wonder.land: Damon Albarn returns for Manchester International Festival

Susie Stubbs

Alice in Wonderland is reworked for Manchester International Festival’s latest commission – and guess who is coming back to the city?

When we’re little, we create friends out of thin air. Stig comes to live in the dump, fairies inhabit the bottom of the garden, and the wardrobe in the corner becomes a gateway to a magical world. Fiction is full of children who find imaginary friendship in otherwise lonely places. So it follows that in Manchester International Festival’s latest commission – a musical inspired by kids’ classic, Alice in Wonderland – the protagonist is a lonely girl who creates her own, happier world. In this version of the story, however, that imaginary world is an online, virtual one: wonder.land becomes a place of respite for a 12 year-old bullied in real life. And then, guess what, those two worlds collide…

Fiction is full children who find imaginary friends in otherwise lonely places

wonder.land is an intriguing premise for a new musical, and a timely one: it’s 150 years since Lewis Carroll’s classic was first published. Damon Albarn has written the music, and it’ll be interesting to see what he brings to it; since his last stint at MIF in 2011, he has done everything from release a solo album to work on side projects with Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and legendary afrobeat muso, Tony Allen. Damon Albarn is supported by acclaimed playwright Moira Buffini and director Rufus Norris, who is also returning to Manchester. The National Theatre’s incoming director worked with Albarn on Dr. Dee in 2011.

Albarn, Buffini and Norris are an impressive trio, but it’s the story that will make this a must-see or a no-show. Can a tale that has captured kids’ attention for 150 years be twisted and turned into something new, something more relevant? We’ll find out in July – but for anyone who ever felt the sharp loneliness of childhood, this may be the place to recall the comfort and the joy of imaginary life.

Culture Guides

Food and Drink

Explore the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North as we head into autumn.


David Bowie, Japanese classics and some early spooky screenings all feature in this month’s cinema guide.


Welcome the autumnal season with all of the art goodness that it brings – there are so many brand new exhibitions to see!


As we say bye to the summer holidays and begin to welcome in the cooler months, Manchester’s events and activities continue to bring joy and fun to families.

Kamila Shamsie. Photo Alex von Tunzelman


There are plenty of online readings and live launches as Manchester and the North welcomes some great writers with book festival season getting underway, and there are loads of new spoken word nights and open mics to check out…


Autumn’s a fine old time for gigs in Manchester and the North. From otherworldly folk to life-affirming soul, here are our top picks for October onwards.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


As the new theatre season gets ready to launch, we champion some of the star performances happening over the next few months.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Tours and Activities

Every season change is an excuse to try something new, and when it comes to tours and activities, autumn delivers!