Aviva Studios, home of Factory International, is a global destination for arts, music, and culture which opened in the heart of Manchester in June 2023. The design of the landmark's cultural space, Aviva Studios, was led by Ellen van Loon of the world-leading practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). The development was also led by Manchester City Council, with backing from HM Government and Arts Council England. 

Programmed and operated by the team behind Manchester International Festival (MIF), Factory International and Aviva commission, produce and present an ambitious year-round programme of original creative work, music, and special events by leading artists from across the globe. The space also stages the city-wide Festival every other year at Factory International and at venues and spaces across Greater Manchester. Driven by the same interests and ambitions that defines MIF, artists will be encouraged to create work in new ways, collaborate across disciplines, and blur the boundaries between art and popular culture.   

Construction of Factory International, Manchester

Image Credit: Pawel Paniczko. Courtesy: Factory International

The building design is based around large, open, ultra-flexible spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling large-scale artistic work of invention and ambition that isn’t made anywhere else in the world. It offers audiences the opportunity to enjoy all year-round, in a world-class facility, the broadest range of art forms - from major exhibitions and concerts, to intimate performances and immersive experiences – including over 80 gigs a year. 

The 13,350 square metre building includes a 21m high warehouse with a capacity for up to 5,000 people standing, which can also be divided by a movable, full-height acoustic wall, and a hall with a flexible stage that can house an audience of up to 1,600 seated or 2,000 standing, as well as other spaces inside and out. The warehouse and the hall can also work together, with the proscenium capable of opening fully into the warehouse and allowing the stage to run deeper into the building.  

Its public spaces, from the foyers to its outdoor areas, come alive with year-round activities such as family-friendly workshops, pop-up food stalls, music, workshops, and markets, many of them free, creating a thriving riverside destination for everyone to enjoy. Factory International also offers an affordable ticket policy, where £10 Aviva tickets are available for those who might need them across their shows and events.

Artist Impression of Exterior of Factory International

Image Credit: OMA. Courtesy: Factory International

International in spirit and practice, Factory International collaborates with venues, festivals and companies across the world to commission artists together. Working with local, national and international partners and co-producers, it produces and premieres major new work, before it travels globally, and shares ideas, projects and training with peers worldwide.  

The possibilities of digital technology lie at the heart of the vision for Aviva Studios, this drives the experimentation and innovation in its physical productions and enables the creation of entirely new experiences for audiences through digital-first works created within the virtual world. Factory International also engages audiences beyond its physical structures of Aviva Studios through broadcasting and streaming of live and hybrid projects. 

A laboratory for experimentation and R&D, Aviva Studios is a training ground for the next generation of creators. Artists from Manchester and all over the world are commissioned to make new work in physical and online realms, while talent development programmes such as the Factory Fellowships see emerging artists placed alongside international creatives.  

Artist Impression of Interior of Factory International

Image Credit: OMA. Courtesy: Factory International

Factory Academy is the major training centre for local people, equipping them with the skills needed for careers in the creative industries and helping to build the technicians, producers and other creative talents that bring the future alive. 

Building on MIF’s record of working with communities, as audiences and as participants, Factory International is a space where local people are actively involved – from participating in flagship commissions, and co-designing programmes of activity, to shaping the organisation through involvement in its public forums. 

Rooted in Manchester, Aviva Studios strengthens the city’s status as a national and international centre for culture, creativity and innovation, as well as a major visitor destination. The economic impact of Aviva Studios is considerable, it has created and supported 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and is expected to add £1.1 billion to the city’s economy over a decade of opening.

Located in the new St John’s neighbourhood next to the River Irwell, Aviva Studios will be at the heart of a burgeoning city centre hub for culture, creativity and digital innovation and make a major contribution to the ongoing regeneration of this part of the city centre.