The under-construction Manchester arts venue has received £21m from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England, intended to help offset a string of challenges that have led to mounting costs and project delays.
The award is from the Cultural Capital Kickstart Fund, which is part of the Government’s £1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund package to protect the UK’s culture and heritage sectors from the economic impacts of the pandemic. A total of £120m of the fund has been allocated specifically to support construction of cultural infrastructure across the UK.
Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’s studio OMA, The Factory is backed by Manchester 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.
It 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.
However, the project has been beset with project delays and spiralling costs over the years. Manchester City Council noted in a report in 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.
Meanwhile, the completion date has slipped to December 2022, from 2019 when the project was first announced in 2014.
Last month, 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.
The council predicts the scheme to bring a £1.1bn boost to Manchester in the first decade after its completion. The intention is for The Factory and MIF to commission and present a year-round programme of groundbreaking interdisciplinary work by artists from around the world.
The venue is anticipated to attract up to 850,000 visitors a year and host a range of performances, from music, dance, theatre, opera, visual arts, and contemporary work incorporating the latest digital technologies.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “This is fantastic news for Manchester and the cultural economy not just of the North but of the whole country.
“After a year that none of us could have foreseen and that has brought with it challenge after challenge and hit the culture sector harder than most, this [funding] will secure the completion of a world-class cultural space that is quite literally going to change lives.
“We’re extremely grateful to DCMS and Arts Council England for their continued support for The Factory and for the substantial award announced today to help address the unforeseen additional costs and delays on the project due to Covid-19.”
He added: “The Factory is going to redraw the UK cultural map and will do much to bolster Manchester and the North’s credentials as an economic and creative powerhouse to rival not just London, but the rest of Europe and beyond.”