Manchester International Festival 2015: Official programme announced

Polly Checkland Harding

Björk, FKA Twigs, Gerhard Richter, Douglas Gordon and Maxine Peake have all been announced for MIF15 – we preview this internationally inventive festival.

The official programme of Manchester International Festival 2015 was announced this afternoon at Old Granada Studios. Outgoing artistic director Alex Poots introduced a host of new commissions for 2015, in addition to the four projects that have already been announced, which include Damon Albarn’s wonder.land. So, in the order they were introduced, here’s the visual art, music, theatre, technological and hybrid events coming to the city this July.

First, a project that was conceived by Poots and Hans-Ulrich Obrist of the Serpentine Gallery over the span of a flight, but has since taken several years to bring to pass: internationally-renowned artist Gerhard Richter, and Arvo Pärt, the most performed living composer in the world, will be producing work inspired by and dedicated to each other. Five new paintings by Richter will be unveiled in the Whitworth, while Pärt’s Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima will be performed live by celebrated choir Vox Clamantis every 20 minutes in the space.

A seven day residency by FKA Twigs at Old Granada Studios

Next, Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon came on stage to kiss Poots lengthily on the lips before announcing Neck of the Woods at HOME, a portrait of the wolf created through music by pianist Hélène Grimaud and performance by Charlotte Rampling, with a visual world designed by Gordon himself and a soundscape performed by MIF13 artists Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir. “It’s very important what’s happening in Manchester,” said Gordon, who announced the commission by enacting a phone call with his mother. Gordon was followed by Creative Director of the Young Turks, Molly Hawkins, who unveiled a seven-day residency by FKA Twigs at Old Granada Studios during which she will create seven short films; her announcement drew cheers from the audience.

It was Sarah Frankcom who told us of the return of Maxine Peake to MIF, this time playing the lead role in Caryl Churchill’s disturbing fairy story The Skriker at the Royal Exchange. This “brutal and vital” portrayal of a world headed for environmental disaster should make for a stirring piece of theatre. Artist Ed Atkins, meanwhile, will be creating both a digital exhibition and document of MIF15 in Performance Capture, an insight into the production of computer-generated moving image work at Manchester Art Gallery.

Bjork will present the European premiere of her new album in Castlefield Arena

Orchestral work The Immortal, written by Mark Simpon and based on scripts of séances in the first decades of the 20th century, and a collaboration between Arvo Pärt and Manchester Camerata were announced as part of the musical strand of the festival – capped off by returning artist Björk, who will present the European premiere of her new album Vulnicura in Castlefield Arena to 8,000 people. Reggie ‘Roc’ Gray then brought a spectacle to the launch stage, joining three dancers to demonstrate the innovative Brooklyn-orientated dance form behind FlexN Manchester.

An Alice in Wonderland-themed sensorial high tea by celebrated chef Mary-Ellen McTague behind the scenes at Manchester Museum drew the launch to a close, with a two-night finale party in collaboration with the team behind the Warehouse Project, called 10×10 and to be held at Mayfield Depot, lending a suitably celebratory feel to the end of the announcements. Tickets go on sale at 1pm tomorrow (Friday 6 March), so make like it’s Glasto and have two phones and at least three laptops at your fingertips. Good luck, folks!

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