'Guggenheim of the North' gets approved by Manchester Council

16th January 2017

Manchester City Council has approved plans for a huge arts centre to be built in the city. The £110 million arts centre, which has been described as the 'Guggenheim of the North', will include multiple spaces for a variety of show types.

The Factory arts centre will be constructed on the site of the former Granada Studios, using £78 million worth of government funding, which was pledged to the project - which is a central part of the northern powerhouse project - by George Osborne back in 2014 and has now been confirmed following the Treasury review of the full business case.

Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the building will include flexible spaces that will be suitable for gigs, exhibitions and a number of other performance types. A major theatre will also be constructed within the centre, which will have a unique and modern look.

According to the council, the 7,500 capacity centre will provide the North with a world-class exhibition and performance space, rivalling similar centres in London. It is hoped that the new building will help attract top-class performances and exhibitions, including opera and ballet.

It is planned for the centre to be a vital central part of the wider St John's area, which is the new creative neighbourhood in Manchester and is being planned by designed by company Allied London. 

Ellen van Loon, the Office for Metropolitan Planning (OMA) partner in charge of the art centre project, said: “From classical opera and ballet to large-scale performances and experimental productions, Factory in Manchester provides the perfect opportunity to create the ultimate versatile space in which art, theatre and music come together: a platform for a new cultural scene.”

The approval of the plans for the centre by council bosses was welcomed by cultural minister Matt Hancock. Mr Hancock said that he wants to provide better access to the world-class art and performances that are on offer across the country, something that the new Manchester centre should do. 

It has also been announced that the sure-to-be iconic building will be operated by Manchester International Festival (MIF), with Mark Ball - who is the current artistic director of the London International Festival of Theatre (Lift) - joining the leadership team.

Mr Ball said that the Factory art centre will be “undoubtedly the most exciting and ambitious new cultural space in the country”. 

The plans for the building should see it open in 2020, bringing some of the best art and performances to Manchester and providing another destination other than London for those wanting to see performances and exhibitions. Construction on the project is due to start in the spring.

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