Aviva Studios

Johnny James, Managing Editor
Factory International
Factory International. Image courtesy of OMA.

Aviva Studios, home of Factory International, is a landmark new cultural space in the heart of Manchester, reshaping the city’s cultural output as it projects to attract 850,000 visitors a year and bring in £1.1bn to the economy over a decade.

Designed by the world-famous Rotterdam-based practice OMA (originally the Office for Metropolitan Architecture), the 7,000-capacity Aviva Studios can be found on the site of the old Granada TV studios, where it hosts theatre, concerts and exhibitions from major national and international names.

Boasting “one of Europe’s most ambitious and adventurous year-round creative programmes”, the venue houses a vast, hangar-like space called the Warehouse (which opened with the Yayoi Kusama exhibition You, Me and the Balloons), with a standing capacity of 5,000, plus a 1,600-seat theatre dubbed the Hall. Both are ultra-flexible, configurable spaces, and can be made to work together or separately, enabling artists to develop and create large-scale work of invention and ambition, of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world.

You, Me and the Balloons
Yayoi Kusama and Dots Obsession, 1996-2011 Installation (Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner.

The venue opened its doors to audiences of the hugely successful Manchester International Festival 2023 (the venue will be the biennial festival’s home going forwards), and has gone on to host major dance-theatre spectacles like Danny Boyle’s Free Your Mind and the eye-popping The Accountants, as well as ambitious residencies from artists like David Hoyle. All this besides a host of incredible gigs and concerts, including in-the-round performances by Sampha and an interactive symphony by Huang Ruo.

Free Your Mind at Factory International.
Free Your Mind at Factory International. Image courtesy of North Design.

Alongside its artistic programming, Aviva Studios is a training centre for people in pursuit of careers in the creative industry. Delivered by Manchester International Festival, the Factory Academy offer local residents the opportunity to gain expertise working alongside world-leading creatives, with apprenticeships for budding producers, technicians, and arts marketeers. There are also opportunities for local artists to develop and grow, with the venue actively working with communities and involving them as artistic collaborators in participatory projects and productions.

Located in the St John’s neighbourhood next to the River Irwell, Aviva Studios is at the heart of a burgeoning city centre hub for culture, creativity and digital innovation, and making a major contribution to the ongoing regeneration of this part of the city centre.

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