The brand-new Aviva Studios, a.k.a. the official home of Factory International, has officially opened in Manchester and we got a first look at the impressive new cultural centrewhich first began construction back in 2017.
Marking the single biggest cultural investment project since the opening of the Tate Modern back in 2000, Aviva Studios is a state-of-the-art facility that sits as a striking new addition to the Mancunian skyline with its unique geometric exterior designed by OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture).
The launch, which gets off to an exciting start with its opening production ofFree Your Mind — a Danny Boyle-directed dance-driven recreation of The Matrix — is a historic day for the arts not only in the city but the nation in general, as Aviva Studios is now the biggest cultural institution anywhere in the UK.
Assembled using nearly £1 billion in funds from the government, National Lottery and Arts Council England, Factory International‘s new central hub for MIF (Manchester International Festival) and all other projects will promise to deliver original productions and special events across all art forms.
The coolest part about the 13,350-square-metre building is its multiple large, open and crucially flexible spaces that can be constantly reconfigured to allow multiple artists to create large-scale ambitious works of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world.
For example, the 21-metre-high Warehouse is the ultimate flexible performance space with capacity for up to 5,000 people standing. It’s taller than four double-decker buses stacked on top of each other, just under the length of a Boeing 747 aeroplane and can be divided by a movable wall.
Meanwhile, the Hall features a flexible stage that can house an audience of up to 1,603 seated or 2,000 standing and both rooms can be opened up and combined to create one large stage. Ingenious stuff.
This means that as many as three different full-scale artistic productions can be held simultaneously without any visual or noise interference bleeding into the other, thanks to the movable acoustic walls and sound-cancelling curtains which can block noises of up to 100 decibels. So, in theory, you could have a metal gig playing in one room and this mind-bending interactive show in the other.
From major exhibitions and concerts to intimate performances and immersive live experiences, there will be all kinds of shows and displays for Mancs to enjoy and will no doubt attract countless tourists from all over the world.
The programme for 2024 is already shaping up to be an extremely exciting project, with everything from a surreal retelling of Jungle Book, performances from the likes of Maxine Peake; the Olivier award-winning TRAPLORD, an interactive symphony with BBC Philharmonic (June 2024), a Johnny Marr double-header with a full orchestra and so much more.
In fact, there is even an AR (augmented reality) installation already on display which is completely free for people to experience visiting during the day and, of course, plenty of food and bar spaces to enjoy when you’re not soaking in the culture.
There is so much going on here that it’s kind of hard to know where to start, but a good place might be checking out the programme HERE to see what’s on in the coming months and into next year.
Featured Image — Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of OMA and Factory International.
Sir David Jason set for TV return in Only Fools and Horses documentary Christmas special
In a surprise bit of festive news, the only and only Sir David Jason is returning for an Only Fools and Horses Christmas special this December. Lovely jubbly!
The best-loved and most-watched British comedy of all time will be back on our screens in documentary form this festive season, with Del Boy himself David Jason revisiting the iconic comedy character after 20 years he last played him on screen.
While the legendary sitcom was broadcast on BBC back in the day, the highly-anticipated Only Fools doc will be airing on Channel 5 right before Christmas as a special one-off programme.
Looking back on the show’s incredible run on UK screens over seven series and the several ‘Christmas Cracker’ specials, specifically, the latest Only Fools and Horses documentary will see Jason and a number of other guests appearing to chat about the legendary show.
While it’s still unclear how many of the original cast will be appearing, Jason’s on-screen wife Tessa Peake-Jones (Raquel) is confirmed to be appearing along with other special guests including newscaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Bendiorm‘s Sherrie Hewson.
Sadly, a full theatrical reunion just isn’t on the cards following the deaths of Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger), Kenneth MacDonald (Mike the Landlord) and Buster Merryfield (Uncle Albert) in the 30 years since the show ended its run.
Only Fools writer John Sullivan also sadly passed away aged 64 in 2011 and fellow co-star Nicholas Lyndhurst, a.k.a. Rodney Trotter, told Metro: “We can’t. John is no longer with us. John was the driving force of the show and we have also lost quite a few cast members now.
“I don’t think I could do it without them and I certainly couldn’t do it without John. At the risk of depressing everyone, I think the last two times I’ve seen David has been at funerals.”
Simply entitled, ‘The Story Of Only Fools And Horses At Christmas’, the 90-minute special is yet to have its broadcast date fully confirmed but you best keep your eyes peeled on the TV guide — we’ll let you know as soon we do.
Jason, 81, has only just recovered from hip surgery earlier this year, so it’ll be nice to see his familiar grin back on our screens.
Right, we’re off to binge a whole series on UK Gold.
Habas restaurant in Manchester announces shock closure – with huge closing-down discount
Habas, the Middle Eastern restaurant launched by the team behind El Gato Negro, has announced its shock closure.
The subterranean restaurant will be going out with a bang though, promising one last knees-up with a big discount.
Habas will be doing 25% off its entire food and drink menu this New Year’s Eve so that fans of the eatery can raise a glass to the Manchester restaurant.
They’re also hoping that Mancs will raise a glass to new beginnings, teasing a brand new concept.
Habas is located at Brown Street in Manchester city centre and has been serving up its Middle Eastern menu since 2021.
It comes from Mills Hill Developments Limited, the company also responsible for El Gato Negro and Canto, fronted by celebrated chef Simon Shaw.
Habas has stressed that its closure ‘is not forever’ as it announces details of its New Year’s Eve closing down party.
You can ring in the new year with a selection of mezze dishes, sharing platters and small plates, feasting on chicken tagine and traditional tzatziki, all 25% off on Sunday 31 December.
Drinks, too, like the cranberry elderflower martini, blackberry ginger smash and clementine daquiri will be with 25% off.
Simon Shaw, Chef Parton at Mills Hill Developments Limited, said: “As of January 2024, we have made the decision to close the doors of Habas Bar & Restaurant, however we are thrilled to announce that our Brown Street venue has an exciting new concept on the way.
“Throughout December, Habas, will continue serving up the city’s best middle-eastern cuisine, so make sure you pop in and see us. AND on New Year’s Eve, Habas, will be hosting an unforgettable celebration with 25% off food and drinks. We want to rejoice with all of our customers, with one final hurrah!
“We would like to thank all of our guests and reassure Habas fans that this is not the end of Habas Bar & Restaurant forever, simply a farewell from Brown Street for now.
“We look forward to welcoming you to our new exciting concept in Q1 of 2024.”