Kelly, Ben 1949

Ben Kelly is a British interior designer known for his work with Factory (Communications) Limited, particularly the interior design for the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester. Born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, in 1949, Kelly moved to North Yorkshire with his family as a child and attended the local primary school in Appletreewick and Ermysted’s Grammar School in Skipton, before studying at Lancaster College of Art between 1964 and 1969. Kelly gained an MA in Interior Design from the Royal College of Art in 1974.

Kelly’s first projects came in 1977, working with Paul Howie on his clothing boutique in Covent Garden, followed by a commission from Malcolm McLaren to design the interior for Seditionaries on the King’s Road, London. The following year, Kelly designed the Sex Pistol’s rehearsal studio in Denmark Street, London. Kelly’s design for the Howie shop incorporated Dexion frames, rubber flooring and metal mesh doors into an understated but influential design.

In 1980, the cover for Kelly’s 1974 Master’s thesis inspired Peter Saville’s sleeve design for the 7-inch release of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Kelly then collaborated with Peter Saville on graphic designs for Section 25’s single ‘Girls Don’t Count’, released on Factory Records, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s debut album on Dindisc. Kelly and Saville won a Designers and Art Directors Award for this sleeve design.

Kelly’s next notable interior design project was the Haçienda nightclub for Factory (Communications) Limited on Whitworth Street West, Manchester, in 1982. This was followed by the design of Factory’s DRY 201 bard on Oldham Street, Manchester, in 1989 and the Factory Records HQ on Charles Street, Manchester, in 1990. The HQ was converted by Kelly into a nightclub, FAC 251 The Factory, in 2010.

In 1995, Kelly designed The Basement at the Science Museum in London, followed in 2013 by designs for the museum’s Media Space. Kelly has also carried out exhibition design for the V&A and the Museum of London. In 2013, he designed the interior of the new British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) college in Manchester.

Kelly was Chair of Interior and Spatial Design at the University of the Arts London from 2014 to 2017 and Visiting Professor of Interior Design at the Royal College of Art from 2015 to 2017. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Design by Kingston University in 2000.