Manchester’s iconic new cultural venue to be named Aviva Studios, as Aviva, Manchester City Council and Factory International announce new partnership

Amanda Blanc, Aviva Group CEO, with Bev Craig, Leader, Manchester City Council

Aviva, Manchester City Council and Factory International today announce a long-term partnership which includes landmark support for Manchester’s iconic new arts and culture venue to be named Aviva Studios1. The venue, which will be the home of Factory International, is predicted to add £1.1 billion to the economy of Manchester2 and the surrounding region over a decade. It will support up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs2 and provide training and engagement opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The multi-million pound investment by Aviva, the UK’s leading insurance, wealth and retirement business, will make a substantial contribution to the building and future success of this world-class venue – a resource for Manchester, the North, and the UK for many years to come. Audiences will be invited to preview the trailblazing cultural space during this year’s Manchester International Festival (29 June 2023 – 16 July). Aviva Studios’ official opening will be in October with the production Free Your Mind, a large-scale immersive performance based on The Matrix films and created by Danny Boyle, Es Devlin, Sabrina Mahfouz and the co-founders of Olivier Award-winning Boy Blue.

Programmed and operated by Factory International, the organisation behind the world-renowned Manchester International Festival, the new venue will host a year-round programme of original creative work, music and special events by some of the world’s leading artists. Its development is the largest investment in a national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000, thanks to £106m of public funding from HM Government and Arts Council England, with additional backing from Manchester City Council.

Aviva will also work closely with Factory International and Manchester City Council on a number of initiatives linked to long-term sustainability and community impact. This includes being the Principal Partner of the Factory Academy, Factory International’s award-winning skills training programme which provides opportunities for careers in Manchester’s ever-growing creative industries. A core aim of the Factory Academy is to diversify the workforce in an increasingly important sector for the region. As part of Factory International’s affordable pricing strategy, which will see discounted tickets for those who need them across the year-round programme, Aviva will also support its £10 ticket scheme, to be known as 'Aviva £10 Tickets'.

Amanda Blanc, Group Chief Executive Officer, Aviva said:

“Aviva is thrilled to be backing this new, world-class arts building in Manchester. It builds on Aviva’s leading role in the UK, serving more than 15 million customers, employing 16,000 people, and investing billions each year into the UK’s regional economy.

The new Aviva Studios will help make arts and culture more accessible and inclusive...

“The new Aviva Studios will help make arts and culture more accessible and inclusive and follows the significant investment Aviva Investors has already made in Manchester, such as the development of Enterprise City.”

The new building has been designed by the world-leading Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), led by architect Ellen van Loon, and is the acclaimed practice’s first major public building in the UK. It will ensure Manchester is a destination for world-class architecture, defining it as a modern, cosmopolitan world city. Built with flexibility in mind, the building is based around large, open, adaptable spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling artists to develop and create large-scale artistic work of invention and ambition.

With its waterfront location, the new building is the anchor of the new St John’s neighbourhood, a dynamic cultural, creative and technological hub which will make a major contribution to the ongoing regeneration of this part of the city centre. It lies at the heart of an extensive cultural quarter, including the Science and Industry Museum next door, and within walking distance from other city centre cultural sites, including The People’s History Museum, Everyman Cinema, John Rylands Library, the Opera House, Royal Exchange Theatre and HOME.

The benefits Aviva Studios will bring include:

  • The development of the venue has unlocked £106.05m of new public funding into Manchester made up of £78.05m HM Treasury investment, and £7m Arts Lottery - money that would not have otherwise been available for the cultural sector or the region - and £21m Kickstart Capital from the Cultural Recovery fund, administered by Arts Council England.
  • It is expected to add £1.1 billion to the economy of Manchester2 and the surrounding region over a decade, creating or supporting up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs2 and providing opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • The creative industries are the fastest growing sector in Manchester and the creation of the new venue will sustain and grow this vital sector even further.
  • It will bring jobs, skills, training and creative opportunities as a major employer for the area. 152 permanent jobs have already been created for Factory International since 2018, with more than 300 additional members working across Front of House, Technical, Production and Ticketing teams.
  • It will also continue to provide significant employment opportunities for freelancers - engaging with approximately 2,000 freelancers when running the biennial festival and year-round.

Factory International is on a committed path towards zero-carbon activity. Using operational data from 2024 as the benchmark, Factory International’s ambition is to become a zero-carbon emissions organisation by 2038. Factory International will operate a ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’ policy, and work towards a circular economy approach to materials, seeking to reuse wherever possible. This aligns to Aviva's ambition to become a Net Zero carbon emissions company by 2040.

The multi-million pound investment by Aviva was brokered on behalf of Manchester City Council and Factory International by Elliot Willis, CEO of WEEM Group.

Bev Craig, Leader, Manchester City Council:

“Aviva Studios, as the home of Factory International, will be a nationally and internationally important cultural attraction in the heart of Manchester. This multi-year, multi-million pound partnership reflects the magnitude of the venue not just for the city but for the north of England and the UK as a whole.

Aviva Studios, as the home of Factory International, will be a nationally and internationally important cultural attraction in the heart of Manchester.

“This will be a momentous year for the venue as audiences experience its wow factor and enjoy inspiring art in its incredible spaces for the first time. It has undoubtedly been a challenge to create this remarkable building with its unique design against a difficult construction context, including rocketing inflation, without diluting the ambitious vision behind it.

“The new partnership helps make this possible, as well as supporting Factory International’s ongoing success and work with the community to open up access to the arts and training opportunities. The Council will receive the largest share of funding, supporting our up-front investment in the venue and the wider St John’s neighbourhood, as well as adding social value.

“Aviva has the credentials to be an ideal partner. We are looking forward to collaborating with them on this amazing venue and welcome the expansion of their existing commitment to Manchester.”

John McGrath, Chief Executive & Artistic Director, Factory International, said:

“This historic new partnership will provide vital support for the construction and future life of our landmark new home, building on the generous public funding support already pledged to the project. Aviva’s values and commitment align with our own and we will also be working together on a range of initiatives, from sustainability to our £10 ticket scheme to ensure that our programme of work is accessible to all. They will also be principal partner on Factory Academy, a programme that is changing the landscape in terms of access to jobs in the creative industries for people from every background.

“With the city council, we are all committed to strengthening Manchester’s reputation as a nationally and internationally important centre for culture and creativity, as well as bringing jobs, skills, training and creative opportunities for local people and artists.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said:

“We are delighted at the news of this major support from Aviva to the landmark new home of Factory International, the most significant cultural venue to be built in the UK in recent years. The creative and cultural sector in this country is founded on the relationship between public and private sector investment. The newly-named Aviva Studios has benefited from very significant public sector investment throughout its development, from HM Government, Manchester City Council and Arts Council England, and we very much welcome the commitment of Aviva to support the venue going forward.”


Media Enquiries:

For Aviva:
Philippa Terry, Senior Manager, Financial Communications
M: 07385537458

For Manchester City Council:
Roger Williams, Head of Media
M: +44 (0)7855 366502

For Factory International:
Emma Robertson, Head of Press & PR
M: +44 (0) 781 352 1104


  1. The name (Aviva Studios) makes reference to the creative heritage of the site where the venue is located which includes the Old Granada Studios, the legendary Manchester landmark which was home for many decades to the likes of Coronation Street, So It Goes, and The Beatles’ first ever televised performance.
  2. Economic impact assessment by specialist economic development and regeneration consultancy, Ekosgen.

Notes to Editors:


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Manchester City Council

Manchester City Council has overseen Manchester's celebrated renaissance, from a declining post-industrial city to one of the fastest growing and most exciting cities in Europe. The Council has championed the role of culture as a catalyst to regeneration as well as an important end in its own right.

Factory International

Factory International is the organisation behind both Manchester International Festival (MIF), and the landmark new cultural space, Aviva Studios, which welcomes its first visitors in 2023, creating a global destination for arts music and culture in the heart of Manchester.

Factory International will commission, produce and present an ambitious year-round programme of original creative work, music and special events at its new venue, online, and internationally through its network of co-commissioners and partners. It will also stage the city-wide Festival every other year, at its new home and in 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, to collaborate across disciplines and blur the boundaries between art and popular culture.

Designed by Ellen van Loon of the world-leading practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the building 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 will offer audiences the opportunity to enjoy year-round, in a new 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. Outside, its public areas will come alive with pop-up performances, events and markets, creating a thriving riverside destination for audiences to enjoy.

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

Through the Factory Academy, it will become a major training centre for local people, helping to build the technicians, producers and other creative talent that will bring the future alive, while its pioneering programmes of engagement and artist development will benefit local people and the next generation of creators.

Rooted in Manchester, Aviva Studios will strengthen 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 will be considerable, creating or supporting up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and adding £1.1 billion to the city’s economy over a decade.

Its development is being led by Manchester City Council, with backing from HM Government and Arts Council England.

Weem Group

Weem Group has spearheaded the development of commercial assets, formulated an effective go-to-market strategy, and led the charge in pitching, negotiating, and executing this transformative multi-year partnership with Aviva on behalf of MCC and Factory International.

Weem Group continues to propel businesses towards unprecedented success in the marketing and advertising sector. The strategic insights and exceptional execution demonstrated throughout this venture exemplify Weem Group's commitment to driving unparalleled growth and achieving remarkable milestones in the ever-evolving media landscape.

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