What a wonderful day this has been already, and it’s only 3 o’clock!  I’ve spent the day so far meeting and greeting artists and production teams arriving in Manchester from around the world.  We’ve said hello to the cast of The Welcoming Party in the 1830s Warehouse at the Museum of Science and Industry, to the cast of Fatherland at the Royal Exchange Theatre, and to both What if Women Ruled the World? and 10000 Gestures at Mayfield Depot (the photo here is of the seating just installed for the performance of 10000 Gestures).  Most of these casts have been rehearsing for weeks in locations across the world, but today they are all in sunny Manchester, ready to open the festival in less than two weeks’ time.

Talking to each of the companies, I’m reminded what an incredibly exciting and unique thing MIF is.  When I explain to everyone that the Festival is focussed almost entirely on brand new work and that over 25 other performances and creations are at exactly the same point as theirs are – almost ready, but not quite!! – I see everyone’s eyes pop open at the sheer scale and risk of what we’re doing.

Its utterly thrilling as Artistic Director to rush from one ‘almost ready’ project to the next. At the end of last week I was at both the Whitworth gallery and Manchester Art Gallery where ToGather and True Faith are being installed.  True Faith is mainly a building site at the moment, as the main artworks arrive this week, but ToGather is looking truly beautiful – Susan Hefuna’s delicate drawings and paintings, and her bold, witty sculptures look wonderful in the Whitworth’s big central galleries.

Meanwhile other artists have been here in Manchester a while already working on their ideas. Phil Collins has arrived back form a journey across Europe with his statue of Engels – and is working hard on the amazing ‘live film’ of the statue’s inauguration with will be MIF’s closing ‘Ceremony’. Meanwhile Nigel and Louise are building the most unexpected audience journey through the corridors and tunnels of their building in Salford, and concocting the most gloriously crazy activity for the Party at the End of the World!  And our opening event, What Is the City but the People?, is taking a wonderful shape – with an extraordinary group of Manchester individuals getting ready to walk our giant runway through Piccadilly Gardens. See you there on June 29th at 6.30pm for the start of it all!

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