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Manchester International Festival 2019: what to look out for

There will be artists from more than 20 countries around the world in the city from 4-21 July

  • MIF19 highlights:
  • Yoko Ono opens MIF19 with Bells for Peace, a mass-participatory artwork which invites thousands of people to ring and sing out for peace
  • Legendary filmmaker David Lynch takes over HOME for the duration of the festival with his largest UK exhibition of visual art to date, alongside film screenings, Lynch- inspired gigs and more
  • Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah collaborate for the first time on Tree, a journey into the soul and spirit of contemporary South Africa which blends music, drama and dance
  • The legacy of Nico, the legendary Velvet Underground singer and muse, is celebrated inThe Nico Project, a theatrical immersion into her sound and identity from Maxine Peake and Sarah Frankcom
  • Director Leo Warner, choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Rambert present Invisible Cities, a visually stunning collaboration inspired by the renowned 1972 novel and adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti
  • Grime star Skepta takes us beyond the music gig to present DYSTOPIA987, a futuristic take on the history of rave culture at a secret Manchester location
  • Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott team up for their most personal collaboration yet:Tao of Glass, a meditation on life, death and wisdom
  • The world premiere of a major two-part commission to mark the 200th anniversary ofPeterloo, a landmark in Manchester’s history, including a new work by composer Emily Howard and poet Michael Symmons Roberts, performed by the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Singers and three Hallé choirs
  • Adam Thirlwell, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rem Koolhaas construct an extraordinary language laboratory featuring new work by Patrick Chamoiseau, Sayaka Murata,Adania Shibli, Sjón, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Dubravka Ugrešić and Alejandro Zambra
  • Janelle Monáe, Abida Parveen, Chrysta Bell and an all-female line-up of electronic artists curated by Mary Anne Hobbs lead MIF19’s music programme

Taking place across 18 days Manchester International Festival features an array of  UK and world premieres from internationally-acclaimed artists from more than 20 countries.

With work created especially for the festival, MIF19 promises to provide a unique snapshot of contemporary issues, ranging from identity and language, borders and migration, to the power of collective action, technology and utopian/dystopian visions of the future.

This is the second festival with John McGrath as MIF artistic director and chief executive. “At MIF19 we see a whole host of artists looking to the future - some with hope, some with imagination and some with concern. We never impose themes on the artists we work with, but it’s striking how this year’s programme reflects our complicated times in often surprisingly joyous and unexpected ways"he said.

He said that despite the festival featuring artists from around the globe, it also has "strong local roots, with several commissions featuring the people of Manchester as participants".

John hopes that the energy of MIF19 will inspire debate and delight in equal measure, just for the 18 days of the festival but far beyond.

Manchester International Festival kicks off last night with the world premier of Yoko Ono’s BELLS FOR PEACE, a new mass-participatory bell ringing performance which took place in Cathedral Gardens.

The performance gathered thousands of people together and ring bells and sing for peace. 50 years on from her early collaborations with John Lennon, this new commission boldly communicated Ono's commitment to social justice, right in the heart of the city.

Yoko Ono, photo by Mathew Placek

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, spoke about the importance of events like the festival and the benefits they have on Manchester as a whole, saying: "Since its early beginnings in 2005 MIF has attracted thousands of visitors from around the world that bring with them a huge economic boost to the city". Leese believes that the calibre of the internationally renowned artists, musicians and performers taking part will inspiring local people to get involved as well.

"These are exciting times for culture in Manchester. As we look ahead to the opening of the city's landmark new cultural venue The Factory in a couple of years' times, MIF19 is once again set to place Manchester centre-stage and showcase it as the vibrant centre of innovation, culture, and creativity that it undoubtedly is."

Working closely with venues across the city, MIF will be a true celebration of Manchester. With art installations and music performance at HOME from critically acclaimed director David Lynch and famed grime star Skepta steps beyond the live music with DYSTOPIA987 experience, a re-imagining of a past rave culture and an uncertain future with a series of events held in a secret Manchester location.

Speaking about his DYSTOPIA987 rave experience, Skepta talked about a rather unusual feature: "everything about getting to a rave is about love and being together with people. Now everyone's in the club on their phones, on Instagram. So we're taking everyone's phones away from them... so they won't be a part of it, we're going to bring everyone together to make a good atmosphere"

Also making creative use of found spaces, Invisible Cities sees Leo Warner, producer of War Horse and David Bowie Is, head up a production in Mayfield, Manchester’s iconic former railway depot, re-imagining the possibilities of live performance.

Manchester Art Gallery will be featuring  School of Integration. Fresh from her Tate Modern commission, Tania Bruguera invites audiences to listen local people originally from countries around the world giving free classes in languages, culture, ethics, politics, economics in a new shared learning experience. Over at the Whitworth gallery an exhibition about the half-forgotten history of Ghana, is explored in Parliament of Ghosts, by artist Ibrahim Mahama.

Philamonic Orchestra, photo by Matt Squire

Manchester's past is also to be represented ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre in August, with The Anvil: An Elegy for Peterloo featuring a day-long series of immersive performances inspired by the stories of those who died at St Peter’s Field and the world premiere of a major new musical work by composer Emily Howard and poet Michael Symmons Roberts in the evening, featuring the BBC Philharmonic. The Manchester cholera epidemic of the 1830s is the unlikely inspiration for The Drunk Pandemic, the first major UK project by Chim↑Pom from Tokyo who promise to brew and sell beer in secret locations in reference to how people had to drink beer instead of water during the outbreak.

MIF19 also sees the return Festival Square. This year will include a large new stage hosting a free programme packed with live acts, DJs, talks and performances. Food and drink will also be on offer, as well as the popular MIF Supper Clubs, featuring a series of Michelin-starred chefs.

With a programme so expansive and diverse, MIF19 stands to be a true representation of international love and collaboration.

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