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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA



By Steve Cooke

A trailblazing new course from Factory International is helping support local people to become the next generation of creative and cultural industry leaders. The Future Cultural Leaders course, which launched this month, sees Executives and Producers from organisations across Manchester team up to deliver training aimed at further diversifying Manchester’s creative leadership workforce.

The course is supported by partner charity The Andy Taylor Foundation and delivered by Factory Academy, the skills and training arm of Factory International, the organisation behind both Manchester International Festival (MIF) and the new flagship venue which opens this year.

Amongst the range of cultural figures sharing their expertise are Roger Wilson, Director of Operations at Black Lives in Music, Samuel Remi-Akinwale, Co-Chief Executive Officer at Young Manchester and Simone Spray, Chief Executive at 42nd Street. They will be joined by members of Factory International’s leadership team including Artistic Director and Chief Executive John McGrath, Executive Director Randel Bryan, Venue Director Sheena Wrigley and Creative Director, Low Kee Hong.

Other guest speakers include James O’Brien, Podcaster, Author and Radio Presenter at LBC and Malaki Patterson, Artistic Director of Music Works.

Students will benefit from 1-1 learning, networking opportunities, career guidance and practical workshops covering skills from pitching for funding to public speaking. They will also gain Manchester Living Wage paid work experience in leading Manchester creative organisations including HOME, John Rylands Library, Reform Radio, Manchester Museum, People’s History Museum, Royal Exchange Theatre, Walk the Plank and the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Randel Bryan, Executive Director at Factory International said: “As one of Manchester’s leading arts organisations, we have a responsibility to pave the way for the people that will lead the industry of tomorrow.

Championing diversity and inclusion is at the very heart of what we do at Factory International, and we are dedicated to creating real, tangible routes into the industry for local people.”

Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council said: "Manchester is a creative city like no other and also proudly diverse. Inclusivity matters here and it's important that our creative and cultural organisations reflect this - from the top managers and senior leaders down.

"Providing opportunities for local people from all backgrounds to grow their considerable talents, to achieve their full potential, and to shine in the creative sector - is not only good for them but also key to helping the city further strengthen our position on the world's stage.”

Jane Tarr, Director Skills and Workforces at Arts Council England said: “It is vital that the cultural sector invests in the leaders of tomorrow and supports them to fulfil their potential. Factory International is a leader in supporting the next generation of talent and also in promoting diversity and inclusion.

We’re delighted to see more opportunities for people to build their careers in the North and I’m sure this course will provide invaluable experience and build lasting networks. It’s great to see the number of sector figures and other cultural organisations who are sharing their knowledge and skills as part of this programme.”

Sam Jamil, a student from the Future Cultural Leaders Course said: “I’d tell anyone thinking about taking part in Factory Academy to absolutely do it. I’ve learned so much and gained a real network of industry contacts that I didn’t have before.

"A highlight for me has been learning from industry professionals, being able to talk with people who are at the peak of their career has been so eye-opening and has really helped me make sense of a route into the career that I want”.

Future Cultural Leaders is just one of Factory Academy’s year-round programme of free and fully funded courses, aimed at people across Greater Manchester who have little or no experience working in the creative industries.

Jyothi Kuna, former Factory Academy student said: “The Factory Academy course raised my game so much. I feel able to manage a creative project in detail, from a business perspective. I’ve learnt how to plan in maximum detail and to map out a process professionally”.

Another Factory Academy course which launched this year, Introduction to Producing, trains local people to learn alongside Factory International’s in-house team, inviting them to work on new shows for MIF23 and learn from industry-leading producers. The programme aims to create ten 12-month apprentice producer roles in local creative organisations for aspiring producers paid at Manchester Living Wage. Two of the apprentices will go on to secure full-time employment at Factory International.

A core aim of the Factory Academy is to diversify the workforce in an increasingly important sector for the region. Courses are fully funded and completely free, with expenses such as food and travel covered. To date 65% of Factory Academy participants, who provided diversity and inclusion data, report a characteristic which is under-represented and/or being from a low socio-economic background.

Students taking part in Factory Academy courses also receive support in finding and applying for jobs in Manchester’s creative industries and access to their alumni programme, where they will receive access to networking events and connections with hiring organisations across Manchester’s thriving creative sector.

To learn more and apply for upcoming courses, go to:


Factory International is the organisation behind both Manchester International Festival (MIF), and the landmark new space which will open in 2023, creating a global destination for arts music and culture in the heart of Manchester. Factory International will commission and present a 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 Manchester International Festival every other year at its new home and in spaces and venues across Greater Manchester.

Factory International builds on the legacy of Manchester International Festival, one of the world’s leading arts festivals, and the first to be entirely focused on the commissioning and producing of ambitious new work. Staged every two years in Manchester since 2007, MIF has commissioned, produced and presented world premieres by artists including Marina Abramović, Damon Albarn, Laurie Anderson, Björk, Boris Charmatz, Jeremy Deller, Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, Elbow, Tracey Emin, Akram Khan, David Lynch, Ibrahim Mahama, Wayne McGregor, Steve McQueen, Marta Minujín, Cillian Murphy, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Yoko Ono, Thomas Ostermeier, Maxine Peake, Punchdrunk, Skepta, Christine Sun Kim, The xx, and Robert Wilson.

These and other world-renowned artists from different art forms and backgrounds create dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking new work reflecting the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture, staged across Greater Manchester – from theatres, galleries and concert halls to railway depots, churches and car parks. Working closely with cultural organisations globally, whose financial and creative input helps to make many of these projects possible, much of the work made at MIF also goes on to travel the world, reaching an audience of 1.6 million people in more than 30 countries to date.

The design of Factory International’s landmark new cultural space is led by Ellen van Loon of the world-leading practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). 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 work of invention and ambition, of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world. 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. Audiences will be able to enjoy the broadest range of art forms from major exhibitions and concerts to intimate performances and immersive experiences, while the venues outside areas will come alive with pop-up performances, events and markets, creating a thriving new riverside destination for all.

Manchester residents play a key role in Factory International, participating in flagship commissions, co-designing programmes of activity, and shaping the organisation through involvement in its public forums. Skills, training, and development opportunities for local people are provided through the Factory Academy, helping to build the technicians, producers and other talent that will bring the future alive, and providing opportunities for careers in Manchester’s ever-growing Creative Industries.

Factory International 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 Factory International 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. The venue’s development is led by Manchester City Council, with backing from HM Government and Arts Council England.



Skills and training opportunities are at the heart of the vision for Factory International. Through Factory Academy, the venue will become a major training centre for local people, equipping them with the skills needed for careers in the creative industries without having to leave the region.

Factory Academy provides opportunities for careers in Manchester’s ever-growing creative industries, helping to build the technicians, producers and other talent that will bring the future alive. Since launching in 2018, Factory Academy has delivered a range of training and employment opportunities including paid internships, apprenticeships, work experience programmes and routes to full-time and part-time roles.

From the outset, Factory Academy has been pioneering in its approach, working with a consortium of cultural and creative organisations to create opportunities and employer-led curriculums. Courses are bespoke and developed with industry experts with specialist knowledge and experience from a range of sectors, from event managers, musicians, and teachers to production managers and technicians. To date, over 650 Greater Manchester residents have graduated from Factory Academy courses, with Factory Academy alumni filling 65 roles at Factory International.

A core aim of the Factory Academy is to diversify the workforce in an increasingly important sector for the region - annually, the creative industries are worth more than £100 billion to the economy. Courses are fully funded and completely free, with expenses such as food and travel covered. Recruitment is targeted at those who are not in education or employment or are on Universal Credit. 65% of Factory Academy participants, who provided diversity and inclusion data, report a characteristic which is under-represented and/or being from a low socio-economic background.

Working in partnership with cultural organisations and employers across the city, Factory Academy have already started to deliver 1,500 fully funded training places (over a five-year period). These include paid internships, training academies and work experience programmes - bespoke courses and opportunities developed with experts - as well as digital learning and engagement opportunities.

Talent retention and development is not limited to graduates - it is about offering people from all backgrounds valuable skills and experience to improve their life chances by equipping them for careers in the creative industries.


Arts Council England (ACE) is the national development agency for creativity and culture. They set out their strategic vision in Let’s Create that envisions by 2030, they want to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where every person has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. ACE invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.

Following the Covid-19 crisis, ACE developed a £160 million Emergency Response Package, with nearly 90% coming from the National Lottery for organisations and individuals needing support. They are also one of the bodies responsible for administering the Government’s unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund, of which they delivered over £1 billion to the sector in grants and loans.

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