Uniting communities and the nation throughout the summer

Director, BBC Studios (formerly Director, England)

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At the weekend Manchester, Salford and Trafford became part of Olympic history when they hosted the Olympic Flame on its way to its final destination in East London.

In recent weeks it has travelled through the North East - Alnwick, Newcastle, Gateshead, Durham, Middlesbrough, Hull, York and Carlisle - before returning to the North West through Dumfries, Bowness-on-Windermere, Kendal, Blackpool and Lytham St Anne's and coming to a temporary rest in Manchester's Albert Square on Saturday.

Early on Sunday morning it arrived in Salford. Olympic hopeful Shanaze Reade, professional BMX racer and track cyclist was one of the people who had the honour of seeing the Torch safely from Salford to Trafford in front of more than 2,000 local people.

In every town and city that the Torch has passed through, the event has brought communities together to celebrate a unique moment of history with a sense of both local and national pride.

Salford was no different. Alongside members of the British Olympic Team like Shanaze, local people have also had the opportunity to carry the torch and - rain or shine - friends, family and the public in general came out to cheer them on.

Shanaze was also joined by Manchester-born teenager Kirsty Howard, whose personal story and incredible fundraising efforts have had a big impact on many people's lives, ever since her appearance at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. And it was great to have Sir Bobby Charlton and Kirsty Howard live on BBC Breakfast on the day as well.

It is moments like this that make each and every moment of the Torch relay inspirational and memorable. And across this region and the entire UK, BBC local news has been on the ground bringing the Relay into peoples' homes.

Encouraging and celebrating this sense of community is at the heart of what we are doing from our home at MediaCityUK, across the entire North of England.

This weekend for example, BBC Outreach held a series of events here at MediaCityUK including a two-day showcase celebrating the end of the Salford Gardens Festival. Inspired by the fact that Frances Hodgeson Burnett, author of the classic children's novel The Secret Garden lived in Salford as a child, the Festival is a partnership between a number of organizations including the BBC as well as local community groups and Salford City Council.

The Outreach team also worked with local primary schools to create four short films around the theme of "secret places". These were screened to pupils and local residents here on the site alongside "Shelagh Delaney's Salford" by director Ken Russell which featured the famous Broughton-born playwright talking about her hometown.

And over the summer we will continue to go out into communities here in Greater Manchester and across the region. Here on the piazza at MediaCityUK for example, we are finalising plans for free events around Wimbledon, London 2012 and BBC Children's that I hope will bring thousands of people to the site.

Later this autumn BBC Radio 5 live will be out on the road with OctoberFest and BBC Philharmonic Presents will return with a series of concerts. Keep an eye on the BBC North website for details on all these events coming soon.

While the Olympic Torch may have left our backyard en route for Leeds and Grimsby next week, BBC North has an important role to play in delivering the Corporation's Olympic coverage. The state-of-the-art digital technology housed in our new buildings will ensure that the audience doesn't miss one moment of the Olympics that the BBC will cover on 26 television channels, 3 radio stations or online.The fact that our Salford-based BBC Sport online site has just amassed its biggest ever weekly reach figure - 15.4m UK browsers - speaks volumes for licence fee payers' growing enjoyment of this massive 2012 summer of sport.

In fact if you've ever wondered whether sport still has the power to unite the nation, the twenty-three million people who watched on Sunday evening for the European Championships is even more proof. As England once again succumbed to penalties, it tells you everything you need to know about why the BBC needs to stay in major sporting events.

So with an eye on the rest of this summer, the breadth of coverage on offer will be truly Olympian in its own right. Like the Torch Relay itself it will hopefully unite communities and the nation together this summer and BBC North will enjoy being at the heart of it.

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