It’s just seven weeks till the opening of MIF17 and somehow I find myself in Paris, outside Google Labs.  I take it as a great compliment to MIF’s brilliant team of producers that there’s been no sign of a crisis in the many ambitious projects now in rehearsal that would postpone this, rather optimistically scheduled, visit.  I’m here because in the midst of all the excitement and hard work on our 2017 festival, we are also busy preparing for the future – the 2019 Festival which will lead soon after to the opening of The Factory in 2020.  We are talking to a huge range of partners about all of this work – from the world’s great arts companies to the kinds of tech innovators that can help us really make the most of our ambitious new space.  I’ve arrived early at Google Lab (an unusual occurrence for me, but that’s what happens when you start your day with a 5am train to the airport) so I haven’t seen what goes on inside yet, but my understanding is that it’s very much a lab not only for Google but for a range of start ups and independent creatives.  Maybe there are artists of the future for us in there too!

But of course, in our connected world, a trip to Paris doesn’t really interrupt work on all our 2017 projects.  It’s been an incredible week already.  In Manchester we had Thomas Ostermeier shooting film footage in Urmston, Moss Side and Gorton.  New Order were rehearsing their synthesiser orchestra, the artists of The Welcoming Party were training for their schools workshops, Party Skills experts were gathering en masse in the MIF offices for training in the dark arts of apocalyptic Party Planning, and another wonderful Festival in My House took place – the Story Slam Festival in Old Trafford.  Meanwhile in London, the Cotton Panic! creative team were exploring staging ideas, and in France, Boris Charmatz was already several weeks into rehearsals for 10000 Gestures.

We also had interviews for the team of 400+ volunteers who will be at the heart of the MIF17 welcome, a first meeting of some of the ‘chosen few’ who will be on the vast Piccadilly Gardens runway for our opening performance – ‘What Is the City but the People?’ and so much else.

But perhaps the initiative this week that’s most relevant to my Google visit was the MIF Creative 50 – a brand new initiative welcoming 50 emerging and aspiring creatives into the heart of the 2017 festival – inviting them to respond to the MIF programme through their own artforms, while receiving training in digital skills that will allow them to share their responses and ideas online throughout the ‘eighteen extraordinary days’.

This will all be part of a step change this year in our digital offering at MIF – with a live online presence from the Festival throughout the day, every day.  Whether or not you can attend in person  MIF Live will be a unique opportunity to engage with the creative explosion of MIF in a whole new way.  See you there!


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