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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


At last! Something for us all to look forward to as we tentatively find our live performance legs with the opportunity to celebrate our wonderful creatives!

Festival Square, the hub of the Festival in the heart of the city, returns 2-18 July in a new COVID-19 safe seated format in Cathedral Gardens with a free daily programme of Greater Manchester talent.

With over 100 performers from Greater Manchester, highlights include: Abnormal Sleepz, Akemi Fox, Blanketman, Caoilfhionn Rose, Cheddar Gorgeous, Chloe Foy, Ellysse Mason, Honeyfeet, Kat Brown Sugar, LayFullstop, Lovescene, Matthew Halsall, Pip Millett, Porij, SheBeKeke, Swing Ting, The Untold Orchestra, OneDa and lots more.

Following a public callout for Manchester-based performers earlier this year, 30 acts from Greater Manchester have been selected to perform during the Festival alongside hundreds of artists from across the region and beyond.

Residents from across Greater Manchester will take over Festival Square for Our City Our Festival on Saturday 3 July - a free day-long event of music, conversations, performances and participatory activities, celebrating the diversity and talent within Greater Manchester communities.

From 12-2pm every Saturday and Sunday there will be free family activities on Festival Square including family friendly gigs and craft workshops.

Artists including Afrodeutsche, Norman Jay and Lou Rhodes of Lamb will play and discuss the music that has had an impact on their life, in MIF’s Records of Reflection series.

As part of the Festival's online offer MIF have partnered with United We Stream to broadcast live performances direct from the Square.

Rivca Burns, Festival Square Producer at MIF said, “Festival Square is back once again as a showcase of what Manchester has to offer the world. Being able to bring such a wide array of incredibly talented and diverse musicians to our three stages in Cathedral Gardens this year is such an honour and a true reflection of this city. We hope that Festival Square will provide a safe and free space where anyone feels welcome to reconnect and celebrate.”

John McGrath, Artistic Director of MIF said, “Safety has been at the heart of our planning from the outset and we’re delighted to be able to invite audiences to come together on Festival Square with Covid-19 measures in place for a safe and joyous celebration of the extraordinary talent from Greater Manchester and the UK. We’re also delighted to partner with United We Stream to extend our reach to those who can’t be there in person.”

Live music highlights on Festival Square include: folk-pop artist Chloe Foy (Wed 7 July) who returns to Festival Square after a stand out performance in 2019; R&B artist Akemi Fox (Mon 5 July), folk-hop band Honeyfeet (Sun 11 July), soul singer Pip Millett (Mon 5 July), R&B artist TYSON (Tues 6 July), and post-punk songwriter Billy Nomates (Tues 13 July).

The Untold Orchestra will present a tribute to Nina Simone’s Four Women (Fri 2 July) in a unique piece exploring the experiences of Black women within the creative industries and society at large, and will be joined by DJ Paulette, poet Shirley May, vocalist Yemi Bolatiwa, dancer Maisha Kungu and contemporary circus performer Seren Marimba.

Residents from across Greater Manchester host a takeover for Our City Our Festival, (Sat 3 July) a free day-long event of music, conversations, performances, participatory activities and more celebrating the diversity and talent within Greater Manchester communities. Performers and curators include men’s community choir Chorus of Others, music and performing arts youth group KYSO and Muslim community radio station Heritage Radio alongside performances presented by MIF’s Neighbourhood Organisers, selected from their local areas.

Manchester’s legendary spoken word night One Mic Stand returns (Sat 17 July) with ten spoken word artists including Ella Otomewo, Billie Meredith, Isaiah Hull, and Jardel Rodrigues.

Bringing together spoken word and music, Dave Haslam presents a showcase of Mancunian record label Griot City Records in The Griot City Experience (Sun 4 July) including DJs and performers Werkha, SheBeKeke and Reece Willams. Dave Haslam also presents two further nights of specially curated artists from Manchester and beyond including Lounge Society, Blanketman, (Mon 12 July) DJ Mark Rae and Lovescene (Wed 14 July).

Also curating this year, legendary Manchester DJ and producer Mr Scruff presents a night of performances (Fri 16 July) from across the UK including Rebecca Vasmant and Secret Night Gang, ending the night with a special B2B DJ set with hip hop pioneer Mikey D.O.N. Gender queer dancehall vocalist and producer, Grove brings their Black, queer and feminist sounds to Manchester as part a curated line up by DJ and broadcaster Jamz Supernova (Fri 9 July). And in an epic Festival Square finale (Sun 18 July) Manchester creative agency Big People Music presents Misha B and Abnormal Sleepz performing with the Big People Music Orchestra plus special guest DJ sets from some of Manchester's best.

Across four nights BBC Music Introducing selects four of Manchester’s rising stars: singer, songwriter and producer Caoilfhionn Rose (Thurs 8 July), electro dance music quartet Porij (Sat 10 July), singer songwriter Ellysse Mason (Sun 11 July) and R&B artist Femi Tahiru (Thurs 15 July). Also presenting some of the finest young emerging talent in the city, multi award winning online radio station Reform Radio and long-time collaborators Thirty Pound Gentleman present nine performances from afrobeat to French electro, over three days (9,13,17 July).

Fabaret returns (Sat 17 July), curated by Greg Thorpe, supported by Superbia (Manchester Pride), with a celebratory showcase of Manchester-based LGBTQ+ artists including drag legend Cheddar Gorgeous, dancer and choreographer Jason Andrew Guest, performance duo Tom Yum Sim and spoken word artist Taylor Le Fin.

Bringing the party atmosphere, Manchester’s infamous LGBTQ+ club night Homoelectric also returns for one night only (Sat 10 July) with DJ sets from residents alongside performances from House of Ghetto. The legendary DJ Mix-Stress of RebeccaNeverBecky presents a night of forgotten Sunday jams in her new concept Queer Latifah (Sun 11 July) in collaboration with DJ Deb Jump. And Manchester record label Swing Ting host a take over (Thurs 15 July) with MCs, DJs and live performances from residents and special guests including Tai Chi Rose, Tarsza and Samrai.

Further DJ sets include DJ Paulette (Fri 2 July), Konny Kon (Sunday 4 July), Kat Brown Sugar (Tues 6 July), Jane Weaver (Wed 7 July), Matthew Halsall (Thurs 8 July), Kath McDermott (Sat 17 July) and High Hoops (Sat 17 July).

And for the first time, select performances on Festival Square will be live in people’s homes all over the world via United We Stream, Greater Manchester’s world leading cultural streaming platform set up by Stream GM to support the city region’s night time economy, cultural organisations and charities.

Marie-Claire Daly, StreamGM Co-Founder said, “Festival square is always one of the highlights of the Festival, giving people the opportunity to come together and enjoy amazing talent from Greater Manchester and beyond in a fun, relaxed way. StreamGM is thrilled to be partnering with MIF to bring the brilliant Festival square line-up and atmosphere into peoples’ homes across the globe.”

Manchester International Festival (MIF) will take place safely in indoor and outdoor locations across Greater Manchester from 1-18 July. It features a vibrant programme of original new work from across the spectrum of visual and performing arts and music by artists from over 20 countries.

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