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Manchester’s £110m Factory arts centre lands final approval

An architect's impression of the Factory theatre in Manchester. Photo: OMA An architect's impression of the Factory theatre in Manchester. Photo: OMA
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Manchester’s £110 million Factory arts centre has been given the final go-ahead by the council.

Construction for the centre, which features two large-scale performance venues, can now begin, with the building set to open in 2020.

It had originally been planned to open in 2019 to coincide with the Manchester International Festival, however the opening is now scheduled for early 2020.

Manchester International Festival has been announced as the operators of the venue, running a year-round programme. Mark Ball will become associate artistic director of MIF and taking charge of overall programming at Factory. He joins MIF from the London International Festival of Theatre, where he is artistic director.

Ball described Factory as “undoubtedly the most exciting and ambitious new cultural space in the country”, adding that he was thrilled to be taking the reins alongside MIF artistic director John McGrath.

Factory will comprise two main performance venues, a 1,600-seat theatre space and a larger Warehouse venue, with a capacity of 5,000. It is planned that the two spaces will be able to open out into one another for large-scale work.

It will be built on the site of the former Granada TV studios in central Manchester. It is claimed the project will create the equivalent of 1,500 full-time jobs and add £1.1 billion to the local economy within a decade.

The project has already secured strong government backing, with an initial grant of £78 million being announced in 2014 as well as an additional £9 million per year from central government.

Factory was approved in a meeting of Manchester City Council’s planning and highways committee on January 12. A representative for the project speaking at the meeting said Factory would be an “extraordinary ultra-modern facility for artists and audiences”, and “a centrepiece of the UK’s cultural offering”.

She added that Factory would be a cultural anchor for the area and would have a critical role in its regeneration.

It is being designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ firm OMA.

Council leader Richard Leese welcomed the decision, adding: “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.”

His comments were echoed by culture minister Matt Hancock, who 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.”

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