It's all systems go for The Factory - Manchester's landmark new cultural venue - with funding, lead contractor, and core staff all now in place to see it through from construction to completion.
Work has now begun in earnest on the building which will be one of the largest and most flexible cultural spaces in the world, able to showcase artistic work of huge ambition and scale, and expected to attract up to 850,000 visitors a year, and to deliver a £1.1 billion boost to Manchester's economy over a decade.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The Factory will be a world-class centre of creativity, attracting talent from home and abroad.
“Our £78 million investment is helping to deliver this exciting project that will create jobs and training opportunities across Manchester and the Northern Powerhouse, and support the next generation of artists and creative talent.
“The vision and ambition for the Factory is inspiring and I am excited to see this major cultural and tech hub develop.”
The work is being carried out by highly skilled and experienced teams - between them with many hundreds of years' construction experience - working alongside new recruits who are just starting out in the industry.
Creating opportunities for local people during this early construction phase of the building is a key part of The Factory's long-term aim of being a place not just that people will go to, but that people can also be a part of and learn valuable new skills from. Whether this is learning the necessary skills now to create a building literally from the ground up, or in the future the kind of skills needed to pursue a career in the creative industries, or to further develop talents and go on to become an accomplished artist.
This commitment to local people includes 65 apprenticeships being created across the project that will see apprentices working on all different aspects of the job from start to finish. Numerous bespoke work experience opportunities are also being developed for people to take part in, as well as training programmes for long term unemployed people, hard to reach residents, and Manchester based graduates.
Other opportunities during the construction of the building will include homelessness and age friendly projects, volunteering, and the chance for people to get involved creatively through a series of artist commissions.
Once open, The Factory will bring 1,500 new jobs to the city over a decade and will help the next generation of creative talent to flourish in Manchester, as well as offering a programme of backstage training and skills for local people.
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "There is no doubt that The Factory will be a game-changer. Not just for Manchester and the wider region but also, as the world-class venue it will be, for the arts world itself.
"Providing a year-round cultural programme and limitless creative opportunities is only one part of The Factory story.
"The opportunities it will also provide for training and learning new technical and creative industry specific skills are just as important.
"They will be a key part both of The Factory's success and in helping guarantee a successful future for culture and the arts in Manchester and far beyond."
Designed by international architects OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), The Factory's vast size and uniquely flexible design will enable it to host everything from major concerts to intimate performances, and will provide space for artists to create new work of huge ambition and on a scale they might not be able to do elsewhere,
Manchester International Festival will manage and create the artistic programme for The Factory which will build on the festival's own successes so far, as well as the city's long history as a centre for culture, creativity, and innovation. MIF will continue to deliver its now highly acclaimed biennial festival in addition to programming content at The Factory.
Tom Bloxham MBE , Chair of Manchester International Festival, which will operate and create the year-round programme for The Factory, said: “It's great to see The Factory - just a dream a couple of years ago - is now being realised! It’s part of our vision for Manchester’s future as one of the world’s great cultural cities, through the ambitious programme that’s being developed and the opportunities for artists to make work in different ways. It’s a visible manifestation designed by OMA ,one of the world’s great architects, of the boldness and the innovation that’s always been at the heart of this city’s story and I look forward to seeing it taking shape over the coming months.”
The largest slice of funding for The Factory comes from the Treasury with an investment of £78.05m - which is seen to be as much an investment in place and in people, as it is in a building.
Located next to the Science and Industry Museum and by Enterprise City, currently under development, The Factory will be part of a major cultural, creative, and technological hub, and will make an important contribution to the regeneration of this part of the city centre.
Just as it is expected to regenerate a place, The Factory is also expected to play a large part in helping regenerate people's lives.
From training and job opportunities, to taking part in activities or attending shows as an audience member, national figures show that investing in culture makes sound economic sense as well as being good for people's health, well-being, and livelihood.
Latest government figures show the cultural and creative industries made a record contribution in 2017 of more than £100 billion pounds for the first time. The sector employs around 2 million people, and is considered to be one of the fastest growing, accounting for over 5% of the UK's economy.
Just as compelling is national research showing the positive impact on health and well-being that getting involved in culture and the arts can have on people. The Understanding Society survey showed how engagement with the arts is linked to higher happiness and self-esteem in young people, helping them to foster feelings of personal pride and achievement. Similarly adults who take part in cultural activities or attend arts events also tend to have better health and well-being than those who don't.
The Factory has the full support and backing of Arts Council England who in January confirmed £7m of Lottery funding for the project, in addition to £9m annual revenue funding already confirmed for three years from 2018-22.
Sarah Maxfield, Area Director North at Arts Council England said: “We are proud to support this exciting development of The Factory with National Lottery investment through our capital grants fund. The Factory will make a substantial impact across England and internationally, providing unique experiences for audiences alongside career opportunities for young people. Culture is an established driver of regional growth in Manchester and across the city region of Greater Manchester. The Factory promises to strengthen the area's economy, providing new jobs and attracting visitors and businesses. It is an extremely exciting development, for the whole country, not just for Manchester and the North.”
The lead contractor on the project is Laing O'Rourke, who have been on site now since June 2018 to oversee the main preparation and clearance works that are necessary before the main construction can begin. Unique time-lapse footage of every stage of the building's construction is being captured to show just what's involved in the creation of the landmark new building.
Tom Higgins, Manchester Operations Lead, Laing O'Rourke, said: "We are delighted to have begun working on The Factory, a truly state of the art performing arts venue in the heart of Manchester. Laing O’Rourke has the ability to drive certainty into the delivery programme through our in house capabilities along with a fully integrated supply chain and advanced digital engineering and offsite manufacturing. Early engagement with Manchester City Council led to delivering greater confidence from the client team in the buildability of such a technically challenging and complex venue. We look forward to delivering another iconic building for Manchester.’