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First Breath Baby Boxes: Culture from birth

Finland's Baby Box concept transformed into cultural engagement from birth with Manchester International Festival & The Factory

Ahead of the opening of The Factory, the landmark cultural space being developed in the heart of Manchester, a spectacular public artwork will celebrate new life throughout January 2023. Artist Luke Jerram, creator of the Museum of the Moon and Gaia, will mark births in Manchester and Salford with a large-scale installation on the banks of the Irwell, outside The Factory. ‘First Breath’ will cast bright beams of light up into the sky every evening, pulsing the number of births that day to mark the first breaths of hundreds of babies born.

Luke Jerram’s Gaia in Lancaster Priory this month, with the Choir of Sanctuary

Cultural engagement and early years

Delivered by the team behind Manchester International Festival, Luke Jerram’s installation will set in motion a five-year-long programme of bespoke family activities and opportunities, aimed at supporting cultural engagement and child development.

First Breath Baby Boxes

In February 2022, the MIF team got in touch to collaborate on a five-year arts and health project to run alongside First Breath. Remember Finland’s ground-breaking Baby Boxes, given to all newborns with a starter kit in a box that transforms into a cot? This public health initiative started in 1930s continues to this day in Finland and in Scotland, too.

Building on this concept, participating families will be offered a First Breath Baby Box, containing cultural materials and experiences, including supporting workshops, early learning social events, and birthday parties at the Factory, connecting a new generation through culture and exploring how art can be woven into daily family life from birth.

A unique research opportunity

This invitation and subsequent research proposal is now a significant bid with the University of Manchester. This is a unique opportunity for us to better understand the impact of arts and cultural engagement in the early years, for babies and their families. This will allow researchers to explore how child development, school readiness, parental wellbeing and bonding can be supported through creative activities and arts engagement.

Each of the families with babies born in January will receive lifetime membership to The Factory – providing priority booking, discounted tickets and exclusive invitations to everything from major exhibitions and concerts, to family performances, workshops, and digital experiences.

In the context of a GM-level commitment to levelling up inequities (a key example being ‘school readiness’ where children in the region are 10 percentage points behind the national average), this unique offer represents an important chance to better understand the roles of arts and cultural engagement in early years.

You can read more about the project at BBC OnlineManchester Evening NewsManchester’s FinestAbout Manchester

John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of The Factory and MIF said, “At the turn of 2023 we’ll celebrating new beginnings with a spectacular public artwork visible from miles around, projected from the site of our future home The Factory, Europe’s largest cultural venue.”

Luke Jerram

Artist Luke Jerram has made his name creating accessible live artworks, sculptures and experiences, working internationally since 1997.

The Museum of the Moon has travelled to more 30 countries and viewed by over 10 million people in different settings, both indoors and outdoors.

Gaia at Lancaster Priory, image from Lancaster Guardian

Gaia is a touring artwork – and is currently suspended in Lancaster Priory! I’ll be going this evening to witness the Choir of Sanctuary, a choir of women, many of whom are refugees and asylum seekers, singing under Gaia with Rioghnach Connolly, BBC Folk Singer of the Year 2020,

The Factory

Opening in 2023, The Factory will be Manchester International Festival’s permanent home, commissioning and presenting a year-round programme of extraordinary, ground-breaking and interdisciplinary work by leading artists from across the globe.

At 13,350 square metres, The Factory will be ultra-flexible, enabling large-scale artistic work of invention and ambition that isn’t made anywhere else in the world: from major exhibitions and epic concerts, to intimate performances and immersive experiences, including dance, theatre, music, opera, visual arts, popular culture and innovative contemporary work incorporating the latest digital technologies.

Attracting up to 850,000 visitors annually, The Factory will add £1.1 billion to the economy over a decade and create 1,500 direct and indirect jobs. Apprenticeships and trainee schemes are underway.

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