• Manchester International Festival (MIF), returns from 1-18 July with a vibrant programme of original new work from across the spectrum of visual and performing arts and music by artists from over 20 countries
  • Artists include Angélique Kidjo, Akram Khan, Arlo Parks, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Boris Charmatz, Cerys Matthews, Christine Sun Kim, Cillian Murphy, Deborah Warner, Forensic Architecture, Ibrahim Mahama, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Laure Prouvost, Marta Minujín, Lemn Sissay and Patti Smith
  • Events will take place safely in indoor and outdoor locations across Greater Manchester, including the first ever work on the construction site of The Factory, the landmark cultural space that will be MIF’s future home
  • A rich online offer will provide a window into the Festival wherever audiences are, including livestreams and work created especially for the digital realm
  • With almost all the work created in the past year, MIF21 provides a unique snapshot of these unprecedented times. Artists have reflected on ideas such as love and human connections, the way we play, division and togetherness, equality and social change, and the relationship between the urban and the rural
  • For the first time, the curation of the Festival’s talks and discussions programme has been handed over to local people, building on MIF’s work involving the community as artistic collaborators and participants in work shaped by them
  • Festival Square returns in new location Cathedral Gardens with a packed programme of food, drink and free live music, DJs and more
  • As one of the first major public events in the city, MIF21 will play a key role in the safe reopening of the city’s economy and provide employment for hundreds of freelancers and artists
  • Much of the programme will be free to attend, with more work than ever in public spaces around the city
  • Tickets will be on sale on from 20 May 2021 and can be purchased from

Manchester International Festival Artistic Director & Chief Executive, John McGrath says: “MIF has always been a Festival like no other – with almost all the work being created especially for us in the months and years leading up to each Festival edition.  But who would have guessed two years ago what a changed world the artists making work for our 2021 Festival would be working in?”

MIF21 programme:

A series of works in public spaces around the city includes, on the Festival’s opening night, a new outdoor dance work by French choreographer Boris Charmatz (10000 Gestures MIF19). Sea Change will fill Deansgate with a chain of professional and non-professional dancers – including more than 150 local residents – each performing and repeating a dance movement on the spot in a joyous celebration of togetherness in a post-Covid world.

Opera and Theatre director Deborah Warner will unveil a new sound and light installation, Arcadia, created specifically for the site of The Factory. Due to be completed later next year, the new landmark cultural space, designed by internationally-renowned architects OMA, will be the permanent home of MIF. For one weekend only, audiences will be invited to wander through a field of luminous tents housing a murmuring soundscape of poetry inspired by the natural world: from Sappho to Simon Armitage and from William Blake to Sabrina Mahfouz, featuring recorded contributions from leading actors and musicians including Simon Russell Beale, RoxXxan, Jane Horrocks, Brian Cox, Lionness, David Thewlis, and many others.

At the Whitworth, a major exhibition that coincides with the tenth anniversary of Forensic Architecture, Cloud Studies

An eclectic music programme spans internationally-acclaimed artists and homegrown talent including a special one-off concert from the singer-songwriter Arlo Parks who will be performing with musicians from Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music; two nights of performances from the incomparable poet, musician and activist Patti Smith; and a partnership with Homecoming, the Lagos-based festival of African creativity, music, fashion, sport, politics and art – the first event in a long-term relationship with Homecoming, a cultural exchange between Nigeria and Manchester with events leading up and at The Factory.

Journey deep into Manchester’s Hip Hop underground – with a packed line-up taking in everything from urban pioneers to emerging grassroots talent in collaboration with Unity Radio and Manchester Hip Hop Archive; emerging Islamic culture festival Salaam will showcase the music talent of singer Abi Sampa, kora virtuoso Sona Jobarteh and poet Muneera Williams; and Manchester Camerata will perform a site-specific concert called The Patience of Trees, featuring a newly commissioned concerto for solo violin, strings and percussion by Dobrinka Tabakova and performed by Hugo Ticciati, inspired by the healing potential and power of the natural world.

Festival Square returns in the new location of Cathedral Gardens designed by the architects Hawkins\Brown. The hub of the Festival in the centre of the city, audiences can expect fun-filled days of food, drink and free entertainment. Expect curated nights from Jamz Supernova, Homoelectric, Mr Scruff and DJ Paulette along with many more artists and performers from across the UK.

As ever there will be a range of artists in residence during this festival – both in Manchester and online – developing ideas for The Factory and future editions of MIF.

As part of their 200th anniversary celebrations, The Guardian will co-host a keynote lecture on the opening night of MIF. One of the world’s most progressive and groundbreaking artists will explore the urgent themes of our time through the lens of ‘work in progress’, followed by a Q&A.

MIF’s online channel MIF LIVE will return for the Festival, following the success of the free programme for audiences at home during lockdown. A rich online offer will include a mix of performance, live music, exclusive interviews, and a range of commentary and talks, providing a window into the Festival and giving audiences the opportunity to interact and engage with MIF wherever they are in the world.

Online audiences will also be able to visit the Virtual Factory – a major series of online artworks inspired by the architecture and the ambition of the building – which include a playable interpretation of The Factory in Fortnite Creative. Premiering during MIF21, artist, writer and game designer Robert Yang has created a queer video game which explores gender, sexuality, gardening and society.

The Walk, is a major production from Good Chance, in association with Handspring Puppet Company, which will enact the journey of a nine-year-old refugee girl in the form of a giant living artwork. Originally due to conclude during MIF21, MIF will be marking the start of Little Amal’s journey from the Turkish-Syrian border in a special ceremony in July 2021, before welcoming her to the city for the finale event later in the year.

With the creative community seriously affected by the COVID-19 crisis, MIF has been supporting local artists and creatives in a number of ways including selecting five Greater Manchester artists for Creative Fellowships which provide mentor support, a £3,000 bursary, and opportunities to shadow the creation of major Festival productions. MIF has also been supporting those involved in Manchester’s music scene through MIF Sounds, providing funding and professional guidance, and is a major partner in the Independent Artist Initiative – supporting independent artists and companies in Greater Manchester to develop and share their work across the summer, including during the festival.

Tickets will be on sale on from 20 May 2021 and can be purchased from

About Manchester International Festival

Manchester International Festival (MIF) is an artist-led festival of original, new work and special events reflecting the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture. MIF21 takes place from 1 – 18 July 2021.

Staged every two years in Manchester, MIF has commissioned, produced and presented world premieres by artists including Marina Abramović, Damon Albarn, Laurie Anderson, Björk, Boris Charmatz, Jeremy Deller, Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, Elbow, Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott, David Lynch, Wayne McGregor, Steve McQueen, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Yoko Ono, Thomas Ostermeier, Maxine Peake, Punchdrunk, Skepta, The xx, Robert Wilson and Zaha Hadid Architects.

These and other world-renowned artists from different art forms and backgrounds create dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking new work, staged in venues across Greater Manchester – from theatres, galleries and concert halls to railway depots, churches and car parks. MIF works closely with venues, festivals and other cultural organisations globally, whose financial and creative input helps to make many of these projects possible and ensures that work made at MIF goes on to be seen around the world.

MIF supports a year-round Creative Engagement programme, bringing opportunities for people from all backgrounds, ages and from all corners of the city to get involved during the Festival and year-round, as volunteers, as participants in shows, through skills development and a host of creative activities, such as Festival in My House.

MIFwill also run The Factory, the new landmark cultural space currently being built in the heart of Manchester and designed by the internationally-renowned architect Ellen van Loon of Rem Koolhaas’ OMA. The Factory will commission, present and produce one of Europe’s most ambitious and adventurous year-round creative programmes, featuring bold new work from the world’s greatest artists and offering a space to create, invent and play.

MIF’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive is John McGrath.



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