The start of the new year is being marked in striking style by Manchester’s newest arts venue ahead of its official opening.
Factory International has commissioned world-renown artist Luke Jerram to produce the stunning First Breath illuminated artwork on the bank of the River Irwell at its site. The artwork was first lit up on 1 January and will be visible from various vantage points in Manchester until 29 January. It marks the beginning of a new year which will see the new space for arts, music and culture open in June.
The work casts powerful beams of light up into the clouds to celebrate new life and gently pulses to represent the first breaths of babies born that day in Greater Manchester. Audiences will be able to get up close to the artwork, walking in and around the lights, as well as witnessing it from vantage points across the city. It will run from 4pm to 10pm daily and is free to visit. Access is on Water Street, at the bottom of Liverpool Road in the city centre.
Its creator Luke Jerram was also the artist behind the hugely popular Floating Earth at Lightwaves on Salford Quays in 2021 and his Museum of the Moon has been seen by more than 20m people. He said of First Breath: “I want to reveal, celebrate and connect the hidden community of people giving birth each day in Greater Manchester. Disconnected and yet going through the life-changing experience at the same time, there are on average over 70 babies born each day in the city. This new artwork is designed to celebrate the moment a child is born – the extraordinary moment when they take their first breath and a new life arrives in the world.”
Factory International is due to open in June with a wide-ranging, year-round programme of free events and activities. The arts centre, which is being built on the former Granada TV Studios site, is expected to attract up to 1.15m visitors a year. It was initially due to be complete in 2019 but was hit by a series of setbacks during the pandemic.
John McGrath, artistic director and chief executive of Factory International and Manchester International Festival, said: “At the turn of 2023 we’re celebrating new beginnings with a beautiful public artwork projected from the site of our future home into the night sky. As we welcome hundreds of new-borns into the world through Luke’s light sculpture, we will also be breathing life into our new building and, we hope, setting in motion a fruitful life-long relationship with a new generation.”
Hundreds of babies born in January 2023 will also receive lifetime membership to Factory International – providing priority booking, discounted tickets and exclusive invitations to everything from major exhibitions and epic concerts, to family performances and workshops.