Manchester is to receive several investment boosts in its arts and culture sectors as it builds on its creative successes and tries to pose itself as a cultural counterbalance to that of London.
One such project will be a £78 million new theatre that is to be built on the site of the former Granada television studios and will receive most of its investment from government funding as they try to further push forward Chancellor George Osborne’s vision of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
The 5,000 seat venue, to be named ‘The Factory’ in homage to Manchester’s iconic Factory Records label, will be a permanent home for the Manchester International Festival (MIF) which is a highlight of the European cultural calendar and has drawn big name musical and theatrical performances from the likes of Bjork and Sir Kenneth Branagh. The festival has previously been held in various empty buildings throughout the city and this is the first time it will have a permanent home.
Not just a theatre however, The Factory will be a “large scale, ultra-flexible arts space” according to Manchester Council. Another major arts centre is due to open just a mile away as well at the cost of £25 million which will include theatres, art galleries and cinema screens.
Mr Osborne announced these plans in his autumn statement, with the venue due to open in 2019 and Tom Bloxham, MIF chairman, saying of the project:
“A new kind of large-scale venue comparable in scale to London’s Coliseum connected to one side of a Tate Modern Turbine Hall-type structure. As well as providing a new home base for MIF, it will commission and welcome innovative works from companies and artists around the world. Like MIF, it will attract ground-breaking and pioneering works which might not otherwise come to the north of England, or even the UK, and the concept is in many ways born from MIF.”
Manchester has long been a cultural hub as a home to such artistic greats like JS Lowry as well as pioneering musical movements such as Britpop and the Madchester scene and it is hoped that this move will further increase its standing as a globally recognised centre for the arts.
Mr Osborne has recently pledged funds to improve infrastructure in the North of England, as well as arts funding, and this announcement comes hot on the heels of his promise to fund a ‘Great Exhibition’ to celebrate the art, culture and design of the north of England, and to provide £3 million for arts projects to commemorate the World War One centenary in cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.
Extending tax breaks in film and television have also been mooted.
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