Taking Our First Breath In 2023

New Year and New Life in Manchester
January 2, 2023

Mag North headed to Manchester on New Year’s Day to witness the very first ‘First Breath’ – a mesmerising light installation celebrating new life in Greater Manchester. The inaugural ‘beam’ was sent skywards from First Breath – which is a project partnership between Luke Jerram and Factory International and takes place in what will be a unique new public space at Factory International, which is set to come alive in June with an inclusive year-round programme of free events and activities, creating a thriving riverside destination in the city centre for everyone to enjoy.

From 1-29 January 2023 between 4pm - 10pm, First Breath will cast powerful beams of light up into the clouds to celebrate new life. The lights will gently pulse to represent the first breaths of babies born that day in Greater Manchester. Audiences will be able to get up close to the artwork, walking in and around the lights, as well as witnessing it from vantage points across the city.

Curated and designed by world-renowned visual artist Luke Jerram, the shaft of light connects the ground to the sky in a visual representation of new life.

Jerram describes the project as a celebration of the hidden community of people giving birth each day in Greater Manchester. Disconnected and yet going through the life-changing experience at the same time, there are on average over 70 babies born each day in the city region. This new artwork is designed to celebrate the moment a child is born – the extraordinary moment when they take their first breath and a new life arrives in the world.

Programmed and operated by the team behind the world-famous Manchester International Festival (MIF), Factory International will be a global destination for arts, music and culture, commissioning and presenting a year-round programme by leading artists from across the world. 

And sustainability has been considered throughout this project, with lights specifically selected for their low energy value. They're 80% more efficient than direct equivalents and will only be turned on during installation times to minimise energy consumption.

Factory International has already begun delivering creative education programmes to hundreds of young people aged 9-14 across Manchester and the wider region with a focus around social and emotional learning, teamwork, leadership and resilience. First Breath will set in motion a new programme of bespoke family activities and early learning opportunities for babies and parents at Factory International connecting a new generation through culture and exploring how art can be woven into daily family life from birth.  

Hundreds of babies born this January are also going to receive lifetime membership to Factory International – providing priority booking, discounted tickets and exclusive invitations to everything from major exhibitions and epic concerts, to family performances and workshops.

Based at the construction site of the new Factory International building, the beams of light are visible from far and wide. But you don’t just have to admire First Breath from afar – the team behind the installation are inviting visitors to experience the lights up close. The chance to wrap up warm and wander through the beams of light, capturing your own images and memories – isn’t something to be missed this month. 

First Breath’s open to anyone who wants to experience some extra light in their lives this winter and welcome in a new year and new life. The organisers are asking us to think of the installation like a ‘broadcast’ – a message of hope for the future, reminding us of new possibilities. 

First Breath is free to attend. Open from 4–10pm each evening (except Mondays 9, 16 and 23 January). The main entrance to the installation is on Water Street at the bottom of Liverpool Road. Be guided by the lights or CLICK HERE for full directions.