Feature in Issue 19-4 | Winter 2007

The arts organisation, not the endangered bamboo-eating bear. Ric Watts explains it all.

A major source of support for Manchester’s emerging artist scene comes from a modestly sized but wide reaching organisation called PANDA – a catchy acronym for the more cumbersome Performing Arts Network and Development Agency.

PANDA was established in 2002 as a pilot model to provide business support to the booming performing arts sector in the city, which was being bolstered by a variety of showcase and developmental opportunities for emerging and established practitioners. To support an increasingly rich performance scene, a formalised network and development service was created, providing a source of sound business advice for those making work in the area. In the five years since its inception that organisation has thrived, and is now an integral part of the city’s arts infrastructure.

PANDA supports the burgeoning performing arts sector in Manchester through an array of schemes and strands of work, all of which are designed to support artists at all levels of their practice.

The organisation runs an active network with over 650 members, who are offered weekly newsletters with training, platform and employment opportunities, alongside regular networking events, such as the annual (and infamous) Christmas party. More structured developmental work includes programmes of seminars and masterclasses taught by industry leaders, and the opportunity for tailored one-to-one advice surgeries, offering young companies in-depth discussion and advice around their business needs.

PANDA also ‘incubates’ artists, providing a two-year programme of structured development work, helping to turn fledgling performance companies into sustainable creative businesses. Previously incubated companies include Quarantine and Company Fierce, who collaborated on last year’s acclaimed Susan and Darren. This year, the current Incubated Companies were offered the rare chance to showcase their work to the industry as part of the inaugural Manchester International Festival.

PANDA’s work is now imbedded deeply within Manchester’s artistic landscape, with many of the region’s artists drawing on its support at some stage. Its remarkable success story is largely down to founder and director, Liz O’Neill, who has worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to establish the organisation. Liz has provided a support structure for many key artists in the region, and is a constant champion of new work emerging from Manchester – ensuring that the region continues to influence creativity in the twenty-first century.

For further information on PANDA see

This article in the magazine

Issue 19-4
p. 17