Manchester International Festival brings artists from 20 countries for world and UK premieres

Manchester International Festival, taking place 4–21 July 2019, has brought together a lineup of artists from 20 countries for UK and world premiers including Yoko Ono, David Lynch, a collaboration between Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, and a rave history tour by grime superstar Skepta among many others.

Highlights of the full lineup include:

  • Yoko Ono opening the festival with BELLS FOR PEACE, which will a huge participation effort with thousands of people.
  • Esoteric director 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 in The 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, featuring interaction and performance, 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 of Peterloo, 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.
  • At Manchester Art Gallery Tania Bruguera, fresh from her Tate Modern commission, invites audiences to join her School of Integration and consider why integration is always the responsibility of the immigrant in a powerful, provocative and inspiring new work.
  • Most of the work has been created especially for the festival and covers subjects as broad and relevant as identity and language, borders and migration, the power of collective action, technology and utopian / dystopian visions of the future.
  • John McGrath, MIF Artistic Director and Chief Executive, 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. Featuring artists from more than 20 countries, the Festival also has strong local roots, with several commissions featuring the people of Manchester as participants. MIF19 will be a feast of energy, which I hope will inspire debate and delight for the festival’s 18 days and far beyond.”
  • At the Whitworth, the half-forgotten history of Ghana, is explored in Parliament of Ghosts, a major installation from artist Ibrahim Mahama.
  • In dance, acclaimed American choreographer Trajal Harrell places Tennessee Williams’ Maggie the Cat (from his classic play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) centre-stage in his magnetic new dance work - a provocative fusion of high art and pop culture, with multiple influences ranging from ancient Greek theatre to the Harlem voguing underground, and a soundtrack that crosses genres, from electro and pop to classical music.
  • Claire Cunningham’s Thank You Very Much looks at identity through the prism of the Elvis tribute artist as the choreographer and her ensemble of leading disabled performers take to the floor in witty and revealing fashion in a new dance work which takes apart the myth of how bodies should be and have been trained to be.
  • Language is also a key preoccupation of acclaimed Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s immersive installation Atmospheric Memory, a series of ‘Atmospheric Machines’ that attempt to ‘materialise sound’ - inspired by computing pioneer Charles Babbage’s proposal that the air is a ‘vast library’ holding every word ever spoken - in a fascinating fusion of daring artwork and sensory performance.
  • The places and spaces of the city become the stage for two immersive works: The Berlin-based company Rimini Protokoll’s Utopolis Manchester is a visionary new work that transforms our view of the city as we discover the people and places that create Manchester’s daily life, in a journey inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia. 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, one of the world’s most playful and provocative art collectives, who come to MIF19 at the invitation of Contact Young Curators.
  • Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ) imagines what life might be like if animals lived with us not as our pets but as our peers in an interactive live art experience created by Hamburg-based artist Sibylle Peters (Theatre of Research) and London’s Live Art Development Agency (LADA), featuring installations, performances and encounters from artists, including Joshua Sofaer and Marcus Coates.
  • With MIF set to operate and create the artistic programme for The Factory, the landmark cultural space being developed in the city, several MIF19 works are presented as pre-Factory events, offering a preview of the range and calibre of work planned. Ivo van Hove, one of the world’s most acclaimed directors, brings his Internationaal Theater Amsterdam ensemble to Manchester to perform The Fountainhead, an adaptation of Ayn Rand’s seminal work, and a major inspiration for libertarians on both sides of the Atlantic. This passionate hymn to individualism is presented alongside another project directed by Van Hove, Re:Creating Europe, which considers the notion of Europe through some of the speeches and texts that have shaped, traced and defined its history.
  • Creative pioneer Laurie Anderson will present To The Moon, an expanded virtual reality work she is developing with the artist Hsin-Chien Huang, featuring a VR experience and an immersive installation. Cape Town-born artist Kemang Wa Lehulere, will be joining us for a Festival-long residency at Manchester Central Library, exploring the city and its libraries as he begins researching and creating a future Festival commission.
  • Sir Mark Elder, Musical Director of the Hallé, and Johan Simons, the acclaimed Dutch theatre director, are also developing a new work for The Factory, inspired by composer Dimitri Shostakovich and the writer Vasily Grossman. They will be discussing this new work before a performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, Leningrad.

Other highlights include a new collaboration between Brooklyn’s Reggie ‘Regg Roc’ Gray (FlexN Manchester at MIF15) and Manchester-based spoken word collective Young Identity; a new iteration of Karl Hyde’s MIF17 hit Manchester Street Poem; and a series of intimate discussions and public debates under the banner of Interdependence, the ideas strand of MIF’s public programme.

My Festival, MIF’s creative engagement programme, will be central to this year’s festival, as it was in 2017. With a year-round programme of activity, including Festival in My House, a series of micro international festivals curated by local people and hosted in their own homes, bursaries for up-and-coming Greater Manchester-based artists supported by Jerwood Arts, and Breathe, a programme blending dance and spoken word for local young people, My Festival is a full-time presence in the city.

MIF works closely with many venues, festivals and 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. For MIF19, the festival has worked with over 30 commissioning partners on eight new shows which will be seen in cities ranging from Hong Kong to Berlin. In addition, over the next six months, MIF projects from Björk, Akram Khan, Thomas Ostermeier, Jeremy Deller, Olafur Eliasson, Wayne McGregor and more will be presented across the globe.

Image: Matthew Placek, copyright Yoko Ono


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