Factory International

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

Factory International, Water Street, Manchester, M3 3JQ – Visit Now

Factory International – Manchester International Festival’s new permanent home – is getting ever closer to completion. Costing an eye-watering £186m, the venue is set to reshape the city’s cultural output and standing, while hoping to attract 850,000 people a year to the city and bring in £1.1bn to the economy over a decade.

Its name a less-than-subtle nod to Tony Wilson’s exalted record label, The 7,000-capacity Factory International is being built on the site of the old Granada TV studios, where it will host theatre, concerts and exhibitions from major national and international names. Promising “one of Europe’s most ambitious and adventurous year-round creative programmes”, the venue will house a 2,200-seat theatre and what is promised as an “immersive artistic environment with a standing capacity of 5,000.” Both will apparently be ultra-flexible, enabling large-scale artistic work that isn’t made anywhere else, premiered in Manchester before travelling the world.

The Factory under construction, image by Pawel Paniczko.

Opening plans for the new venue have recently been announced with Danny Boyle directing the official opening production, Free Your Mind (18 October – 5 November 2023), a large-scale performance inspired by the Matrix films. This grand spectacle is expected to feature eye-popping visual effects, professional dancers and hundreds of Manchester participants. With a stunning creative team that includes choreographer Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy and composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante of the Olivier-award winning Boy Blue, world-leading designer Es Devlin and acclaimed writer Sabrina Mahfouz – we’re certainly in good company.

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

Before the official opening, the venue will host the centrepiece of Manchester International Festival 2023. You, Me and the Balloons is a major exhibition of three decades of Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama’s inflatable sculptures.

Following the performance run of Free Your Mind, the brand-new building will spring to life with a nine-day celebratory programme specially developed by Manchester residents. The Welcome will feature circus, music, art and fashion with a range of events that everyone can get on board with.

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.

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

Out of all the exciting new openings on the North’s horizon, Factory International is one in particular that the culturally curious have their eye on. This new landmark space is scheduled to welcome its first visitors from June 2023. We can’t wait.

  • Water Street
  • Manchester
  • M3 3JQ
  • View map

Things to do at Factory International

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Free Your Mind at Factory International
Dance 13 October–5 November 2023, from £10.00

Free Your Mind at Factory International

Manchester International Festival 2023
Festivals 29 June–16 July 2023, from £10.00

Manchester International Festival

Things to do right now

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