Alumni go backstage at Aviva Studios

Future of GM kicked off its Alumni Network programme with an exclusive tour of game-changing Aviva Studios, guided by Jack Thompson, Technical Director of the Manchester International Festival (MIF).

Aviva Studios, home of Factory International, is a landmark new cultural space for Manchester and the world. The multi-use space can adapt to host any set-up — from intimate theatre through intricate exhibitions to huge multimedia performances and warehouse gigs for up to 5,000 people. The project was led by Manchester City Council, with £99m from HM Treasury and backing from Aviva, who won naming rights in summer 2023. 

The design was led by Ellen van Loon of OMA, who told the Guardian about an early conversation with Jack Thompson: “He said ‘Imagine an artist comes to us and says I want to do a show with a big whale, and for that whale I want a flooded floor, and at the end I want the roof off and the whale to jump out …’ I was like, ‘OK, I get the message.’”

“The UK’S biggest cultural investment in a generation”

– Financial Times, Oct 2023

The £242m facility, on the site of the former Granada TV studios, was delayed by the pandemic and levels of complexity but has launched to great fanfare, hosting Danny Boyle’s immersive take on The Matrix, ‘Free Your Mind’ as an opening move – whales not included…  


It was great to reconnect with Future Leaders and Leaders Plus alumni from different years and cohorts; this may be our biggest cultural splash for a while, but we’ll be back with more chances to meet up – and more sneak previews – over the coming months.

Huge thanks to alumna and FoGM board member Shefali Kapoor of Manchester City Council for making this connection.

Thanks also to our core supporters for helping us get this valuable cross-sector network off the ground! We’re already at nearly 100 purpose-drive candidates and alumni – with two more courses going live in early 2024, their impact will spread even farther. 

Check Events for alumni meet-ups, or to find out more about our acclaimed leadership programmes, get in touch!


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