Plagued by delays and price hikes, MIF’s new home is finally underway

It’s been anything but a smooth conveyor belt ride for The Factory. Our new multimillion pound arts centre, which will be the permanent home of Manchester International Festival (MIF), has stalled more times than Brexit since was announced in December 2014. The UK Treasury confirmed they’d be funding the project, then estimated at £78m, however it was revealed the following year that the venue would actually cost £110. As for who would be stumping up the remaining £32m? Its commissioner, Manchester City Council. 

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The Factory will be one of the biggest developments of its type in Europe OMA

The project finally gained approval in January 2017, however logistical issues meant that appointed architects OMA - the practise founded by acclaimed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas - had to redesign the building in 2018, taking its cost to £112m.

Fast forward to November 2018 and it was revalued yet again - this time at £130.62m, taking total council contributions to £40.57m. Phew. 

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The Factory is expected to deliver a £1.1bn boost to the city's economy over a decade OMA

Now, following a period of silence, there’s finally some good news as this week saw The Factory hit a construction milestone. Since the start of 2019, its structure has become increasingly visible at its site in St John’s - the new neighbourhood being developed at the former site of Old Granada Studios - including an imposing steel frame, stairways, lift shafts and 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 1600 capacity auditorium, has been installed. Weighing 125 tonnes, this huge steel structure has been designed by the structural engineers BuroHappold and constructed by the Bury based firm William Hare Limited. The auditorium forms part of the major new complex, which will include a 5,000 capacity space and is designed by OMA to be one of the most flexible buildings of its kind.

Expected to attract up to 850,000 visitors and create 1500 jobs on opening in 2021, The Factory will be the permanent home of Manchester International Festival (MIF). Here, MIF will present a year-round programme featuring artists from around the world; as well as bringing jobs and skills and training opportunities for people from across the city. Initiatives already underway include The Factory Academy - a new training and apprenticeship programme designed to help people from all backgrounds develop careers in the creative industries.

MIF will also continue to produce its biennial festival at locations citywide. The largest event of its kind in Manchester, its recent 2019 edition had an economic impact of £50m. 

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Laing O’Rourke is managing The Factory’s construction

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.

"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.

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Originally due to open in 2019, The Factory is now planned for 2021 OMA

"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."

Main images: OMA