Manchester International Festival looks to the future after biggest year

As 2019 comes to a close and we look ahead to 2020, the team at Manchester International Festival are reflecting on a successful year and excited by what’s to come in the new decade.

This year’s festival - the second led by our Artistic Director John McGrath - was the biggest yet, with more than 1,000 ticketed events, ranging from dance, theatre, music and visual arts, to site-specific performance and immersive installations.

Over 18 wonderful days in July, there were more than 300,000 visitors drawn from over 40 countries. Amongst many highlights, they had the chance to experience work created by artists including Laurie Anderson, Tania Bruguera, Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott, David Lynch, Ibrahim Mahama, Janelle Monáe, Yoko Ono, Maxine Peake and Skepta. And as well as the art, MIF19 delivered an economic impact of £50m.

The new look Festival Square hosted a fabulously lively and eclectic free programme of live music, DJs and other entertainment, attracting around 165,000 visitors. Local people and Manchester-based artists also played a key role in MIF19, with a record-breaking 507 volunteers, and almost 6,000 people getting involved in artistic work and key commissions.

But now, we’re looking ahead to the future, one that sees MIF become more evidently a year-round operation – as opposed to one that people are used to seeing solely as a festival that happens every two years. Not only are we planning for the next festival (1-18 July 2021), we’re also planning for the opening of The Factory, the UK’s major new cultural space being built right here in the heart of Manchester.

Designed by Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture, The Factory is where the art of the future will be made. At 13,300 square metres - the length of a passenger jet - its vast size and uniquely flexible design will provide space for artists to make new work of unprecedented ambition and scale, which they might not be able to do anywhere else. The Factory will be the permanent home of MIF, which will commission and present everything from major exhibitions and epic concerts, to intimate performances and immersive experiences, including dance, theatre, music, visual arts, popular culture and innovative work incorporating the latest digital technologies. As with MIF, new work premiered at The Factory will go on to travel internationally.

The Factory is backed by Manchester City Council and HM Treasury and builds on MIF’s success and will play a key role in the life of the city, bringing 1,500 full time jobs and adding up to £1.1 billion to Manchester’s economy over a decade. Its pioneering programme of skills, training and engagement will benefit local people and the next generation of creative talent.

Even as we prepare for The Factory (and for MIF21), we’re continuing our series of pre-Factory events, giving audiences opportunities to experience the breadth of work and the variety of artists that could be presented there. Pre-Factory commissions that have already taken place include Akram Khan’s Giselle, Thomas Ostermeier’s Returning to Reims and Available Light by composer John Adams, choreographer Lucinda Childs and architect Frank Gehry. Pre-Factory events at MIF19 included Invisible Cities, a co-commission between MIF, 59 Productions and Rambert; Ivo Van Hove’s The Fountainhead; and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Atmospheric Memory.

A lot of work commissioned for MIF is also being seen by audiences in cities across the globe. This includes MIF15’s Tree of Codes (Wayne McGregor, Olafur Eliasson, Jamie xx), which was presented in Paris recently, four years after its Manchester world premiere. Other cities it has been seen in are Aarhus, London, Melbourne, New York, Hong Kong, Sydney and others. Akram Khan’s Giselle, the first full-length ballet choreographed by the dancer and choreographer, is another MIF commission that has proved extraordinarily successful, with further shows overseas in Barcelona and Paris in 2020.

Several MIF19 commissions are already touring internationally. Tao of Glass, written and performed by acclaimed theatre director Phelim McDermott, with music by the legendary composer Philip Glass, will feature at Perth Festival in February 2020. Invisible Cities (59 Productions, Rambert) went to Brisbane Festival and The Nico Project to Melbourne Arts Festival.

A Russian language reworking pf of Rimini Protokoll’s MIF19 Utopolis Manchester has been presented as part of the Theatre Olympics in St Petersburg. Maggie the Cat, the first part of choreographer Trajal Harrell’s trilogy Porca Miseria, which premiered at MIF19, is set to be staged with the other two parts during the Holland Festival in June 2020. As well as success at MIF19 and at National Theatre of Scotland, choreographer Claire Cunningham’s Thank You Very Much has been seen in Düsseldorf and like other MIF19 work is set to be staged in other cities.

These are just a few examples of MIF work that has gone on to be seen around the world – almost 1.4 million people have now seen MIF commissions overseas, in 30 countries across five continents.

Another unique collaboration with Björk has seen the production of her extraordinary multimedia exhibition, Björk Digital, which was created specifically to tour and has been seen in São Paulo this June, after successful runs in Barcelona, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Montreal, Moscow, Sydney and Tokyo,

As MIF prepares for The Factory, not only are we ‘Made in Manchester’, we are a global presence, helping put the city on the international map. With much more to come, look out for announcements throughout 2020, #MIF #TheFactoryMCR


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