Factory International

Water Street

Huge multi‐media city art‐space with enough to visit casually


image of factory-international

Get there

Public transport: Many buses, also Free Bus, Deansgate 7 mins, Quay Street 3 mins. Private transport: Spinningfields, covered, reports of damage and queues, expensive; New Elm Street, outdoor (both average reputation). Try Stanley and New Bailey Street, Salford, across the bridge, 5 mins.


The building is called Aviva Studios (not to be confused with Arriva bus company), run by the organisation Factory International. Intent was a base for the remarkably successful Manchester International Festival. A huge art‐space, which as architecture makes a show of asymmetry, opened in 2023 for a sensational cost of over £200 million. Aviva Studios and Factory International do not publish times, between which and the website makes the point this is an event venue. That said, you can simply visit the site—it’s on the river Irwell beyond the Science and Industry Museum. I visited when unfinished (June 2023). The much‐needed river footbridge is in place, and looks good, but as river frontage the Aviva disappointed, expensive geometric shapes dumped in a narrow band that extends under the building like the underside of a motorway. Most visitors favoured the huge cafe inside which, like a theatre, sells alcohol and a few food items. And plays reconstructed folk music, which is different. Stuff for kids, also. If that’s your interest, a junction for the international art circuit. Otherwise, the cafe is a draw for a few hours. Verdict not settled.