MIF hires Factory venue director  

Sheena Wrigley has been appointed to manage the £186m Manchester arts hub, while former footballer Gary Neville is one of four additions to the board. 

As venue director, Wrigley will be in charge of operations and visitor experience at the Factory, as well as overseeing the production and technical teams, according to Manchester International Festival.

Wrigley’s role was created following the resignation of MIF’s longstanding managing director, Christine Cort. 

Speaking to Place North West earlier this year, MIF confirmed Cort would not be directly replaced and that the venue director position would be created instead.

Wrigley’s previous roles include a stint as executive director of arts venue HOME in First Street and almost seven years as chief executive of Harrogate Theatre.

She will join MIF in September, leaving her current role as director of the Palace Theatre & Opera House in Manchester.

Wrigley is to become the fifth member of MIF’s leadership team, joining John McGrath chief executive and artistic director, Randel Bryan executive director and deputy chief executive, creative director Mark Ball, and finance director Hannah Cork.

“The Factory will have enormous impact on communities, audiences and the cultural ecology of the North of England,” Wrigley said. 

“I am thrilled to be part of this ambitious, international adventure and to have a role in shaping a new kind of arts company, rooted in a part of the UK I care passionately about.” 

The Factory Allied London

The 143,000 sq ft scheme is due to complete in December 2022

Alongside former Manchester United captain Neville, entrepreneur Grace Ladoja, visual artist Ibrahim Mahama, and TV commissioner Shaminder Nahal have also been appointed to the MIF board.

“The impact that MIF has had on our city has been incredible,” Neville said. 

“I’m passionate about Manchester and the great things that happen in our city. MIF is one of the most prominent events that promotes Manchester globally and connects people from all over the world to our city”. 

Designed by architect OMA, The Factory is to provide a permanent home for the MIF, presenting and producing a year-round creative programme, featuring “bold new work from the world’s greatest artists and offering a space to create, invent and play”, the organisation said. 

Due to complete in December 2022, the 143,000 sq ft scheme has been plagued by delays and funding issues since construction began in 2018. 

Manchester City Council noted in a report last October that delays caused by the pandemic, and other challenges, meant that the project needed an additional £45m to complete – pushing the budget to £186m in total. 

Earlier this year, Place North West reported that several design changes had been made to the Factory, including replacing certain materials that would alter the external appearance of the building. 

The Factory Exterior Night Copyright OMA

The project benefitted from a £78m Government grant

However, Manchester City Council insisted the design changes would not further impact the project’s budget and that the venue is on course to complete at the end of next year. 

The Factory is backed by the city council, which invested £20m in the 143,000 sq ft scheme in 2018, the Government, from which it has a £78m grant, and the National Lottery, which has provided £7m. 

Last December, the venue received a £21m cash injection from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and Arts Council England, intended to help offset a string of challenges that have led to mounting costs and project delays.  

The Factory is intended to be a modern and innovative arts and culture hub for Manchester in developer Allied London’s St John’s mixed-use neighbourhood, and to serve as a permanent home for the Manchester International Festival. 

Last November, the city council hired Flan McNamara, a former construction chief at Sellar Property Group, developer of London’s Shard tower, as a consultant to help progress the scheme.   

McNamara is working with The Factory’s main contractor Laing O’Rourke to deliver the project and help it stay within budget and on schedule. 

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