Work begins this week on a £10m scheme to build an extra 50,000 sq ft of dedicated drama studio space in Manchester.
The team responsible for the Sharp Project is leading the council-backed scheme to turn a former Fujitsu computer centre into a production complex, which will house five studios ranging in size from 8,891 sq ft to 11,194 sq ft.
Sharp Project director Sue Woodward said a high level of demand for studio space was one of the reasons for the expansion and she expects the high-end drama tax breaks introduced earlier this year to create a “new wave” of productions.
The site for the yet-to-be-named drama hub covers 360,000 sq ft and is three miles from the Sharp Project. Some demolition and site clearance work has already taken place at the Gorton site, which is due to be up and running by the end of May next year.
The Sharp Project, which contains four production stages and office space for start-up firms, is already home to productions such as Mount Pleasant and Fresh Meat, and will continue to provide space for drama productions.
“This is about building and growing, not separating,” said Woodward. “The Sharp Project just can’t cope with the demand. With this new site, we’re building for the future. “We have deconstructed the process of making drama to ensure we take into account things that can make life tricky, such as access to the site and overnight parking.”
She added: “Where the Sharp Project was a building to which we gave a sense of purpose, we have chosen the site in Gorton for its access and scale - it will be the most exciting purposebuilt drama centre to open in the UK for decades.
“With the lessons we have learned from the Sharp Project, we can make it a high-quality and affordable space. We have a small but very focused team at the Sharp Project and we will adopt the same kind of approach at the new drama hub.”
The site will contain a workshop and a purpose-built prop store, a canteen, dressing rooms, production offices and seven offices for long-term tenants who supply services to drama productions.
Woodward emphasised that the facility has been designed specifically for long-form productions. “It’s not being built as a broadcast centre for live and audiencebased shows - there is already MediaCityUK in Manchester, which is great for that,” she said. “If someone wants to make a TV commercial, we won’t turn them away, or a production could turn up with a scanner, but that’s not the market we’re chasing.”
In December, Manchester City Council approved expenditure of £10.6m for the expansion, £10m drama hub in works New Manchester production complex will house five studios totalling 50,000 sq ft of space including £4m from the European Regional Development Fund for the part-refurbishment building work at the site, which is owned by the city council.
“The council has been hugely supportive,” said Woodward. “It recognises that the creative digital sector can provide new jobs and aspiration to young people in the city, and has spent a lot of time considering where to invest to get maximum impact for young people. The creative and digital sectors provide that.”
The contract to manage the day-to- day operations of the Drama Project will be awarded following a procurement process. CTMS, the parent firm of Manchester and Glasgow post-production firm 422.tv, provides facility management at the Sharp Project.
The Sharp Project, which opened in 2009, is a 250,000 sq ft redevelopment of factories previously used by electronics company Sharp.