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Manchester’s new cultural landmark has officially opened its doors today

It’s open!

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Factory International ©

Aviva Studios, home to Factory International, has officially opened its doors in Manchester following an epic immersive performance created by director Danny Boyle.

The prism-like venue, designed by Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), is the permanent home to Factory international, the UK’s largest investment in a national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000.

Aviva Studios officially opened to welcome the public today (October 18th) following the world premiere of Free Your Mind, a large-scale immersive performance.

Factory International ©

World-leading artists collaborated along with 50 professional dancers to brought to life the production of Free Your Mind – a dramatic reimagining of the 1999 cult classic sci-fi The Matrix – which was specially curated to fit the flexible spaces of the new structure.

Directed by Danny Boyle, Free Your Mind brings together the visceral movement of choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy with a powerful score from renowned composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante , set design by world-leading artist and designer Es Devlin and the work of the acclaimed writer Sabrina Mahfouz.

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 burgeoning city centre hub for creativity and digital innovation. 

Factory International ©

The development is led by Manchester City Council, with backing of £99.05 million from HM Government and £7 million National Lottery funding from Arts Council England and supported by Aviva, as principal partner to the venue.

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.

Following Free Your Mind, Aviva Studios will host The Welcome from November 11th-19th – a nine-day programme of music, circus, art and fashion.

Factory International ©

Johnny Marr also presents two nights of music with an orchestra made up of northern musicians from December 7th-8th, with plenty more in the pipeline.

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

Upcoming programme highlights set to take place throughout 2024 include the likes of visionary director Robert Wilson – who will team up with surreal folk duo CocoRosie to retell Kipling’s renowned novel Jungle Book (March 2024).

Factory International ©

 As well as Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom, and Imogen Knight – who will join forces with Gazelle Twin and Daisy Johnson to present a feminist theatrical reimagining of John Bowen’s Robin Redbreast, plus many, many more.

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.”

Factory International ©

“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,” he continued.

Adding: “We can’t wait to welcome you all to experience it!” 

Councillor Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council hailed the venue opening as a ‘landmark moment not just in Manchester’, but ‘for the North of England and indeed the UK as a whole’.

Councillor Craig also called it ‘internationally-important’, adding: “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.” 

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Huge beer festival with more than 500 different varieties coming to Manchester

Can’t wait for this!

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Manchester Craft Beer Festival

Manchester Craft Beer Festival is back for another year, bringing with it more than 80 breweries and 500 different beers to sample.

The fourth edition of the festival will be taking place at Depot Mayfield on Friday July 5th and Saturday July 6th.

Cloudwater, Track, Marble, Northern Monk, Bundobust, Sureshot and Seven Brothers will be there to represent Manchester, alongside other UK stalwarts like Deya, Verdant, Siren and Leeds’ North Brewing Co.

Manchester Craft Beer Festival


Heritage breweries like Timothy Taylor’s, Chouffe and Timmermans will also be there, as well as international breweries from the US, Greece, Spain and Australia.

There will also be some great food options to line your stomach, including bao buns, crispy chicken and katsu tater tots at Bone Daddies, as well as Almost Famous, Bundobust, MorMor and Voodoo Rays.

Manchester Craft Beer Festival


Greg Wells, director of Manchester Craft Beer Festival, said: “It’s been a disheartening year for Manchester’s beer scene so far with closure of the beloved Indy Beer Con Fest and the unsuccessful debut of the International Brewing and Cider Festival, but we’re pleased to announce our return and bring more of what has been loved in the past three years.

“With even more breweries and experiences on offer and larger capacity this year, we’re buzzing to be back to satisfy all the beer lovers out there.

“The addition of a complimentary trade session to our programme is all about promoting this world class beer city and a small gesture to support all the incredible people who work across the drinks and hospitality industries.

“We all have a mutual understanding of the hardships our industries have faced in recent times so we thought it’d be a nice gesture to get everyone together for the love of drinks, food and music to celebrate beer and ourselves!”

Manchester Craft Beer Festival


The entry price includes all your drinks throughout your session, as well as festival glass and access to all the events happening.

And as it’s on during the Euros, it will be screening the football too.

Day tickets cost £57 per day session – with a discount for four tickets – or £145 for the whole weekend. Grab tickets HERE.

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New makers market with everything from dog accessories to house plants and jewellery coming to Manchester

Get this one in your diary!

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A brand new makers market is coming to Manchester this late May Bank Holiday weekend, with something for everyone.

Taking place at New Jackson – a new urban neighbourhood located at the southern gateway to the city – Manchester Made Market will be held on Saturday May 25th and Sunday May 26th.

Over the two days you’ll be able to browse a selection of local artisanal traders and small businesses from across the region.

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There’ll be everything, from food produce, homewares, crafts and creations to dog accessories, house plants, jewellery and homemade soap.

Among the traders will be Manchester and Cheshire-based florist and floral artists Dot & Flora, graphic artist Ablott MCR selling music prints, HGT with crochet fashion and homeware designs, and artisan candlemakers Leaves and Prickles.

Elsewhere, there will be essential oils and other treatments from Grounded Wellness, permanent jewellery from Sealed Links, and desserts from Cake With Heart.

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There will be plenty of street food options to keep you topped up while you shop, including The Wild Grill, Food Sorcery, Salvi’s and new favourite Medlock Canteen.


Neighbourhood Brew will be supplying some great drinks as well.

Supported by Renaker, the market is free, but you can upgrade your experience with a limited, free VIP ticket with access to the dedicated bar area.

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Manchester Flower Festival returns with tributes to Sarah Harding and Caroline Aherne

It’s taking place later this month!

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The Vain Photography / Manchester Flower Festival

The legendary Manchester Flower Festival is returning to our city later this month, complete with pop-ups, installations and tributes to some local icons.

Taking place over the late May Bank Holiday, the event will be headlined by its ‘Floral Trail’.

This year’s theme is Manchester Icons, with a host of names past and present being honoured in flower form, including the late comedy legend Caroline Aherne, pop star Sarah Harding and suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

The Vain Photography / Manchester Flower Festival

Collaborating with Manchester illustrator Stanley Chow, floral designer Liv Woodward will create a portrait of Caroline Aherne at the Floral Marquee on New Cathedral Street, using sustainably sourced plants and flowers.

Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding will be remembered in a ‘tribute garden’, sponsored by the AO Arena, with visitors able to donate to the Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Appeal by scanning the QR code at the display.

The homage to Pankhurst has been created by female-led Decordia, featuring an ornate wooden Manchester Town Hall-inspired planter with sashes, posters and colourful icons, alongside a wicker figure of the suffragette herself.

This can be found at the corner of Cross Street and King Street, adorned with purple, green and white plants – the colours of the suffragette movement.

The Vain Photography / Manchester Flower Festival

Other local legends will also be honoured with their own installations, including Happy Mondays vocalist Rowetta and iconic Manchester brewery Boddingtons .

Fringe events will be taking place too, at locations including Northern Quarter art shop Fred Aldous, The Bridgewater Hall, the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel and the National Trust’s Castlefield Viaduct.

Selfridges Exchange Square, El Gato Negro, Tast Catala, Franco Manca, Grand Pacific Manchester and Urban Playground will also be taking part, with alfresco dining, festival-related dishes and cocktails.

The Vain Photography / Manchester Flower Festival

Now in its seventh year, the Flower Festival, which is put together by Manchester City Centre Business Improvement District, attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, with live entertainment, workshops, and arts and crafts markets.

It all happens from May 24th to May 27th – head over to the website HERE to find more information.

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