pressure can be horrifying and relocation in itself can be unsettling, especially if not through choice.

“But I’ve relocated too so hopefully I’ll be able to empathise and that may give them some comfort.”

And being a very modern chaplain, Matthews has been quick to use social media to engage part of the local community.

“I’ve talked to so many people who used Twitter and Facebook and it’s been a good way for me to get a feel of who does what in and around Manchester,” she said. “I’ve been able to find local business and media people. Given the hours people in the media work, it’s a good way of being in contact.”

Some BBC staff have already started the move up north and plenty of others will soon be following, ahead of the corporation’s Salford opening next year. The initial 1,500 could swell further if other departments decide to relocate from London and although areas like Chorlton, Didsbury and even Ramsbottom in Bury are being pushed as potential areas for them to live, lots have already taken apartments on the Quays. The social fabric of the area is almost guaranteed to change.

Matthews thinks the diversity of the newly-created community might be the biggest shock to local residents. “It’s predominantly a white area where the same families have lived for a long time,” she said. “Not many move in or out of some parts of Salford. Some will see it as a threat, I’m sure.

“But I want the local residents to see MediaCity as something for them. I want to bring community groups over to use it and feel a part of it; that goes for the Salford University students too. It’s not just for the BBC.”

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Brian CarrNovember 8th 2010.

I am pleased that she has chosen to live in Langworthy and appreciates already how Media City can be wrongly percieved by locals as something soleley for outsiders. With the concilliatory attitude she is demonstrating so far, I think she will become a valuable assett to what I hope will become an intergrated and improved Salford society.

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