Future is every two years

With the accent on original commissions, Manchester International Festival returns to the city early in July

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Yoko Ono, Idris Elda and David Lynch are just some of the many internationally acclaimed artists to participate in this year’s Manchester International Festival (MIF19), once again turning the city into a world stage for the arts – as it has since 2007. 

The 18-day festival (4-21 July) has attracted artists from over 20 countries, many of whom have produced one-off creative collaborations especially for the event.

MIF19 celebrates diversity in its use of cross-art forms and in its exploration of contemporary preoccupations such as identity and language, borders and migration, the power of collective action, technology and utopian/dystopian prophesies.

Alongside its events, MIF19 will transform Albert Square into the beating heart of the biennial celebration: Festival Square. Here, free live music and DJs will play all day and into the night. Discover sets from the likes of Nitin Sawhney, The Orielles, Black Madonna, Horace Andy, Liines and many more.

There will also be an array of food and drink, from British classics to spicy street food, as well as coffee, cocktails and craft beer.

For the second time, John McGrath is the artistic director and chief executive. He says: “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.”

Going on to emphaise the festival’s strong local roots, he adds: “MIF19 will be a feast of energy, which I hope will inspire debate and delight for the festival’s 18 days and far beyond.”

Big Issue North’s top picks

Tree, created by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah

You as the audience will be at the centre of Elba and Kwei-Armah’s new drama that incorporates music and dance to tell a familiar tale of one man finding his identity by trying to rectify past and present. Kaleo (Alfred Enoch) takes a journey into the heart and soul of contemporary South Africa after a family tragedy forces him to visit the country for the first time. On his journey of healing, Kaleo must confront hidden histories and right the wrongs of the past. But first he must face the present: a shattered family, fighting to hold on to what they believe is theirs, in a nation haunted by the ghosts of its own turbulent past.

29 June-13 July, Upper Campfield Market Hall, £10 Greater Manchester residents on lower wage, £35, £30 previews (29 June-3 July)

Janelle Monáe plus special quests

The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, producer, actor (Moonlight, Hidden Figures), activist and spectacular live performer will perform an exclusive show on the opening night of MIF19. Heralded for bringing afrofuturism and science fiction into R&B and pop, Monáe’s 2018 album Dirty Computer reached the top 10 in the UK and across the pond. She is only playing one other UK tour date this year.

4 July, Castlefield Bowl, £10 Greater Manchester residents on lower wage, £35, £30 concessions

Janelle Monae (JUNO)

MIF19 Opening Event, Bells for Peace, Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono continues her bold life long activism for peace by inviting thousands of diverse voices, from home and abroad, to a people’s orchestra of bells at Cathedral Gardens. Bring your own and join those who have attended sold-out workshops across Greater Manchester to create handcrafted ceramic bells to ring out for peace. “Come and join together to send a message of peace to the world. The beauty of this piece will break the sky and more. Ring for peace! Peace is power!
I love you all,” says Ono.

4 July, Cathedral Gardens, Corporation Street, M4 BG, Free admission

School of Integration, Tania Bruguera

MIF19 will give local people and those who have migrated from countries around the world the opportunity to give free classes to anyone interested in developing new skills. School of Integration is by leading Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera, who says: “By inverting integration policies intended for migrants, I want to create a space for people in Manchester to experience the idea of transculturation as an alternative to traditional assimilation migration policies.”

The new commission seeks to encourage a shift in the responsibility of integration from the immigrant to the wider community by offering a range of classes on languages, culture, ethics, politics and economics, to name a few.

5 July-20 July, 10am- 5pm daily (except 11am-5pm Mon), Manchester Art Gallery. Free

David Lynch at Home

For the duration of MIF19, one of contemporary culture’s most visionary figures, David Lynch, is taking over Home. The 18-day exhibition will delve into the mind of the trailblazing American artist, musician and director of such works as Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. My Head Is Disconnected will be the first major UK exhibition of his paintings, drawings and sculpture. Presented by one of his collaborators, Chrysta Bell, Lynch-inspired musicians will perform a series of one-off live shows. In the cinema: screenings of his most classic movies and rare short films, as well as ones from directors who inspired him.

This week’s Big Issue North features an interview with the man himself.

6-21 July, Home. Free

The Anvil, An Elegy for Peterloo

The Peterloo Massacre, in which 15 people were killed and over 600 injured in a crowd of more than 60,000 non-violent protestors, is a significant moment not just in Manchester’s history but also in Britain’s road to democracy. MIF19 is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the peaceful demonstration for the right to vote through a day of performance, poetry and music.

Composer Emily Howard and Costa Poetry Award-winning writer Michael Symmons Robert will showcase a new piece of music in an elegy to the fallen and a celebration of Manchester city. The Bridgewater Hall will showcase the piece, which will be performed by the BBC Philharmonic and a massed chorus, featuring the BBC Singers and three Hallé choirs.

7 July, 6pm, Bridgewater Hall, £10

Ivo Van Hove (Jan Versweyveld)

Re:Creating Europe

Ivo Van Hove and Juliet Stevenson invite Manchester to reflect on the question: what is Europe? Is it defined geographically or culturally, a concept soon to only be discussed in history books or a thriving reality – or could it be all of the above? Created by Dutch organisations De Balie and ITA, it’s directed by Van Hove and performed by ITA alongside Stevenson and Michael Morpurgo, who will be writing and reading a new piece. The event will incorporate many voices, both past and present – from Shakespeare and Goethe to Churchill and Obama – allowing the audience to grapple with the concept of Europe.

12 July, 8pm-9:30pm, Lyric Theatre, £10 Greater Manchester residents on lower wage, £18, £22, £28, £32, £35, concessions £5 off

Queens of the Electronic Underground, curated by Mary Anne Hobbs 

Five remarkable electronic artists are being brought together by Mary Anne Hobbs (BBC Radio 6 Music) for a night of pioneering sound and mesmeric visuals at the O2 Ritz. The evening will immerse the audience in electronic music through sets by various female artists, including Jlin, Aïsha Devi (featuring Berlin-based visual artist MFO), Holly Herndon, Klara Lewis, Katie Gately and of course Hobbs herself.

20 July, 8pm-2am, 02 Ritz, £10 Greater Manchester residents on lower wage, £22, £17 concessions

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