Manchester International Festival opens at 6.30pm on Thursday 29 June with What is the City but the People? a large-scale public celebration of Manchester that sees local people walking a specially created runway in Piccadilly Gardens for audiences of thousands both live and online, followed by Manchester music legends New Order performing at Old Granada Studios in a spectacular immersive environment designed by leading artist Liam Gillick.
MIF continues until 16 July and features 25 new commissions and special events including:
True Faith, a major exhibition exploring the legacy of Joy Division and New Order
Fatherland, a new show created by Simon Stephens, Karl Hyde and Scott Graham
Party Skills for the End of the World, apocalyptic theatre from Shunt’s Nigel & Louise and Jane Horrocks’ Cotton Panic!, the story of Manchester’s cotton famine.
There is a rare Thomas Ostermeier world premiere outside Berlin, Returning to Reims
Yael Bartana’s What if Women Ruled the World?, directed by Vicky Featherstone and
a long overdue celebration of Manchester hero Friedrich Engels by artist Phil Collins.
There are live casts of What is the City, Cotton Panic! and Ceremony via mif.co.uk/live
New work from double Oscar-winning director and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
and Specially-commissioned music for public places with Music for a Busy City.
Themes of migration are explored by artists including Samson Young and Susan Hefuna
And there are onw off gigs from artists including Sampha, Arcade Fire, Bonobo, Ride.
MIF’s first game commission from Portland-based designer Nina Freeman
Sufi stars Sanam Marvi and Harshdeep Kaur performing together for the first time
Refit of MIF’s hub Festival Square by designers Paloma Gormley & Nick Henninger
Artists in the 2017 Festival include Boris Charmatz, Jane Horrocks, New Order, Liam Gillick, Yael Bartana, Arcade Fire, Phil Collins, Mica Levi, Demdike Stare, Gruff Rhys, Underworld, Lucinda Childs, Frank Gehry, John Adams, Thomas Ostermeier, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Matthew Herbert, Anna Meredith, Olga Neuwirth, Huang Ruo, Mohammed Fairouz, Philip Venables, Jeremy Deller, Mary-Ellen McTague, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Company Wayne McGregor, Simon Stephens, Scott Graham, Susan Hefuna, Sampha, Raymond Yiu, Paloma Gormley, Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari, Mary-Anne Hobbs, Samson Young and many more.
MIF’s Artistic Director and CEO John McGrath said:
“We can’t wait to share these works made right here in Manchester by some of the world’s most remarkable artists. I knew that these artists would speak to the state of the world but I had no idea quite how dynamic, committed and necessary these works would be. As an international festival I am delighted that audiences outside of Manchester will be able to experience some of our key commissions live and online.”
So far more than 4000 local people have participated directly in MIF17, including around 500 taking part in MIF commissions including Fatherland, What is the City but the People?, Party Skills For the End of the World, Manchester Street Poem, ToGather, Ceremony and Cotton Panic! This activity is part of My Festival, a major programme of work with local people designed to build ongoing relationships through creative projects, skills development and training and more.
Created from an idea by artist Jeremy Deller, What Is the City but the People? will see a unique selection of individuals from across Manchester, many recruited via open auditions, walking along a runway through Piccadilly Gardens for an audience of thousands. What Is the City features live music from Graham Massey, assisted by an unexpected mix of local musicians. Directed by Richard Gregory and made in association with Islington Mill.
At Old Granada Studios, Manchester musical legends New Order collaborate with visual artist Liam Gillick for five special performances throughout the Festival. New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes.. sees the band playing with a 12-strong synthesiser ensemble, orchestrated and conducted by Joe Duddell inside a unique installation from Gillick. Over at Manchester Art Gallery, major new exhibition True Faith explores the ongoing significance and legacy of Joy Division and New Order through the wealth of visual art their music has inspired, with work from artists such as Julian Schnabel and Mark Leckey.
In What if Women Ruled the World? artist Yael Bartana enlists international female experts alongside a cast of leading actresses to help answer this most relevant of questions. Inspired by the apocalyptic ending of Dr Strangelove, What if Women Ruled the World? is created with the Royal Court’s Vicky Featherstone and writer Abi Morgan.
The apocalypse also looms large in Party Skills for the End of the World. In this immersive theatre event you’ll learn the essential skills you’ll need to survive when the end is nigh – from starting a fire to mixing the perfect Martini. Created by Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari of the acclaimed Shunt Collective, Party Skills is accompanied by Dinner Party at the End of the World, created by wonderful Manchester chef and MIF favourite Mary-Ellen McTague.
One of Europe’s most daring and exciting choreographers, Boris Charmatz will be opening his newest work at MIF17. Staged in the vast, atmospheric space of Mayfield, a 25-strong ensemble of dancers will perform, in succession, 10000 Gestures – none repeated, every one unique.
Cotton Panic! tells the story of a pivotal moment in North West history – the Civil War era Cotton famine, when the supply of raw cotton dried up and the prosperous North was brought to its knees. Featuring live music, drama, words and film, the show is created by Jane Horrocks, Nick Vivian and Wrangler, the new band of Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire.
ToGather is a major show from Egyptian-born artist Susan Hefuna at the Whitworth. The exhibition explores stories of migrants to Manchester, and includes a public performance developed with Company Wayne McGregor and and local residents originally from 15 different countries, as far afield as Iran, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Kuwait.
Also focusing on new arrivals is The Welcoming Party, a new work for children and families by acclaimed company Theatre-Rites which uses puppetry and immersive theatre to tell the stories of young people who have travelled to Manchester looking for a place where they can feel safe and sound. Younger audiences can enjoy BambinO, an opera for babies aged 6 – 18 months, composed by Scottish Opera’s Lliam Paterson and directed by Improbable’s Phelim McDermott, fresh from directing at the ENO and LA Opera.
Last and First Men is an extraordinary new multimedia work by Oscar-nominated Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049), combining music, film and Tilda Swinton’s elegiac narration. The BBC Philharmonic will be performing live with the film at the Bridgewater Hall.
Double Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Girl in the River) reflects on the lived experience of Partition with HOME1947. A series of films within an installation at the Lowry, this remarkable commission visits residents of Delhi and Lahore 70 years on from the largest mass-migration ever. Marking the opening of the exhibition is a concert from two of Sufi music’s brightest female stars, Sanam Marvi and Harshdeep Kaur performing together for the very first time.
In Fatherland, Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham, Underworld’s Karl Hyde and playwright Simon Stephens have created a bold new show about contemporary fatherhood. This emotive collage of words, music and movement will transform the Royal Exchange Theatre, animated by a 13-strong cast, and a thirty-strong chorus delivering Hyde’s extraordinary score.
Karl Hyde will also be working with his Underworld collaborator Rick Smith on Manchester Street Poem, a project that will bring to life the stories of those who find themselves homeless in the city in a live installation taking place in an empty city centre shop over several days.
Music for a Busy City takes six leading composers – Mohammed Fairouz, Matthew Herbert, Huang Ruo, Anna Meredith, Olga Neuwirth and Philip Venables – out of the concert hall and into the public spaces of Manchester. Six new pieces of music will be created in response to a specific spot, from shopping centres and train stations to the Town Hall and St Anne’s Square.
MIF will be the operator for Factory, a brand new multi-arts centre for Manchester designed by internationally-renowned architects OMA, led by Rem Koolhaas and Ellen van Loon. Two shows this year represent a glimpse of the kind of artists and partnerships that might be seen in Factory. Returning to Reims is an urgent response to the new populist politics sweeping Europe. Directed by Thomas Ostermeier, this is a co-production with his Berlin theatre, the Schaubuhne, and with Manchester’s HOME.
Available Light is a legendary collaboration between choreographer Lucinda Childs, composer John Adams and architect Frank Gehry – three of the greatest American artists of the last 50 years. This revival highlights the kind of major artistic figures that Factory will be inviting to showcase their work.
Hong Kong-based artist and rising star Samson Young premieres a major new work inspired by mythic tales of 17th-century Chinese travelers making their way to Europe on foot. One of Two Stories, or Both (Field Bagatelles) is a five-part radio series and an installation at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.
Artist Phil Collins will bring MIF to a close with Ceremony, a live film event celebrating one of Manchester’s greatest residents – Friedrich Engels – in a uniquely contemporary and playful way. Collins will bring Engels back to Manchester in the form of a Soviet-era statue, collected from Russia and transported across Europe, to be installed in Manchester’s Tony Wilson Place. Performers, musicians and the people of Manchester will help create a unique ‘live film’, mixing footage from the statue’s journey across Europe with live coverage of its inauguration, featuring a soundtrack by Mica Levi and Demdike Stare, a new anthem by Gruff Rhys, and stories of today’s Manchester workers – who Collins met during his year-long MIF17 residency.
Lost Memories Dot Net is MIF’s first ever game commission courtesy of Nina Freeman, the most innovative and individual of video game designers. It signals a strong move by MIF into the digital realm this year – with several of the productions having live digital showings, and a much enhanced online offer in all aspects of the Festival.
On a less high-tech note, a little bit of West Wales comes to Manchester as the Machynlleth Comedy Festival decamps for a weekend at MIF. This bijou festival-within-a-festival follows the success of MIF’s first foray into comedy in 2015 with promoters Invisible Dot.
Two pieces celebrate the centenary of local hero Antony Burgess’s legacy. At the Whitworth, film installation No End to Enderby by Graham Eatough and Simon Sutcliffe takes the core character from one of Burgess’s great novels on a time-traveling journey. In The World Was Once All Miracle, composer Raymond Yiu has created a major new symphonic song cycle in response to a series of Burgess’s poems, performed by the BBC Philharmonic.
Reggie ‘Regg Roc’ Gray directed one of the big hits of MIF15: FlexN Manchester, a thrilling transatlantic street dance collaboration featuring dancers from Greater Manchester and Reggie’s native New York. Two years on Reggie will be returning to the Festival for a residency at Contact.
Also returning after the success of the 2015 edition, the Festival’s debate strand invites audiences to debate today’s hot-button topics: power, heroes, community, technology, anger and change. Curated by MIF, FutureEverything, The Guardian and VICE, Interdependence: We Need to Talk features artists from the Festival and beyond.
MIF17 features more music than ever before – from the best of local promoters and thrilling world music at the Festival’s own Pavilion Theatre, to one-off gigs from big names including Arcade Fire, Sampha, Bonobo and new music from a resurgent Ride. 6Music’s tastemaker Mary-Anne Hobbs curates a special series of gigs themed around Dark Matter, with artists as diverse as local grime stars Levelz, experimentalists such as Haxan Cloak, and heavy, heavy rockers Sunn O)).
Festival Square, the home of the Festival on Albert Square, is getting a new look for MIF. Designers Paloma Gormley and Nicholas Henniger are creating new structures to welcome the 125,000 people that will visit to enjoy delicious food and drink, experience music, talks, club nights, free DJs every night and much more. Some of the UK’s best chefs will be cooking on Festival Square, including Gary Usher, Mark Hix and Paul Heathcote. Media partners the BBC, the Guardian and Manchester Evening News will all have a presence on Festival Square; look out too, for walking tours themed around MIF commissions.
New for MIF17 is a major programme of work with local people, My Festival. My Festival is MIF’s creative community, a year-round initiative designed to build ongoing relationships between MIF and local people through creative projects, skills development and training and more.
My Festival projects include Festival in My House, a series of micro-international festivals curated by local people and hosted in their own houses for neighbours, friends and MIF audiences that will be showcased on Festival Square in the first weekend of MIF, as well as six bursaries for Greater Manchester-based creative professionals supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Creative 50, a three-month programme of digital experimentation with 50 aspiring and emerging artists and creatives from across Greater Manchester.
MIF works closely with many venues, festivals and other cultural organisations around the world. The financial and creative input from these partners helps to make many MIF projects possible, and guarantees they have a life after the Festival has ended. MIF has worked with 50 commissioning partners on 47 new shows over the first five Festivals (2007–2015), shows which have travelled as far afield as Los Angeles, Shanghai and Abu Dhabi since their premieres at MIF. This year 12 of MIF’s commissions will have a future life in cities ranging from Hong Kong to Vienna.