Box on the Docks was launched in direct reaction to COVID19, its impact on Salford’s hospitality and creative sectors, and the need to reconnect. Box on the Docks reopened MediaCityUK as a visitor destination in the height of summer 2020, creating a huge public art installation and safe, socially-distanced dining experiences within a single scheme. The scheme moved from idea to reality at lightning speed. In the first two months, MediaCityUK installed 30 sheds and greenhouse as ‘socially distanced dining pods, commissioned 15 local artists to design and animate them, and partnered with BBC Sounds and BBC to ensure the creative experience catered for visitors of all ages.
Box on the Docks is the kind of creative project that zings on social media: bright colours, sunny urbanscapes, artists at work, happy faces smiling back at you from the screen. But this is only one face of the project.
In fact, Box on the Docks created so much more value in and with Salford’s creatives.
First, it invested in artists and valued their work at a time when it was needed most. Not helping hands or relief grants: work. Work with impact and purpose. In some ‘regenerated’ urban environments, the glass and steel aesthetic leans more towards cohesive place branding rather than free, artistic expression. While the 15 first-round commissions responded to the site and the moment, the artists’ responses were their own. That move turned a one-of commission into a two-way dialogue between MediaCity and Salford’s artists.
Box on the Docks brought people back to MediaCity and Salford Quays, even as Greater Manchester lurched into Tier 3. CCTV footage revealed that leisure visitors were more lively to social distance that workers in the area. Box on the Docks wasn’t just about animating a space; it was a first step to reconnecting – and rebuilding – a community.
Finally, Box on the Docks started fast, but has been a catalyst for the long run. Winter 2020 brought new commissions and, in 2021, the scheme is growing into new festivals and placemaking in and beyond Salford Quays. It is a space worth watching.
For more, up-to-date information on the Box on the Docks scheme, please visit https://boxonthedocks.co.uk/.
- Hemingway Designs
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