The Factory arts complex gets green light – but not everyone is happy


Plans for The Factory – a nationally important cultural venue in the heart of Manchester – have been given final approval by town hall bosses for the second time.

And for the second time the £111million arts complex has been put through the mill by critics.

The council’s Liberal Democrat opposition slated the revised proposals for what they claimed was the apparent complete oversight of disabled access within the venue.

The party’s communities and planning spokesman Greg Stanton said: “It’s great to see this level of investment in Manchester’s arts and culture scene but there is no room for this kind of fundamental lapse in design oversight and these concerns must be addressed publicly and urgently.”

And Manchester Shield, the independent planning watchdog, complained that the public had been excluded from any debate about The Factory’s design – or even the need for it.

They claim the costly complex would “suck arts funding from the grass roots,” that £1.6 million has been wasted on a “substandard redesign” and that what has been trailed as Manchester’s equivalent of New York’s Guggenheim was “not an icon”.

The project – which will occupy the site of the former Granada Studios – has had a troubled conception, but the city’s planning bosses were enthusiastic about their baby – future home of the Manchester International Festival – when announcing approval of the latest version of the complex.

A town hall spokesman said that, when complete, The Factory will be one of the largest purpose-built cultural spaces in the world, enabling the world’s best artists to create work of a scale and ambition not possible elsewhere.

At the same time, it will deliver a multi-million pound boost to the economy and create jobs, skills and training for Manchester people.

“The Factory will be a world-class cultural destination, open to all, and attracting audiences of up to 850,000 a year from across Manchester, the UK and the world.

“A uniquely flexible space, it will be capable of hosting everything from epic concerts and major exhibitions to immersive theatre and intimate performances. Dance, theatre, music, opera, visual arts, popular culture and innovative contemporary work, incorporating the latest digital technologies, will come together in ground-breaking contributions involving local, national and international artists and participants.”

The landmark building, designed by world-leading architects Office for Metropolitan Architecture founded by Rem Koolhaas, will feature two main spaces – a vast warehouse with a capacity of around 5,000 and an auditorium for audiences up to 2,000. Highly adaptable, it will be possible to combine the two spaces, or reduce them in size, enabling a huge variety of work to be presented.

There will be public spaces inside and outside, including a new square and a riverside setting. The year-round programme will be designed to appeal to the widest range of people.

The council say The Factory will deliver a huge boost to Manchester, creating and supporting 1,500 full-time jobs and adding £1.1 billion to the city’s economy over a decade, strengthening the city’s reputation as a globally important cultural destination and contributing to the vitally important tourism industry.

As part of a major creative, cultural and technological hub at St John’s, it will also help anchor the regeneration of this part of the city centre.

As well as jobs, a key focus for The Factory will be providing training for local people wanting to work in the creative industries in roles from technicians and producers to marketing.

John McGrath, artistic director and CEO at Manchester International Festival, said: “The Factory will provide space for the greatest artists from around the world to create work of extraordinary ambition and scale, work they always dreamed of making. It builds on the city’s brilliant heritage as a centre for production, for radical ideas and for doing things a bit differently. It firmly underpins Manchester’s reputation as an internationally important city for culture, creativity and technology.”


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