Mums to be in
Manchester wanted
for art project

Call for women due to give birth in January

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Expectant mothers living in Manchester and Salford are being invited to take part in a large-scale arts project that will mark the birth of their babies with a tower of light that will shine across the city.

Artist Luke Jerram, known for installation work such as Play Me, I’m Yours, a project that placed pianos in cities, is calling on parents whose babies are due in January 2023 to take part in First Breath – a project that sets out to celebrate new life born in the two cities in the first month of next year.

On the riverbank of the Irwell, outside Manchester’s new cultural arts venue the Factory, a large-scale installation will cast bright beams of light up into the clouds on 1-31 January 2023. Each evening, the lights will gently pulse the number of births recorded that day in Manchester and Salford to mark the first breaths of hundreds of babies born.

Families at the Factory

Delivered by the team behind Manchester International Festival, Jerram’s artwork will set in motion a five-year-long programme of family activities and opportunities at the Factory, connecting a new generation through culture and exploring how art can be woven into daily family life from birth.

Each of the families who participate will also receive lifetime membership to the Factory – providing priority booking, discounted tickets and invitations to exhibitions, concerts, family performances, workshops and digital experiences.

Culture from birth

Jerram, whose work has taken him across the globe, said the idea for First Breath came to him following the birth of his daughter Maya.

“It’s just this profound moment, when you’re in a room with two people and then suddenly there’s three. That moment of birth is just extraordinary, and then there’s this first gasp of breath that’s taken, and then suddenly there’s a new life in the world. It’s an extraordinary, profound moment,” Jerram told Big Issue North.

“But the birth of my daughter was 16 years ago, and it’s taken this long to be able to realise this project. I have wanted to do this artwork for a really long time, so I’m really grateful to the Factory for the opportunity to make it happen.”

Opening next year, the Factory will be the year-round home of Manchester International Festival and will commission and present a full programme of work by artists from across the world.

First Breath will also mark the opening of the Factory, but Jerram says he is interested in the long-term outcome of the project and the shared experience of its participants.

“We’re interested in the effect of this cultural addition to the babies’ lives and the families’ lives, and whether that has an impact on the wellbeing and the long-term health of the child, so there’s an academic side to it as well as the artistic side, as well as building the community for The Factory and celebrating its birth,” says Jerram.

“In Manchester today there are 25 people giving birth, as we speak this is happening. But right across the city there might be 100 people eating bacon sandwiches right now, or there could be 1,000 people waiting for a bus, or so many people reading Big Issue North.

“There are these hidden communities in cities of people doing the same thing at the same time, and I guess this First Breath project is about revealing one of these hidden communities and then connecting them to one another.”

Sign-up to First Breath now at

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