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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


By Steve Cooke

Manchester International Festival returns for 18 extraordinary days (1-18 July), plus new Virtual Factory commissions in the digital realm, an international showcase and collaborations with Manchester’s local creators.

Under The Radar: Inua Ellams & Javaad Alipoor 6-17 January 2021

Manchester International Festival, Arts Council England and The Public Theater will showcase work by Inua Ellams and Javaad Alipoor at New York’s Under The Radar festival (6-17 January 2021), as part of a three-year partnership, that began in 2020, to promote artists and companies based in England to a global audience. Inua Ellams writer of international hit Barber Shop Chronicles will present Borders & Crossings a new work in development about migration (7-10 Jan) and Javaad Alipoor best known for his works incorporating real-time mobile technology, will present an online version of his acclaimed Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran (7-17 Jan).

Virtual Factory: Tai Shani, Robert Yang, Jenn Nkiru February 2021 onwards

Virtual Factory is a series of online commissions by leading international artists inspired by the architecture and concept of The Factory, the landmark new arts venue being built in Manchester which will be MIF’s future home. It launched this summer with the avatar LaTurbo Avedon’s digital intervention Your Progress Will Be Saved on an island in global gaming platform Fortnite Creative.

For the second Virtual Factory commission, in February 2021, Turner Prize winning artist Tai Shani takes inspiration from forgotten histories and stories to craft a new work depicting a dark fantastical world. Coming later in 2021 are projects by the New York City-based game developer and professor of video games, Robert Yang and the British-Nigerian artist and director Jenn Nkiru, whose global reputation was cemented by her work on Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Apeshit video.


Manchester International Festival returns with 18 days of original, new work and special events from across the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture. Staged every two years in Manchester, MIF has commissioned, produced and presented world premieres by artists including Marina Abramović, Damon Albarn, Laurie Anderson, Björk, Jeremy Deller, Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, Elbow, Philip Glass, David Lynch, Wayne McGregor, Steve McQueen, Yoko Ono, Maxine Peake, Punchdrunk, Skepta, and The xx.

Already announced, The Walk will see Little Amal, a 3.5 puppet representing displaced refugee children, begin her 8000km journey to Manchester from Gaziantep in Turkey, across 70 cities, towns and villages throughout Europe, culminating at the opening weekend of MIF21. Festival Square returns in a new location, expect fun-filled days of food, drink and free entertainment. The full programme will be announced in spring 2021.

Festival in My House… And Yours January - May 2021

MIF has been working with and supporting hundreds of Greater Manchester artists throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, from commissions to develop and present work online to Remote Residencies and free regular drop-ins for artists and freelancers.

This continues through 2021 with the return of MIF’s popular micro-festival series Festival In My House, reimagined for the online realm. Each month between January and May, a local collective of artists will present digital events exploring themes ranging from sustainable fashion and organic cookery to theatre and storytelling.

About Manchester International Festival

Manchester International Festival (MIF) was founded as the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events and is an artist-led festival reflecting the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture. The next Festival takes place 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.

MIF will also run The Factory, the new world-class cultural space currently being built in the heart of Manchester and designed by internationally-renowned architects Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture. The Factory will commission, present and produce a year-round programme, featuring new work from the world’s greatest artists and offering a space to make, explore and experiment. Attracting up to 850,000 visitors annually, The Factory will add £1.1 billion to the economy and create 1,500 jobs. Its pioneering programme of skills, training and engagement will benefit local people and the next generation of creative talent from across the city, whilst apprenticeships and trainee schemes are already underway during the construction phase.

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

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