As the launch of MIF17 draws nearer, John McGrath, MIF’s Artistic Director, looks ahead to a busy and exciting year.

It’s 9 January 2017. In exactly two months’ time, on 9 March, we’ll be announcing the full programme for MIF17. Here at MIF HQ, we’re busy gathering details for the brochure and website, finalising some very important stuff (‘Hey everyone, we don’t seem to have a title for that show!’) and getting stuck into rehearsals and design meetings for all the productions. And yes, there are still last-minute decisions to be made and surprises to be confirmed.

It’s at this point that we start to get a sense of the overall tone and feel of the Festival. As Artistic Director, of course, it’s my job to make sure there’s a good balance in the programme: shows and events for a range of audiences. But as a Festival that first and foremost says to artists from across the world, ‘What would you like to do?’, there’s also a real excitement in seeing what emerges and how the very different projects start to speak to each other.

At this point, I would characterise MIF17 as being about three things: joy, understanding and big ideas. We’ve already announced our joyous opening event: What Is the City But the People?, an explosion of individuality in Piccadilly Gardens under the guiding eye of artist Jeremy Deller. Big ideas range from the political, in Yael Bartana’s strikingly relevant new work What if Women Ruled the World?, to the conceptual, in choreographer Boris Charmatz’s ambitious 10000 Gestures – none repeated, every one unique. And what is Fatherland, our symphony of British men’s voices, other than a bold attempt to understand who we are in this country today?

When you see the full MIF17 programme, I think you’ll agree with me that our artists are usually engaging with one or more of these three questions. And all three feel like things we’ll need a lot more of this year. Whatever your political instincts, I think few people would argue that joy, understanding or big ideas were the hallmarks of 2016. It’s time to change that – in Manchester, and for the world.

“At this point, I would characterise MIF17 as being about three things: joy, understanding and big ideas.”

It will be an extraordinary six months ahead for all of us at MIF as each of these brand new works is created. We hope to see as many of you as possible, not only at the Festival but also along on the journey towards it. Remember that you can join and support the Festival as an MIF Member, which gives you priority booking to all our events – well worth it, especially as quite a few shows have limited capacity.

You can also join My Festival, MIF’s creative community, which will give you a chance to get involved in all sorts of ways – from artist bursaries to our wonderful Festival in My House programme, which has already presented two extraordinary micro-festivals in Levenshulme and Cheetham Hill. You can watch highlights from the first of them in this new video:

 

As I write this blog, I’m looking out of the window at a grey, rainy Manchester day. The news is all awful – bombings, NHS crisis, political drift. And yet the faces on Manchester’s streets don’t look hopeless. Every individual is a statement of style, individuality, culture. Every group is a small society of shared interests and ideas. We face a lot of challenges in the year ahead but we have a lot of creativity with which to face them. I hope that MIF17 will, with its tremendous range of international artists, inspire all of us to imagine new possibilities.

 

The full programme for MIF17 will be announced on this website on 9 March 2017. You can already buy tickets for our first few shows at the MIF online box office.

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