Manchester International Festival 2019 is over and we look forward to seeing what comes next. With The Factory set to open in 2021, it will be intrestesting to see where Manchester’s flagship cultural event goes next.
I’s fair to say that we were more than a little excited by the calibre of MIF19’s programme.
Top of our list of highlights was David Lynch’s complete takeover of HOME, curated by Sarah Perks and Omar Kholeif with Mary Anne Hobbs & Jason Wood. The master of American surrealist cinema and all-round visionary pioneer presented the first major UK exhibition of his paintings, sculpture and drawings, coupled with a series of one-off live shows by Lynch-inspired musicians, and an associated film programme spanning the duration of MIF19.
Alongside this, the equally iconic queen of contemporary art Yoko Ono launched the festival with a sort of mass ‘happening’, involving 8,000 members of the public who formed an orchestra of bells in Cathedral Gardens and sent a message of peace to the world – echoing the sentiment behind John Lennon’s Imagine.
Over at Mayfield depot, 59 Productions and Rambert staged the world premiere of Invisible Cities – a spectacular new take on the Italian writer Italo Calvino’s classic 1972 tale of alternate worlds, featuring a spellbinding mix of theatre, choreography, music, architectural design and projection mapping. And legendary Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera (who was recently arrested and went on hunger strike in protest against new censorship laws in her home country) presented School of Integration at Manchester Art Gallery – a curriculum of free classes delivered by residents of the city originally from elsewhere.
Nico fans enjoyed an immersive theatrical homage co-created and performed by Maxine Peake at The Stoller Hall, inspired by the avant-garde singer’s bleak and beautiful 1968 solo album The Marble Index. Tennessee William’s electrifying Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was reimagined by the celebrated American choreographer Trajal Harrell in a tumultuous mix of electro pop, classical music, Harlem voguing and Greek theatre at The Dancehouse. While the 200-year anniversary of the Peterloo massacre was marked by an extraordinary day of performance, music and poetry led by ANU – one of the Europe’s most daring theatre companies – and a new score by critically-acclaimed composer Emily Howard, performed by the BBC Philharmonic, BBC Singers and three Hallé choirs.
Janelle Monáe, Idris Elba and Skepta were among the many other commissioned artists in Manchester’s biennial celebration of performance, art, music and theatre – the world’s first festival of original work and special events. The thematic focus of the 2019 edition seemed to be on peace and union; a fitting tone amidst turbulent times and an uplifting follow-up to Artistic Director John McGrath’s MIF debut in 2017.
We’re looking forward to seeing where it goes next.