This week sees a significant milestone in the construction of The Factory, the landmark new cultural venue, currently being developed in Manchester city centre.
One of the biggest developments of its kind in Europe, and commissioned by Manchester City Council, The Factory will be the permanent home of Manchester International Festival (MIF).
MIF will commission and present a year-round programme at the venue featuring artists from around the world, as well as bringing jobs and training opportunities for people from across the city.
Since the start of the year, The Factory’s structure has become increasingly visible at its site which is in the heart of the new St John’s development on the former Granada Studios. Clearly visible now are an imposing steel frame, stairways, lift shafts, and what will be a structure that will house lifts capable of bringing two articulated trucks up into the building from street level.
Over the last two days, the massive proscenium truss, which will form part of the 1,600 capacity auditorium, has also been installed. Weighing 125 tonnes, this huge steel structure has been designed by structural engineers Buro Happold and constructed by the Bury based firm William Hare Limited.
The auditorium forms part of the major new complex that will also include a 5,000 capacity space, and is designed by international architectural practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) to be one of the most flexible buildings of its kind.
This construction milestone comes as Manchester is named the second most creative city in Europe (after London), with a GVA of £1.4bn to the city from culture and creative industries.
It also comes in the same week as the publication of an independent evaluation report into MIF, which shows that this year the biennial festival had an economic impact of £50m for the city. As well as running The Factory, MIF will continue to present the festival every other year at locations across Manchester.
The cranes might still be on site but already The Factory is making a difference to the lives of local people through jobs and apprenticeships during construction, and skills and development opportunities such as The Factory Academy - a brand new training and apprenticeship programme designed to help people from all backgrounds develop careers in the creative industries.
Established by MIF and backed by a consortium of leading arts organisations, The Factory Academy will help develop the next generation of technicians, producers and arts professionals working in a sector that is now worth more than £100 billion to the economy nationally.
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "The Factory is a state-of-the-art, high-quality, multi-functional building, incomparable in nature to any other currently being constructed in the UK.
"It's fantastic to see the progress that has been made on site with the basic structure very much now visible.
"We've always been very clear about the benefits of culture and creativity, not just to audiences, but to the city itself. Cities need culture to thrive as much as culture needs cities like ours that support and embrace it.
"Providing a year-round cultural programme and limitless creative opportunities is only one part of The Factory story.
"Improving the life chances and job prospects of local people is a massive priority for us and the opportunities it will also provide for training and learning new technical and creative industry specific skills are just as important and will be second to none.
"Our creative sector is already thriving and Manchester is now recognised as the second largest creative city in Europe after London, with a GVA to the city's economy of £1.4bn - all of which proves the soundness of our ongoing investment in culture and the arts, and our continuing belief in the power of culture and creativity, and The Factory, to transform lives.
"We're very much looking forward to The Factory and to the difference we know it's going to make both to local people here and also to the creative and cultural landscape nationally and internationally."
John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Manchester International Festival and The Factory said: “It’s been really exciting to see The Factory taking shape over the last few months. It’s going to play an important role in the life of the city, commissioning extraordinary artistic work and offering the biggest of welcomes for people from across Manchester and far beyond.”
Laing O’Rourke are leading the construction of the development.
Tom Higgins, Director at Laing O'Rourke, said: "Reaching and celebrating significant construction milestones – such as installation of the proscenium truss gives the team time to pause and appreciate the great progress being made in constructing The Factory. We are extremely proud to be leading in the delivery of this state-of-the-art performing arts venue in the heart of Manchester.”
The Factory is the first major, permanent cultural building in the UK designed by OMA, which was founded by Rem Koolhaas.