Opening plans announced for Factory International, Manchester’s new landmark cultural space!

Opening plans have been announced for Factory International, Manchester’s new landmark cultural space which will welcome its first visitors in June 2023.

Programmed and operated by the team behind the world-famous Manchester International Festival (MIF), Factory International will be a global destination for arts, music and culture, commissioning and presenting a year-round programme by leading artists from across the world.

It is the largest investment in a national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000, thanks to initial HM Government investment and backing from Manchester City Council and Arts Council England.

Free Your Mind creative team © Rebecca Lupton

The official opening production will be Free Your Mind, a large-scale immersive performance based on The Matrix films presented across the building’s ultra-flexible spaces.

This dramatic retelling through dance, music and visual effects will bring together the visceral movement of choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy MBE with a powerful score from renowned composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante MBE (co-founders and artistic directors of the Olivier award-winning Boy Blue), world-leading designer Es Devlin’s large-scale stage sculptures and the work of the acclaimed writer Sabrina Mahfouz – directed by Danny Boyle.

Using spectacular visual effects, a cast of professional dancers and hundreds of Manchester participants will recreate some of the film’s most iconic scenes, provoking visions of an alternative future. (18 October – 5 November 2023)

Yayoi Kusama and Dots Obsession, 1996-2011 Installation view_ The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. © YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner.

Before the official opening, the new venue will form the centrepiece of the 2023 Manchester International Festival (which will return across the city from 29 June to 16 July) with a major exhibition in its main warehouse space.

You, Me and the Balloons celebrates three decades of Yayoi Kusama’s spectacular inflatable sculptures, shown together for the first time. Created specially for Factory International, this will be the renowned Japanese contemporary artist’s largest ever immersive environment, featuring works that are over ten metres tall – including giant dolls, spectacular tendrilled landscapes and a vast constellation of polka-dot spheres. (29 June – 28 August 2023).

The Welcome – illustration by Jiaqi Wang

Following Free Your Mind, a wide range of music, circus, art and fashion will fill the building and its outdoor spaces during The Welcome, a nine-day programme developed by Greater Manchester residents. Building on Manchester International Festival’s strong history of working with local people to choose and programme artists and events, The Welcome is an invitation from Greater Manchester residents to their neighbours – to meet, learn, and play in the extraordinary new cultural space opening in the heart of their city. (11-19 November 2023)

Reflecting Factory International’s commitment to ensuring access to the widest possible audiences, 5,000 tickets will be available for Free Your Mind at £10 or less as part of an affordable pricing strategy that will see discounted tickets for Manchester communities across its year-round programme.

The UK’s new Arts Minister Stuart Andrew, Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Council, architect Ellen van Loon and Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Factory International John McGrath on the construction site of Factory International, Manchester’s new space for arts, music and culture, as its opening plans are announced. Photo credit: James Speakman/PA Wire.

Designed by the world-leading Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), with OMA Partner, Ellen van Loon as lead architect, Factory International is the practice’s first major public project in the UK. Spanning 13,350 square metres, the ultra-flexible building will offer multiple configurations, enabling large-scale artistic work of invention and ambition that is not made anywhere else. Audiences will be able to enjoy year-round, in a new world class facility, the broadest range of art forms from major exhibitions and concerts to intimate performances and immersive experiences. Outside, its public areas will come alive with pop-up performances, events and markets, creating a thriving riverside destination for audiences to enjoy.

Factory International will add to the city’s thriving music scene, presenting over 80 gigs a year, including in-house concerts and collaborations with local and national promotors. A highlight of the opening programme will be a series of special music events in the warehouse – with details to be announced. There will also be a focus on developing the profile of music creatives in the region, building on the success of MIF Sounds, which provided financial support and development opportunities to musicians, producers and record labels in the pandemic.

OMA The Factory. Image by OMA

Ahead of opening, artist Luke Jerram will celebrate the births of hundreds of babies born locally with a spectacular installation outside the building which will cast beams of light into the sky to represent new births. Each of the families with babies born in January will receive lifetime membership to Factory International – providing priority booking, discounted tickets and exclusive invitations.  The online Virtual Factory project (which has featured 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.

Factory International will also be home to Factory Academy, a major training centre for local people, which will help people from all backgrounds to start new careers in the creative industries. Working in partnership with cultural organisations and employers across the city, Factory Academy is already delivering a range of training opportunities including paid internships, training academies and work experience programmes. Upcoming initiatives include courses to develop skills in Live Events, Social Media, and Broadcast & Film Production including filming, editing and visual effects (VFX).

OMA The Factory. Image by Luxigon

The development of Factory International is being led by Manchester City Council, with backing from HM Government and Arts Council England. A major capital gift of £2m has been secured from The Law Family Charitable Foundation and will be recognised through the naming of the hall. In addition, the Foundation has pledged £888k to support the Factory Academy.

Factory International is located in the new St John’s neighbourhood which is being developed on the site of the former Granada Studios next to the River Irwell and will make a major contribution to the ongoing regeneration of this part of the city centre.

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