Smiths legend Johnny Marr and Children of Zeus head up opening season of Factory International

They will join Danny Boyle among the first to open the £200 million arts venue

By Ben Arnold | 12 September 2023

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(Credit: Rikki Chan)

Performances from Smiths icon Johnny Marr and celebrated Manchester hip hop crew Children of Zeus will be among the new programming for Factory International, as it builds to its opening season next month.

Marr will play two nights at Aviva Studios, home of Factory International, performing his music accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra of northern musicians on December 7 and 8.

Conducted by Fiona Brice, the performance will take in music from Marr’s back catalogue, and comes a decade after his debut solo album The Messenger from 2013.

Johnny Marr
(Credit: Dan Massie)

Children of Zeus will then perform with a full live band on December 9, with a host of guests including grime MC Ghetts, legendary British soul band Loose Ends, Manc soul icons [ K S R ] and Akemi Fox, and rapper KinKai.

They will join the previously announced headline show for the arts and cultural centre’s grand opening season, Free Your Mind, a large-scale, immersive adaptation of the story of classic sci-fi movie The Matrix, directed by Danny Boyle and running from October 18 to November 5.

With a creative team including co-founders and artistic directors of the Olivier award-winning hip hop dance company Boy Blue, Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy, Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, world-leading designer Es Devlin and acclaimed writer Sabrina Mahfouz have joined with Boyle to reinterpret the Matrix story through dance, music and visual effects.

Free Your Mind
(Credit: Jeremy Coysten)

John McGrath, artistic director and chief executive of Factory International, said: “We’re delighted to share some more details of our inaugural autumn programme following the fantastic news that over 230,000 people have already been welcomed through our doors to preview our new home. 

“From world-class performance with opportunities to get involved to dynamic new artworks crossing real and virtual worlds, we hope that the season will give a flavour of the venue which we hope will be a place 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.”

A host of other shows, performances and exhibitions will also make up Factory’s reopening, after the £200 million facility was debuted for the Manchester International Festival.

Aviva Studios
(Credit: David Levene)

Childrens’ author Oliver Jeffers’ award-winning book Lost & Found will be adapted into a stage play, directed by BAFTA-award winner Will Brenton and with music from Super Furry Animals founder Gruff Rhys.

Meanwhile, director Kwame Kwei-Armah will helm a one-off performance on November 23, in which NHS staff will mark the 75th anniversary of the health service in their own words, which will be represented in music, poetry, film and dance.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: “The sheer number of visitors who have attended preview events over the summer indicates the appetite that exists already for work presented by Factory International at this extraordinary new venue. 

“Its official opening programme, which puts artists and communities at the heart of the creative process, promises to build on that and is as ambitious and groundbreaking as the venue itself. 

“It’s particularly exciting to see The Welcome, which has been programmed by local residents, alongside Free Your Mind and Johnny Marr gigs. This is a space which is both for the people of Greater Manchester and for visitors from far and wide.”

Tickets for the opening season go on sale to Factory International members at 10am on September 13, and on general release from 10am on September 15.