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Manchester International Festival

Manchester International Festival
Dates July (dates vary)
Frequency Biennial
Location(s) Manchester, UK.
Years active 8
Inaugurated 2007
Next event July 2–19, 2015[1]
Organized by Alex Poots (Artistic Director)

The Manchester International Festival is a biennial international arts festival, with a specific focus on original new work, held in the English city of Manchester. The festival is a biennial event, first taking place in June–July 2007, and subsequently recurring in the summers of 2009, 2011 and 2013. MIF 15 will take place between 2–19 July 2015.

Pre-festival commissions

The Festival was promoted and initiated with three pre-festival commissions. The first of these took place in November 2005, when Gorillaz performed live at the Manchester Opera House. Recordings of these performances were later released as the Demon Days Live DVD. The second was The Schools Festival Song, a new piece by Ennio Morricone and Nicholas Royle sung by an 8,000-strong schools' choir, organised by Young Voices, which took place on 4 December 2006.

The third was an art installation, in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum, by Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen, as a response to the 2003 Iraq war and as a tribute to British service personnel killed in that conflict. It was exhibited in the Great Hall of Manchester Central Library from 28 February to 15 July 2007.

MIF 07

The first edition of the Festival ran from 28 June - 15 July 2007. The Festival's showpiece production was Monkey: Journey To The West, a re-working of the ancient Chinese legend Journey to the West by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, who are collaborating on their first major project since Gorillaz. Albarn wrote the score while Hewlett designed the set and costumes.[2] Adapted and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, whose credits range from classical Chinese opera to the Meryl Streep movie Dark Matter, the show also featured 45 Chinese circus acrobats, Shaolin monks and Chinese vocalists. The production was designed and created by Théâtre du Châtelet in co-operation with the Manchester International Festival and the Berlin State Opera, and performed at the Palace Theatre.

As well as Monkey, the Festival showcased two other events. The first was Il Tempo del Postino, a visual arts show curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno and produced in conjunction with the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, performed at the Manchester Opera House. The other was a new stage adaptation of The Pianist, combining the original words of Władysław Szpilman spoken by actor Peter Guinness, with the music of Frédéric Chopin performed by leading pianist Mikhail Rudy, and directed by Neil Bartlett at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.[3]

MIF 09

The 2009 Manchester International Festival took place between 2–19 July 2009; in October 2008, a press release announced the first three commissions for 2009.[4] These werePrima Donna, Rufus Wainwright's debut opera, Everybody Loves a Winner, a "new theatrical experience" by director Neil Bartlett, and a "unique environment within Manchester Art Gallery" for solo piano, violin and cello JS Bach works, created by Zaha Hadid Architects.

The entire festival programme featuring more than 20 commissions was announced in March 2009. It included a Kraftwerk and Steve Reich commission performed at the Manchester Velodrome, performance art by Marina Abramović at the Whitworth Art Gallery, a procession along Deansgate organised by Jeremy Deller and a collaboration between Elbow and The Hallé orchestra.[5] Manchester alternative rock band Epiphany are also appearing as part of the procession. The festival also featured It Felt Like A Kiss, a multimedia production created by documentary-maker Adam Curtis, Damon Albarn and Punchdrunk theatre company.

Other artists included De La Soul, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, Antony and the Johnsons with the Manchester Camerata, Carlos Acosta and The Durutti Column, performing a tribute to the late Tony Wilson.

MIF 11

The 2011 edition of the Festival ran from 30 June to 17 July 2011 and staged 27 original projects,[6] featuring artists and performers such as Björk, Damon Albarn, Snoop Dogg, Marina Abramović, Victoria Wood, WU LYF, D/R/U/G/S and Air Cav,[7][8] along with the Punchdrunk's Doctor Who production The Crash of the Elysium.[9] Manchester International Festival's director Alex Poots stated that "the most important thing for us to do is make an artistically and culturally important festival that is of the highest quality".[10] The abolition of the Northwest Regional Development Agency, which contributed £900,000 to the 2009 festival, resulted in a loss of funding for 2011's Manchester International Festival.[10]

Björk began the MIF11, with the live debut of her new album Biophilia,[11] with Dave Simpson of The Guardian stating that she "provided a stunning visual display", adding that "the Icelandic singer made a typically eye-popping entrance on huge platform shoes and sporting blue and white facepaint".[12] Sinéad O'Connor also performed at the festival, earning favourable reviews; Pamela Owen of the Daily Mail, whilst acknowledging that "she clearly wowed the audience", however, criticised her "dowdy" appearance and described her as wearing a "mumsy trouser-suit".[13]

Damon Albarn debuted his opera Doctor Dee, based on the life of Elizabethan scientist and philosopher John Dee, at the Palace Theatre. Directed by Rufus Norris, the production was described as "by no means an opera in the conventional sense" by The Guardian‍ '​s Alfred Hickling, who described Dr Dee as "an erudite affair", giving it four stars.[14]

MIF 13

File:The Old Woman at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.jpg
The Old Woman at the Palace Theatre, Manchester

The festival returned in 2013 and ran from 4 to 21 July [15] attracting an estimated quarter of a million attendees, generating £40 million for the city of Manchester.[16] The 18-day Festival included over 300 performances of more than 30 new commissions and special events which included collaborations with artists such as Maxine Peake, Kenneth Branagh, The xx, Massive Attack and Tino Sehgal.[17]

File:Festival Square at night, MIF13.jpg
The 2013 Manchester International Festival pavilion at night in Albert Square
Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh directed a new adaptation of Macbeth at the Church of St Peter in Ancoats. Branagh starred as Macbeth alongside Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth in a performance which The Daily Telegraph‍ '​s Dominic Cavendish described as "a thrilling and cinematically fluid production" in his five star review.[18] The production was co-commissioned with New York's Park Avenue Armory where it played to rave reviews in May and June 2014.[19] During the shows run at MIF13, Macbeth was broadcast to cinemas around the world by National Theatre Live.[20]

One of the main events was Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis, a collaborative performance from Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja and Bafta-winning filmmaker Adam Curtis which took place in the Mayfield Depot. Robert Wilson directed Mikhail Baryshnikov and William Dafoe in a surrealist adaptation of Daniil Kharms' short story The Old Woman at the Palace Theatre.[21]

MIF13 introduced a members scheme which granted people access to priority booking for the most highly anticipated events. Also new was a £12 ticket scheme, allowing Greater Manchester residents on lower incomes access to more events after festival organisers acknowledged some tickets were out of the reach of local residents on lower wages.[22]

MIF 15

Manchester International Festival returns in 2015 and runs from 2 to 19 July.[1]

On the 19th of November 2014 Manchester International Festival announced the first three new commissions for MIF15. Tree of Codes is a new contemporary ballet directed and choreographed by Wayne McGregor with music composed by Jamie xx and visual concept by Olafur Eliasson. The performance, taking place from 2–10 July 2015 at Manchester Opera House, is inspired by the book Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer and will feature soloists and dancers from The Paris Opera Ballet. The Tale of Mr Tumble is a new theatre show for young children and families; Justin Fletcher invites audiences to step inside the colourful world of one of most cherished TV characters, the show takes place at Manchester Opera House from the 11 – 19 July. The Age of Starlight is a world first show about the origin of the universe and everything within and without it. Brought to life by inventor Rony Abovitz and the team at Magic Leap, Professor Brian Cox will tell the story of the unlikely events that have led to our existence. The Age of Starlight will be directed by Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald with art direction from artist Peter Saville and CGI effects from Framestore. Manchester International Festival will announce their full line-up in Spring 2015.[1]

On the 21st of January 2015, it was announced that the next MIF15 commission would be, a new musical with music by Damon Albarn, book and lyrics by Moira Buffini and that it would be directed by Rufus Norris. is inspired by Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and is a co-production with The National Theatre. It will be performed at the Palace Theatre, Manchester and run from the 29th of June to 12 of July 2015.[1]

MIF 17

In November 2014 it was announced that Alex Poots, Manchester International Festival's founding director, would be stepping down from his role after MIF 15.[23] Poots is leaving his position to take on the role of chief executive of the Culture Shed in New York.[23][24] In May 2015 it was announced that Poots will be succeeded by John McGrath, the Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales.[25]

The Factory

In December 2014 it was announced by Chancellor George Osborne that a new £78 million theatre and arts venue is to be built on the former site of Granada Studios to be the permanent home of Manchester International Festival. It will hold up to 5,000 people and would "play an integral part in helping Manchester and the north of England provide a genuine cultural counterbalance to London" according to a Manchester City Council statement. The venue is due to open by 2019.[26]


  1. ^ a b c d Manchester International Festival site
  2. ^ David Ward (2007-03-19). "From Britpop to Britop". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  3. ^ Michael Billington (2007-07-04). "The Pianist". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  4. ^ "Press release 9 October 2008" (PDF). Manchester International Festival. 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2009-02-05. [dead link]
  5. ^ Mark Brown (2009-03-20). "Manchester festival makes room for Elbow, Hallé and Kraftwerk". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  6. ^ Walters, Sarah (2011-07-22). "Manchester International Festival: First here... then the world". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
  7. ^ "Wu Lyf top Manchester International Festival's new music". BBC News. 2011-03-17. Retrieved 2011-05-04. 
  8. ^ Singh, Anita (2011-03-17). "Damon Albarn and Björk at Manchester International Festival". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  9. ^ Manchester International Festival site
  10. ^ a b "MIF director Alex Poots: "There's unfinished business."". Creative Times. 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
  11. ^ Alex Needham (2011-07-01). "Manchester international festival is go". <span />The Guardian<span />. Retrieved 2011-07-03. 
  12. ^ Dave Simpson (2011-07-01). "Bjork - review". <span />The Guardian<span />. Retrieved 2011-07-03. 
  13. ^ Pamela Owen (2011-07-02). "What's happened 2 U? Rocking Sinead O'Connor is barely recognisable in long hair and mumsy trouser-suit". <span />Daily Mail<span />. Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  14. ^ Alfred Hickling (2011-07-02). "Dr Dee, Palace Theatre, Manchester". <span />The Guardian<span />. Retrieved 2011-07-03. 
  15. ^ "Kenneth Branagh to play Macbeth among church-goers". The Guardian. 14 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  16. ^ "£40m windfall for city as the curtain falls on festival bonanza". The Manchester Evening News. 24 July 2013. Retrieved 2014-10-27. 
  17. ^ Manchester International Festival site
  18. ^ "Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, review". The Telegraph. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-28. 
  19. ^ Manchester International Festival site
  20. ^ Manchester International Festival site
  21. ^ "Theatre review: The Old Woman, Manchester International Festival". The Independent. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 2014-10-27. 
  22. ^ "Theatre review: The Old Woman, Manchester International Festival". The Manchester Evening News. 22 April 2013. Retrieved 2014-10-28. 
  23. ^ a b Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (25 November 2014). "Manchester international festival founding director off to New York". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  24. ^ Blake, David (25 November 2014). "$400m New York Arts Centre Snaps Up MIF Director Poots". Manchester Confidential. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  25. ^ Mark, Brown (13 May 2015). "National Theatre Wales artistic director John McGrath departs for Manchester festival job". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  26. ^ "Manchester to get new £78m theatre named The Factory". BBC. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 2015-01-21. 

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