You might not realize it, but Creative Boom is proudly based in Manchester, and we’ve seen a lot of changes here over the years. The UK’s second most populous city after London has had a checkered past, with highs like the revolutionary Hacienda nightclub intermingling with lows like the 1996 IRA bombing.
But in recent years he really seems to have turned a corner, and in 2022 it’s incredible to think how far Manchester have come.
Today it boasts two world-class football teams, a tram network that rivals any modern city, top-notch universities and some of the friendliest people you can find. to encounter. And it attracts more and more people and companies to come here.
In recent years, a property boom has transformed Manchester’s skyline, and development continues apace. This year alone will see the completion of several major projects, including Mayfield Public Park, the city’s first public park in 100 years; a major overhaul of Piccadilly Gardens; the restoration of the London Road Fire Station to a 91-bedroom hotel with retail, restaurant and events space; and a £1billion investment to transform 50 acres of Salford Central.
Also upcoming, and perhaps most appealing to creatives, is Factory International, an iconic new cultural space programmed and operated by the team behind the Manchester International Festival (MIF).
Factory International: what is it and where?
Prepared to welcome its first visitors in June 2023, Factory International will be a global destination for arts, music and culture, commissioning and presenting a year-round program by leading artists from around the world. It represents the biggest investment in a national cultural project since the Tate Modern opened in 2000.
Located in the new area of St John, it is developed on the site of the former Granada Studios beside the River Irwell. And it will be a major contribution to the ongoing regeneration of this part of the city centre.
Designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), with Ellen van Loon as lead architect, Factory International will span 13,350 square meters and will be designed with maximum flexibility to allow artistic work of invention and ambition to large scale.
The impressive building includes a 21-meter high warehouse that can accommodate up to 5,000 people standing, which can also be divided by a full-height movable acoustic wall and a room with a flexible stage – which can accommodate an audience of up to 1,600 seated or 2,000 standing, plus other indoor and outdoor spaces. The warehouse and the hall can also work together, with the proscenium being able to open completely into the warehouse and allowing the stage to sink deeper into the building.
“Factory International will be a new type of performance space – a unique cross between a fixed theater and a flexible warehouse,” says Ellen. “Oversized moveable walls allow for endless configurations within a large space, giving audiences unexpected views of the artists. I hope that every time people come to Factory International they always experience something different, as if with every visit they encountered a different building.”
Factory International: what will it offer?
Audiences will be able to enjoy a wide range of art forms here, from major exhibitions and concerts to intimate performances and immersive experiences. Outside, its public spaces will host pop-up shows, events and markets.
Factory International aims to host more than 80 concerts per year, including in-house concerts and collaborations with local and national promoters. Emphasis will also be placed on developing the profile of music creators in the region, building on the success of MIF Sounds, which provided financial support and development opportunities to musicians, producers and record labels during the pandemic.
Factory International will also host the Factory Academy, which will help people from all walks of life start new careers in the creative industries. Working in partnership with cultural organizations and employers across the city, Factory Academy already offers a range of training opportunities, including paid internships, training academies and work experience programs. Upcoming initiatives include courses to develop skills in live events, social media, broadcast and film production, including filming, editing and visual effects.
Factory International: what events are planned?
Ahead of the official opening, the new venue will be the centerpiece of Manchester International Festival 2023, which returns across the city from June 29 to July 16, with a major exhibition in its main warehouse.
You, Me and the Balloons celebrates three decades of inflatable sculptures by Yayoi Kusama, presented together for the first time. Created especially for Factory International, it will be the acclaimed Japanese artist’s largest immersive environment, featuring works over 10m tall, including giant dolls, tense landscapes and a constellation of dotted spheres. The exhibition will run from June 29 to August 28, 2023.
The official opening production will be Free Your Mind, a large-scale immersive performance based on The Matrix films, presented in the flexible spaces of the building and taking place from October 18 to November 5, 2023. Five thousand tickets will be available at £10 or less. .
This dramatic narrative through dance, music and visual effects will be directed by Danny Boyle and will bring together dance directed by choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy, a score by composer Michael’ Mikey J’ Asante, the large-scale stage sculptures by designer Es Devlin, and the work of writer Sabrina Mahfouz. Promising spectacular visual effects, a cast of professional dancers and hundreds of Manchester attendees, it will recreate some of the film’s most iconic scenes, sparking visions of an alternate future.
“I’m thrilled to be part of Factory International as a starting point for some sort of identity that this amazing new building is going to have,” says Danny Boyle. “It’s a space that has enormous potential for you. It’s hugely ambitious in terms of scale. In my lifetime, to see a new space like this open up is hugely empowering, and I hope the next generation artists will feel that power.”
Next is The Welcome, a nine-day program developed by the people of Greater Manchester. Building on Manchester International Festival’s history of working with locals, The Welcome is an invitation from Greater Manchester residents to their neighbors to meet, learn and play in the new cultural space from 11-19 November 2023.
Prior to the opening, artist Luke Jerram will celebrate the birth of hundreds of locally born babies with a spectacular installation outside the building, which will shoot beams of light into the sky to represent the new births. Each of the families with babies born in January will receive a lifetime membership to Factory International – offering priority booking, discounted tickets and exclusive invitations. The Virtual Factory online project, which has brought together artists such as Tai Shani, Robert Yang and LaTurbo Avedon, will conclude with a new film by Jenn Nkiru to be released in 2023, exploring the resonances of the building’s historic site.
“Since its inception in 2007, the Manchester International Festival has produced some of the most innovative and urgent work I have had the good fortune to witness,” says Es Devlin, artist and designer. “Including trailblazers such as Steve McQueen, Adam Curtis, Marina Abramović, Björk, Akram Khan, Yoko Ono and many more, they have had an immense impact on my practice. Factory International will continue to cultivate these world-class collaborations, each project taking root in that specific site and within the community of Manchester. It is a tremendous privilege to be invited to participate in its creation. Like a new musical instrument, a new building must be “tuned and it’s extremely energizing to be there when it starts to sing.”