New contemporary arts centre for Manchester

A major new arts hub looks set to place Manchester firmly on the international cultural map.

HOME, a brand new venue for contemporary art due to open in Spring 2015, will put community engagement at the core of all its programming and activities.

The GBP25m (€29.7m) centre is the successor to Manchester’s Cornerhouse – a hub for cinema and visual art – and the Library Theatre Company.

Working across cinema, visual art and theatre, HOME will continue to build on those organisations’ hard-won reputations for bold contemporary production and audience participation.

But the newly merged organisation also has international aspirations, with very ambitious plans for world-class programming and high-profile commissioning.

The purpose-built complex is well underway, and will include a 500-seat theatre, a 150-seat flexible theatre, a gallery space, and five cinema screens, as well as digital production and broadcast facilities.

Designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo, the venue is being built by Wates Construction.

Site of HOME in November 2013
Site of HOME in November 2013

Speaking to IAM during a tour of the site this month, HOME chief executive Dave Moutrey said: ‘We want the centre to be about the programming, what’s happening inside, so it won’t be an ostentatious building. There will be simple furnishings and a plain concrete floor.’

He added: ‘Across all the programming, whether it’s theatre, cinema or contemporary art, the venue will be about telling stories – storytelling that’s fitting for a city with Manchester’s history. It will be radical, it will be edgy.’

HOME will be led by two artistic directors: Walter Meierjohann for theatre, and Sarah Perks for visual art and film.

Dutch-born Meierjohann, currently international associate director at the Young Vic, said he will take the programming in a new direction, whilst respecting the legacy of Manchester’s much-loved Library Theatre Company.

He said: ‘LTC has done great work, and we don’t want to lose that audience. We want to speak to them, but in a different voice. The message is: we’re continuing with theatre.’

‘As we will be the neighbours of an arthouse cinema, we are positioning our ideas close to that: “arthouse theatre”. We will tell stories from around the world, as well as local ones.’

HOME box office
HOME box office

Another guiding phrase of Meierjohann’s vision is ‘directors’ theatre’, whereby young directorial talent will be promoted and nurtured.

‘HOME will showcase very different approaches to theatre-making,’ he continued. ‘That’s how I understand contemporary; it doesn’t mean you just have to programme new writing.’

Manchester City Council has contributed GBP19m to fund the creation of HOME, with the remaining GBP6m to stem from a mix of Arts Council England funding and fundraising.

The venue is situated on the south side of Manchester’s city centre, an area that is currently undergoing a GBP500m regeneration project that covers a total of 20 acres.