Technology changes everything. Where and what we listen to. Who and when we watch. How we create, play and consume. Online, offline, all day, and keeping us up at night – in a world of streaming, sharing and augmented realities, our entertainment experiences are almost entirely shaped by technology.

But in this brave new world of recreational tech, who is in control? Makers or players? Artists or consumers? Platforms or publishers? And in this world – are we too digitally distracted to care?

Distractions is a three-day summit in Manchester that debates the future of entertainment – a long weekend of debates, talks, panels, content and new music showcases with some of the world’s leading tech companies, artists and producers. Presented by Manchester International Festival, Sound City and FutureEverything, with the support of the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Combined Authority – the recreational future starts here.

Liverpool’s innovative music and arts festival, Sound City, are incredibly proud to be part of the agenda-setting programme at Distractions.


Distractions is held in Manchester, a place where technology, innovation and radical thought have shaped industry, politics, music and culture. Factory Records turns 40 this year and its ethos – of enabling self-expression and unfettered experimentation from unproven artists – lives on across Greater Manchester. Our artists and innovators see the power of technology as the ultimate enabler of new music, art, design and more. Technology gives emerging talent the means of production and distribution. It allows for experimentation and the unexpected. It is fundamentally democratic; new talent from all backgrounds can make and create. In Greater Manchester today, our creative past makes for new music, design, art, film and creative content that is both possible and diverse. In Greater Manchester, we don’t just imagine the future of entertainment. We create it.  

Distractions has been created by FutureEverything, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester International Festival, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Modern Designers, Rose Marley Management, Peter Saville and Sound City.

18 JULY: FutureEverything

FutureEverything at Distractions will kickstart this three-day summit by bringing artists, makers and industry together with the people of Greater Manchester to connect their ideas for the future. Through the demonstration of innovation, collaboration and debate, together we will showcase Greater Manchester as a pioneering, global testbed in digital leadership.

There will be inspiring discussions, creative thinking and hands-on prototyping alongside future leaders and creative practitioners working across art, digital culture and technology.

The day will conclude with a showcase of prototypes created during a rapid prototyping event run in parallel with this symposium, followed by a short creative summary of the day’s activities. You can then join us as we visit a new artwork, ‘Invisible Faith’ by artist Jiayu Liu, commissioned by OPPO, a leading global smart device brand.

FutureEverything at Distractions will bring people together to understand, imagine and invent a rich digital culture and ecosystem for Greater Manchester and beyond. The event is supported by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Manchester Metropolitan University, CISCO and other partners tbc.

19 JULY: Sound City Manchester


Bringing their expertise in music festival and conference delivery, Sound City have joined forces with Distractions to create Manchester’s newest, music and tech focussed conference.


Tech is driving the future of entertainment. AR, VR, MR, 3D immersive, facial recognition in stadiums, ticketing and social media, global entertainment is bigger and more innovative than ever. The new talent of the future is as likely to be a digital designer as much as a DJ or performer. It all raises questions and invites opportunity. These topics and more will be debated with some of the world’s leading tech companies and artist managers through panels, in conversation sessions and a key-note speaker.

Alongside the conference will run a diverse and exciting music program at Festival Square in collaboration with MIF, curated by an independent A&R panel made up of some of Manchester’s most influential in the music industry.

20 JULY: Manchester International Festival

How is science and technology enabling us to reconfigure our minds, bodies and relationships with each other and the world around us?

Taking inspiration from key commissions and events at this year’s Manchester International Festival (MIF19, 4-21 July) productions, we’ll hear from world-class artists and futurists visualising new worlds and the thinkers tackling the big ideas. Featuring demos alongside debate, this event forms part of Interdependence, MIF19’s ideas programme. Contributors include, games director and animator Paloma Dawkins; Claire L Evans, writer, musician and the author of Broad Band: The Untold History of the Women Who Made the Internet; pioneering computer scientist  Dame Wendy Hall; Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, artist and creator of Atmospheric Memory; media artist Refik Anadol; experience design studio Marshmallow Laser Feast; Ash Sarkar, Senior Editor at Novara Media; and TEM, creative studio for Skepta’s DYSTOPIA987, which has its world premiere at MIF19.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said:

‘Distractions is everything Greater Manchester is about – innovative, forward thinking and radical. We have a pioneering digital, technological and music history. Whether that’s building the first computer, the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the Spinning Jenny, or the home of Factory Records; our progressive past should be seen as a great foundation for the future.

Distractions is all about showcasing the future of Greater Manchester and asking the moral and ethical questions about how technology is both a fantastic opportunity, but also a distraction from reality in an increasingly troubled world.

In Greater Manchester, we don’t want to just imagine what the future of entertainment might look like, we want to lead it’.


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