One year out, our Artistic Director and CEO John McGrath looks forward to MIF19.

On Thursday July 4, 2019 at 6pm, Manchester International Festival will return to the spaces and streets of our city for 18 Extraordinary Days!

Sometimes people ask me what I do ‘the rest of the time’. I guess they mean that, since the Festival only takes place once every two years, there must be plenty of time off in between.

Believe it or not that really isn’t true! In fact, this summer, despite having no festival on, we are in one of our busiest periods. Most of the projects for next year have now been chosen, and artists are at the early stages of creation – so things are really gearing up (some of next year’s projects will have been in development for three years by the time they open, but nonetheless the year running up to the opening is usually the most intensive period of making).

Since our artists are international, this work is taking place all over the world and a number of the staff team have been off around the globe in recent months, sorting out creative and technical details as projects begin to take shape. We’ve also been hosting a lot of visits to Manchester by the artists we’ll be working with. Often these visits involve walking around the various venues where the shows might happen. This is fairly straightforward when we’re dealing with theatres and galleries, but often artists are interested in ‘site-specific’ spaces, where art doesn’t regularly take place, and these visits can be a bit more unusual – getting access to semi-abandoned buildings, wandering through tunnels and dodging puddles!

International travel is a crucial part of developing the programme, as well as a great privilege, but I particularly look forward to the visits to the city by artists, as that’s when both they and we start to get a sense of the excitement of the Festival itself. The reputation of Manchester as a great place for artists to work is growing massively, and, while projects are initiated around the globe, artists are increasingly excited about spending time here, researching and rehearsing their work. Several of our 2019 artists were able to visit the Festival during 2017 and came away full of praise for the spirit of the Festival, and the great welcome that Manchester gives. It would be fair to say that our artists are as excited about being here as we are about welcoming them all next July.

As with last year, there will be a big programme of work happening across Manchester in the run up to MIF19. Our much-praised programme of ‘micro-festivals’ created and curated by local residents, ‘Festival in My House’, will be expanding across Greater Manchester this year; and in the city itself, ‘Festival in My Neighbourhood’ will take things to the next level. We’ll be working with Manchester’s up and coming artists to provide fellowships and placements – supporting the development of international perspectives in the Manchester art scene – and we’ll be recruiting hundreds of volunteers and participants across our many and varied projects. If you’d like to find out more about opportunities, take a look at the website and come along to the My Festival Socials we’ll be holding throughout the year.

This year there’ll be even more activity aimed at ensuring as many people from across the city have the chance to get involved in MIF in the run up to the Festival, including events for children and families. This week, for example, we are thrilled to be bringing one of Europe’s most exciting theatre companies, Studio ORKA from Belgium, to present their beautiful show INUK to children and families in North Manchester.

Of course, while all this is going on, we’re also looking forward to seeing The Factory emerge on the horizon of the city – where we’ll be creating and presenting extraordinary work year round . You’ll be seeing ‘Pre-Factory’ activity – a taste of things to come – this autumn (look out for more announcements soon) and during the Festival, though the Factory isn’t due to open until late 2020.

For now though, I’m particularly looking forward to a very sunny day on July 4 next year at 6pm, when – as in ‘What is the City but the People’, our 2017 opening ­– the city will gather together to celebrate its spirit, its internationalism, and its creativity, in a special event created by a very special artist. And then there’s the next 17 (equally sunny!) days, filled with work by the most exciting and original creative spirits from around the world. From Japan to Iceland, from Mexico City to New York, from Africa to India, artists will be coming here to share their newest work with us – shows, performances, and art works never seen before anywhere in the world. I guess I’d better get back to work and help make sure it’s all ready in time!

– John McGrath

 

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