World Factory

World Factory is an interdisciplinary performance project, exploring the relationship between China and the UK through the lens of the global textile industry. The performance of World Factory was performed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich (23-30 April 2015) and then at the Young Vic (11 May – 6 June 2015), and it has since enjoyed a series of tour dates throughout the UK in 2016: in Cambridge at The Junction from 18 – 21st October, followed by Brighton at The Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) from 15 – 18th November (To see the Brighton freesheet, please click here).

World Factory was at Manchester HOME from 7 – 10th December 2016. We also held university workshops, giving interactive lectures, including Rotterdam at Het Nieuwe Instituut, and a round table with an exciting array of economists and social scientists.  The latest run has been at Brierfield Mills as part of the Fabrications festival in September 2017.

As part of the research process for the project we had a shirt made in a garment factory in China World Factory: The Shirt   (If you have purchased a World Factory shirt, please click here).

World Factory is now published as a book, in which you can play the game either solo or as a group: World Factory: The Book 

There is also a bespoke workshop suitable for University level students (or industry professionals), in which workshop participants are facilitated to play the game using the full World Factory performance apparatus. World Factory: The Workshop 

Our research is mapped on a bespoke website that allows users to explore the global textile industry, tracing the links between China and the UK, past and future. World Factory: The Digital Quilt

There is an education resource engages school-age students with the questions of ethics and globalisation raised by the project, bringing together the digital quilt and the Shirt World Factory: The Pattern


‘One thing we might learn from World Factory is that if there is such a thing as responsible capitalism then it is in its death throes or was faking it all along.’
 Exeunt Magazine
‘One of the guiltiest pleasures going’
What’s On Stage
‘A ground-breaking theatre/game. Deep, research-based. & Done with commitment.’
Paul Mason via Twitter
‘Lively and ambitious … World Factory makes us complicit in the process of exploitation before pulling us back to see a bigger picture that ain’t so pretty.’ The Times
‘Smart, mischievous and genuinely thought-provoking.’ Financial Times
‘An ambitious, provocative and intricate piece of game-making, evading easy answers and polemic while succeeding in making us think’ The Stage
_MG_8078‘A stunningly presented experience. […] the attention to detail is superb.’ Time Out
‘A richly absorbing experience’ Evening Standard
‘The sophistication of the experience and the dynamics of the game make the production much more than a piece of interactive participatory theatre.’ The British Theatre Guide
‘This is where World Factory shines as a piece of theatre. The traditional boundaries between audience and subject matter are smashed: we are implicated in the web of the show.’ Culture Whisper
For further reviews of World Factory: the performance please click here.


Photography by David Sandison






The background to World Factory

Capitalist global textile production in 19th century Manchester and its impact on socialist thinking provides the starting point for looking at this fascinating history in relation to the rapid change underway in contemporary China and its shifting position as the workshop of the world.

Zoë Svendsen and Simon Daw collaborated with Shanghai-based theatre director, Zhao Chuan, to pool research and develop the project. To research the topic, they decided to (attempt to) participate in the system, by having a shirt made in a Chinese factory. Please see here for more details. Underpinning this research process is an open and growing website, the Digital Quilt that shares nuggets of information between China and the UK, between the creative team and the public (please see here for the rationale behind the quilt). Metis was delighted to host Zhao Chuan and Wu Meng in Cambridge for a two week residency last Autumn.  For more information and to listen to sound recordings from this residency, please click here. As part of their commitment to researching the project ‘in public’ METIS have hosted several café and gallery events in which invited speakers share their perspective on the World Factory phenomenon: World Factory: a cafe conversation at The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester – 25th February 2015 CVS Media House residency – February 2015 World Factory: considering consumption – January 2015 Pulse: The Shirt and The Shop – June 2014 Hunt&Darton’s POP-UP Shop: Launching the Digital Quilt – May 2014 World Factory: 28 Hands Make Light Work – February 2014 World Factory: A Conversation in Progress – November 2013 World Factory: Presenting Research – May 2013


Further resources

  • Book – Capitalism on the edge £10.50 – Available for purchase from the Murray Edwards websiteA companion book to the Murray-Edwards two-year lecture series “Capitalism on the Edge”, which reflected on what capitalism means today, whether there is any alternative and if or how capitalism can be changed to serve.
  • The Dark Mountain Project – a network of artists, writers and thinkers – has launched its first ever themed book, Dark Mountain Issue 8 Technê, which features World Factory.
  • For Paul Mason’s Guardian article on World Factory, click here.
  • For the Contemporary Theatre review, click here
  • For World Factory the Politics of Participation, Exeunt Magazine 4 June 2015 click here
  • ‘World Factory’ in Performance Research: On Game Structures, vol. 21, no. 4 (September 2016), 137-39

Please sign up to the METIS mailing list to be kept up-to-date. Or, follow us on Twitter  (@MetisProjects). Images of the performances and audience responses are collected here:  Facebook


World Factory was supported using funds from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and the Sino-British Fellowship Trust, as well as with the support of the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich; Young Vic; Company of Angels; Free Word; Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA); CSV Media Clubhouse, Ipswich; Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary TheatreNational Theatre Studio; Grass Stage; and the MPhil in Public Policy, the Digital Humanities Network, CRASSH, Judith E Wilson Fund and the English Faculty, all University of Cambridge. BICC (the British Inter-University Chinese Centre funded by the AHRC) has supported research for events in Manchester and Shanghai. The University of Leeds has provided expert advice. The digital technology and app technology is provided by theFusionWorks.     youg vicnew wolsey    6848804e-b76b-4019-9315-fc4577444cd2              download (1)

Copyright © Metis Arts 2013