The plans for Factory, the flagship cultural venue for the North designed by world-leading architects Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), founded by Rem Koolhaas, were granted planning approval by Manchester City Council today.

The project is OMA’s first major public building in the UK and is led by project partners Ellen van Loon and Rem Koolhaas. Construction is due to begin in Spring 2017.  

Factory will be a groundbreaking new venue driven by the extraordinary creative vision and breadth of Manchester’s cultural life. It will form part of the vibrant new St. John’s neighbourhood, which is being developed by Allied London, in partnership with Manchester City Council, on the site of the former Granada TV Studios.

This week HM Treasury approved the full business case for the £78m government capital investment.

It was also confirmed that Manchester International Festival (MIF) will run Factory as well as continuing to deliver the festival every two years.  Mark Ball, currently Artistic Director of LIFT, will join MIF’s senior leadership team as Associate Artistic Director, focusing on creation and delivery of the Factory programme. He will start full time at MIF in June, working closely with Artistic Director/CEO John McGrath to create a unified artistic vision for the venue and the festival.

The new venue will offer audiences the opportunity to enjoy year round, in a new world-class facility, the broadest range of art forms and cultural experiences – including dance, theatre, music, opera, visual arts, spoken word, popular culture and innovative contemporary work incorporating multiple media and technologies.  Artists from across the world will be invited to create new work in the building’s extraordinary spaces.

Factory will accelerate economic growth in the region. Its economic impact, as part of  the Northern Powerhouse initiative, will be considerable creating or supporting almost 1,500 full-time jobs and adding £1.1 billion to the city’s economy over a decade. It will make a direct contribution to the growth of creative industries in the North, and reduce the dependency on London as the provider of creative industries training and employment. It will develop partnerships with the city’s leading higher education institutions and will further support the city’s drive for high calibre graduate talent retention through job creation.

OMA lead a multi-disciplinary design team including Buro Happold Structures and MEP, Arup Acoustics, Gardiner and Theobald as cost consultants and Deloitte Real Estate as planning consultants.


The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital & Culture, said: “I want to blast open access to the very best world-class art and culture we have to offer in this country. So we’re investing £78 million into Factory in Manchester that will provide a further boost to the brilliant arts, culture and technology scene in the North. On top of that, it will also help local tourism, generate jobs and provide training opportunities for the next generation of British creatives.” 

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Factory is what the arts world and Manchester has been waiting for. It’s the key to unlocking a wealth of new cultural opportunities in the city for audiences and arts practitioners, and also to massive economic gain for Manchester and the wider region. Factory isn’t going to just transform this unused corner of the city centre, it’s going to further transform the way we see the world, and the way the world sees Manchester.”

Michael Ingall, Chief Executive, Allied London said: “The St. John’s neighbourhood has a storied past; rich with culture, creative spirit and radical new thinking. With Factory onsite as our cultural anchor, St. John’s will now become home to the city’s next generation of arts, creativity and contemporary cultural experiences, completely transforming Manchester’s cultural output and standing.”

Ellen van Loon, OMA partner in charge of the project, said: “Factory will be a venue where television, theatre, visual art and music come together. Made up of two principal elements, the space can be re-arranged in countless ways to accommodate an immersive concert, an indoor festival or even a performance that travels through the space together with its audience. It is important that the building acts as an extension of public space, so the lobby of Factory will be available for non-commercial, cultural projects. These are the seeds from which the future cultural scene can grow.”

Tom Bloxham, Chairman, Manchester International Festival (MIF) said: “This is a great show of confidence in the cultural future of the North. In just five festivals Manchester International Festival has established itself as one of the major international arts festivals, and we are delighted to now be able to add to the city’s and the country’s cultural offer all year round through our programming at Factory.”

Speaking of Mark Ball’s appointment, John McGrath, CEO and Artistic Director, MIF, said: “I have been a huge admirer of Mark’s vision as a producer and programmer since his early days at Fierce Festival, and it has been inspiring to see his extraordinary achievements at LIFT.  I can’t imagine a better person to join MIF at this key moment in its history, and to ensure an exceptional, international programme of work at Factory.”

Mark Ball said: “Factory is undoubtedly the most exciting and ambitious new cultural space in the country, committed to pioneering arts projects and programmes in an incredible new building right in the heart of Manchester. Over the next few years I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside John and the team at MIF and with some of Manchester’s and the world’s most brilliant artists and organisations to help make unforgettable, joyful and exceptional art.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “As the nation’s developer of our arts and culture we want to invest in bold schemes that will excite audiences and burnish our international reputation. Factory has just such potential – it promises to be a powerful catalyst, bringing artists together to work in new ways in an intriguing new space. It promises a programme that will attract future generations of audiences to new types of performance. We are proud to support The Factory, and our partners in Manchester, as they continue their journey to become a standout cultural venue.”


Images are available to download from the following link here.


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