29 June – 16 July 2017

MIF17 – a picture of the world today

John McGrath, MIF’s Artistic Director and CEO, walks us through the packed and varied programme for this summer’s Manchester International Festival.


If artists help us to see new possibilities, we surely need them now more than ever.

For my first Festival as Artistic Director, I’ve followed the proven but bold MIF formula of inviting around 30 of the world’s most extraordinary artists to come to Manchester and try things they’ve never tried before. We don’t set any rules about the themes or issues they should address, nor do we give instructions about where or when they should present their work. We simply invite them to come and amaze us.

And out of this invitation, a picture of the world emerges. Whether through portraits of Manchester (in our opening show, What Is the City but the People?) and the UK today (Fatherland), or by anticipating the future of our planet (What if Women Ruled the World?), our artists are asking questions about how we got here and where we’re going.

ceremony-featureSome projects this year take journeys as their theme: ToGather, One of Two Stories, or Both, HOME1947 and The Welcoming Party all have travellers at the heart of their very different worlds. Others ask us to imagine the view from a very distant future (Last and First Men, No End to Enderby) – while still others take us into an alternative universe (Party Skills for the End of the World, Dark Matter). Many of these works will be beautiful, while some will be moving and others joyful – and every one of them promises to be thrilling.

I’m very excited by the global reach of this festival. Working in everything from theatre to the visual arts, classical music to digital technology, our artists this year come from cities as diverse as Berlin, New York and Cairo, and from countries as far afield as China, Pakistan and Iceland. We’re presenting new work by truly legendary European figures such as Thomas Ostermeier and Boris Charmatz in Manchester for the first time. And we’re introducing young talents such as Nina Freeman, a Portland, Oregon-based game designer who’s creating our first online-only commission, and Hong-Kong based Samson Young, a rising star of the art world.

Many of these works will be beautiful, while some will be moving and others joyful – and every one of them promises to be thrilling.

We’ll also be celebrating our city – through local icons as diverse as Friedrich Engels and New Order, and through events such as Music for a Busy City. Inspired by the buildings and streets of Manchester this unique project will place brand new music in spaces from Victoria Station to Canal Street, from St Ann’s Square to the corridors of Manchester Town Hall. There’ll be gigs every night in venues across Manchester, including our own Pavilion Theatre, and we’ll even have a mini comedy festival imported from the Welsh town of Machynlleth!

We retg-fally want everyone to feel part of the Festival. There are more free events than ever before. Three major projects at the beginning, middle and end of MIF17 – What Is the City but the People?, ToGather and Ceremony – are all open to everyone. If you fancy being in MIF17, there are a host of ways to join in: just sign up to My Festival, MIF’s new creative community. You can also experience much of the Festival online, through livecasts and lots more at mif.co.uk. And everyone’s welcome at Festival Square, beautifully redesigned for MIF17 by Practice Architecture and the Office for Crafted Architecture, where there’ll be great food and drink, free live music and nightly DJs.

We may be living through strange and challenging times – but a festival is also, always, a moment to spend joyful time together, and to remember how much in our world is truly wonderful. I look forward to seeing you at MIF17 this summer.


Click here to read about the full programme and buy tickets for MIF17, which takes place from 29 June to 16 July 2017.