First Breath

First Breath is a new artwork commissioned by Manchester’s newest venue Factory International.

Each evening during January 2023, First Breath cast powerful beams of light up into the clouds to celebrate new life. The lights* gently pulsed to represent the first breaths and number of babies born that day in Greater Manchester. Audiences were able to get up close to the artwork, walking in and around the lighting, as well as witnessing it from vantage points across the city.

Luke Jerram said: “I want to reveal, celebrate and connect 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 in January 78 babies born each day in the city. 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.”

As well as the installation of lights, a large screen showed the names, dates and times of new babies born in January.

First Breath took place in what is a unique new public space at Factory International. Opening in June 2023, it will come alive with a wide-ranging year-round programme of free events and activities, creating a thriving riverside destination in the city centre for everyone to enjoy.

First Breath 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 in January 2023 also 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.

John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Factory International and Manchester International Festival said, “At the turn of 2023 we’ll celebrating new beginnings with a beautiful public artwork projected from the site of our future home into the night sky. As we welcome hundreds of new-borns into the world through Luke’s light sculpture, we will also be breathing life into our new building and, we hope, setting in motion a fruitful life-long relationship with a new generation.”

* Created from low current LED lighting, the power consumption for this artwork is designed to be low.