Manchester’s new landmark cultural venue, Aviva Studios, the permanent home of Factory International, has officially opened its doors with the world premiere of Free Your Mind, a large-scale immersive performance directed by Danny Boyle.

Designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Aviva Studios is a global destination for arts, music and culture located at the heart of the new St John’s neighbourhood in Manchester, a city centre hub for creativity and digital innovation.

The development is led by Manchester City Council, with backing of £99.05m from HM Government and £7m National Lottery funding from Arts Council England. It is supported by Aviva, the UK’s leading Insurance, Wealth and Retirement business, as principal partner to the venue.

Aviva Studios will add to the city’s thriving music scene, presenting a rich selection of gigs, including in-house concerts and collaborations with local and national promotors. Many events are already announced with a further programme of activity expected following the launch.

As one of the most important cultural developments in Europe, Aviva Studios is predicted to add £1.1 billion to the economy of Manchester and the surrounding region over the next decade, creating or supporting up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and providing skills, training and creative opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Through the Factory Academy, Aviva Studios will become a major training centre for the creative workforce of the future, providing opportunities for careers in creative industries, Manchester’s fastest-growing sector, while talent development initiatives will create opportunities for artists from the North of England, particularly those most underrepresented in the sector.

New opportunities, which have just opened for application, include Artist Takeover, a new Factory International programme which offers artists from any discipline the chance to experiment in Aviva Studios’ flexible spaces, alongside guidance from industry experts; the annual Factory Fellowship which gives emerging artists the chance to work and learn alongside international creatives; and Factory Sounds which provides opportunities for creatives involved in Greater Manchester’s music scene.

Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council and Deputy Chair of GM Business Board (LEP) said: “Today is a landmark moment for culture not just in Manchester but the North of England and indeed the UK as a whole. This internationally important venue, extraordinary in its scale and ambition, will open up a world of possibilities for people in this city – inspiring creativity and nurturing careers in the arts. As a major new visitor destination, Aviva Studios will also create and support a great many jobs and add to the vibrancy which makes Manchester such an exciting city. It’s a unique venue, a real asset for the future which will stimulate minds and spirits as well as acting as a catalyst to economic growth and opportunities.”

Aviva Studios is set to become a standout of the Manchester skyline. The design of the 13,350-square-metre building is based around large, open, flexible spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling artists to create large-scale ambitious works of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world, and providing a canvas to make, explore and experiment. It will set Manchester’s cultural offering apart and draw the attention of world-leading artists to the city.

The 21-metre-high Warehouse is the ultimate flexible performance space with capacity for up to 5,000 people when standing. It is taller than four double-decker buses stacked on top of each other and just under the length of a Boeing 747 aeroplane, and can be divided by a movable, full-height acoustic wall. The Hall features a flexible stage and can house an audience of up to 1,603 seated or 2,000 standing. 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. The design of Aviva Studios has been led by OMA Partner Ellen van Loon and is the practice’s first major public project in the UK.

Programmed and operated by Factory International, the organisation behind the Manchester International Festival, Aviva Studios will host a year-round programme of original productions and special events across all art forms – from major exhibitions and concerts to intimate performances and immersive experiences.

This includes Free Your Mind, the opening performance directed by Danny Boyle and following this, Aviva Studios will host The Welcome (11-19 Nov 23), a nine-day programme of music, circus, art and fashion developed by Greater Manchester residents – an invitation from local people to celebrate the new cultural space.

Reflecting Factory International’s commitment to ensuring access to the widest possible audiences, 5,000 tickets have been made available for Free Your Mind at £10 or less as part of an affordable pricing strategy that will see discounted and Aviva £10 tickets for Manchester communities across its year-round programme.

John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Factory International said: “I’m so excited and proud to be welcoming audiences to the official opening of our magnificent new home. At every stage in imagining and building this extraordinary space, we have focused on creating new possibilities – for artists to let their imaginations fly, for citizens of Manchester and the world to meet and dream, and for people of all ages and backgrounds to build skills and gain experience. Our official opening production, the Matrix-inspired Free Your Mind has been created especially for this moment by an incredible team, alongside an extraordinary mix of dancers, creatives and local participants, and is uniquely designed to showcase the versatility and ambition of the space. We can’t wait to welcome you all to experience it!”