MIF23: They at John Rylands Library

Part of our Literature guide

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Actor Maxine Peake. Image: Paul Husband
Actor Maxine Peake. Image: Paul Husband.

THEY at John Rylands Research Institute and Library, City Centre, 5–9 July 2023, from £10.00 - Book now

The band’s back together… following The Masque Of Anarchy, The Skriker and The Nico Project (each celebrating radical acts and artists), regular MIF collaborators Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight unveil a brand-new production – their first as the newly formed company MAAT, “a collective adventure to make new work in conversation with Music, Art, Activism and Theatre”.

This year, the trio presents They, a chilling adaptation of a lost dystopian masterpiece turned cult classic. You’re invited to step into the impressive Reading Room of the iconic John Rylands Library – and into a dystopian world, as Maxine Peake performs an afterhours reading of They. “Imagine a near-future where creative expression is outlawed, all art eradicated and any resistance takes enormous courage. Would it be enough to go on quietly creating for yourself? To memorise your favourite passages before all books disappear? What is art without an audience or a debate?”

Imogen Knight – courtesy of the artist.


They speaks truth to power. It celebrates the importance of making art as a means of survival and resistance.

Written by English journalist, writer, novelist and autobiographer Kay Dick (1915-2001), They was originally published in 1977, then went (and remained) out of print after winning the South-East Arts Literature Prize. A chance charity shop discovery by a literary agent in 2020 rekindled interest in the series of dream sequences, and rights were acquired by Faber & Faber to re-release the book in February 2022, celebrated with an event at the British Library.

Sarah Frankcom by Helen Maybanks


Say MAAT about They: “In a climate of escalating culture wars, the erosion of Arts in education and a continuing political disregard for the value of creativity in building a fair society, They speaks truth to power. It celebrates the importance of making art as a means of survival and resistance and rich inspiration to make something for the times we find ourselves in right now.”

Maxine Peake has enjoyed a prolific career as a theatre, television and film actress with many highlights including Mike Leigh’s big screen Peterloo and on stage in the iconic role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Names Desire, directed by Sarah Frankcom, who has worked on many critically acclaimed productions with Peake. Imogen Knight is a director, movement director, somatic therapist and intimacy co-ordinator, and worked on HBO’s multi-award-winning Chernobyl.

Performances take place: 5 July 9pm, 6 July 10pm, 7 July 7pm and 9pm, 8 July 7pm and 9pm, 9 July 7pm and 9pm.

The event takes place in the Reading Room of John Rylands Library. Running time is 45 minutes.

THEY at John Rylands Research Institute and Library, City Centre

5–9 July 2023
From £10.00

Things to do at Manchester International Festival 2023

Cinema 29 June 2023, FREE

MIF23: Jenn Nkiru

Festivals 30 June–16 July 2023, FREE

MIF23: Festival Square

Music 30 June–2 July 2023, from £10

MIF23: Janelle Monae