Latest on world-class arts venue The Factory

The latest on world-class arts venue The Factory, which is taking shape in Manchester city centre, is detailed in a new report to councillors.

The Factory will be one of the largest, most ambitious and most versatile purpose-built arts spaces in the world. The venue will be capable of hosting everything from epic concerts to intimate performances including music, dance, theatre, opera, visual arts and innovative contemporary work incorporating the latest digital technologies.

It is predicted to bring a £1.1 billion boost to Manchester’s economy over its first decade alone.

As well as commissioning and presenting the world’s most exciting artists – building on the success of Manchester International Festival and attracting up to 850,000 visitors a year – The Factory will create and support 1,500 new jobs in the city over a decade and help the next generation of creative talent to flourish in Manchester, offering a programme of backstage training and skills for people living across Manchester. Its Factory Futures programme will benefit up to 10,000 unemployed young people in the next few years.

The Factory is already acting as a catalyst for the regeneration of the wider St John’s creative neighbourhood and Enterprise City, within it, which has the potential to accommodate 17,000 jobs in start-ups and media and tech companies.

Proposals are being put together to designate a creative Enterprise Zone, centred around The Factory, which would help the city to further capture these opportunities.

The Factory has been identified as one of the key projects which will help power Manchester’s economic recovery from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and help usher in an exciting new chapter.

However, the project itself has not been immune to the significant impacts of the coronavirus challenge. These allied with issues associated with the unprecedented nature of the building – its scale, ambition and complexity – mean that the budget must be increased by £45m, to £186 million, in order for construction to be successfully completed.

The Council is clear that the tough financial position it faces in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic means it is not in a position to increase its contribution further. Instead, the majority of the £45 million will be found through bids to national funding sources and through enhanced fundraising by The Factory Trust, which is made up of figures with commercial and artistic expertise.

As with all construction projects, Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the cost and programme. This is the biggest single reason for the budget increase. The associated slowing of productivity, when combined with the complexity of the project, the stringent sound insulation standards required for the building and the particular position of the Manchester construction market means have all impacted on cost. During this period while work has continued, numbers on site and productivity have significantly slowed and work has had to be reprogrammed, meaning that The Factory will now be completed for December 2022.

Some £10 million of the £45 million is being set aside as additional contingency funding to reflect the levels of uncertainty across the construction industry. It is possible that not all of this amount will be required, although along with the construction industry we are watching the ongoing Covid-19 situation warily.

Other additional costs relate to factors beyond the Council’s control such as changing national fire standards and market forces.

Despite these challenges, progress has been made on site and is continuing. There has been further investment in the client team to ensure that we have the best expertise available to deliver the project.

The largest component of the budget is still £85 million national funding (£78 million government plus £7 million National Lottery funding through Arts Council England) – a level of investment almost unprecedented outside London and the South East. The Council’s existing commitment is £50.6 million, and the rest is accounted for through fundraising.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The Factory will not just be a world-leading arts performance space right here in Manchester – it will be one of the transformative projects powering the city’s economic recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It will create and support jobs, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city each year, and provide a wealth of training and skills development opportunities for Manchester people to pursue careers in the creative sector.

“The Factory will act as a key anchor institution for our recovering cultural sector and a major catalyst for further investment and job creation in the burgeoning St John’s quarter.

“Delivering something as unique and game-changing as The Factory is always going to involve some unforeseen challenges, and as these go the global Covid-19 pandemic is pretty monumental.

“The serious financial consequences of the crisis mean that the council is not in a position to commit further funding to this project but, as is the Manchester way, we will be resourceful and find other ways to ensure we create something special.

“This is a project which will have enormous benefits for the city and its people. It’s precisely because of these difficult times that it is even more important than ever that we deliver it.”

Tom Bloxham MBE, Manchester International Festival Chair, said: “The Factory will have a major impact on the lives of people living across Manchester, and will transform the cultural scene in the UK. As Manchester International Festival has already shown, The Factory will also strengthen Manchester’s reputation as an internationally important centre for culture and creativity, and as a significant international destination, but like MIF it will be proudly rooted in our great city. The Factory will play a key role in the lives of Greater Manchester residents, building on MIF’s record of working with communities, as audiences and as participants, and bringing jobs, skills, training and creative opportunities for local people and artists, as well as commercial benefit for Manchester’s businesses.”

The Factory report will be considered by the Council’s Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee when they meet on Tuesday 6 October and the Executive when it meets on Wednesday 14 October.

Note: A range of Factory images and assets including a CGI animation showing the building taking shape and how it will look, photos of the building under construction and still images can be found at: