Manchester International Festival: The Walk
Photo: Josh Telles

Manchester International Festival

Creative Tourist

We’re delighted to see the return of the Manchester International Festival this year. This is a world-renowned festival of original work and special events – a biennial celebration of performance, art, music, theatre and more, which marries the world’s best-known artists with Manchester’s cultural institutions. And with construction work now well under way for The Factory, we’re excited to see where Manchester’s flagship cultural event goes next.

This year’s festival will see events take place safely in indoor and outdoor spaces across Greater Manchester. We’re especially excited to see the first-ever work take place on the construction site of The Factory, MIF’s future home. Arcadia is a new sound and light site-specific installation created by opera and theatre director Deborah Warner.

Highlights of the music programme so far include a one-off concert from singer-songwriter Arlo Parks, who will join forces with musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music to perform songs from her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams. There will also be a rare solo performance by Damon Albarn, as well as a partnership with Homecoming, the Lagos-based festival of African art and creativity.

Theatre-Rites, one of Europe’s most imaginative theatre companies, will return to Manchester with The Global Playground; an uplifting family show blending dance, music, theatre and puppetry to explore connection and how we make the most of the time we spend together.

As a response to the events of the last year, artist and activist Cephas Williams will create 100 portraits of Black British people, from Manchester and further afield. Displayed in Manchester Arndale, Portrait of Black Britain is a major public exhibition examining what it means to be Black and living in the UK today.

MIF21 world premiere All of This Unreal Time is a new film exploring connection, caring for those close to us and our environment. Starring Cillian Murphy, written by Max Porter, directed by Aoife McArdle, with music by Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner and Jon Hopkins, All of This Unreal Time will be presented as an immersive installation in surround sound.

Argentinian art pioneer Marta Minujín, creator of large-scale artworks and participatory performance, will bring her first major UK commission to MIF21. Big Ben Lying Down with Political Books will see a gigantic 42m sculpture of the London landmark assembled in Piccadilly Gardens. Constructed using 20,000 copies of books that have shaped British politics, the sculpture offers an opportunity to rethink our national symbols and unite through democracy and equal rights.

As one of the first major public events taking place in Manchester, MIF21 will play a key part in the safe reopening of our city. In line with the latest government guidelines, all events will be Covid-safe with the comfort of audiences, artists and festival staff the highest priority. With more free and outdoor events than ever before and an online programme too, there’s plenty of ways to experience MIF21. Needless to say, we’ll be previewing the full line up for MIF21 very soon.

Here are our picks