Stephen and Jane Sorrell joined the inaugural MIF Commissioning Circle in 2013, and are still members of the circle for MIF17. Here, the pair talks to us about their journey to the heart of MIF’s creative process.

We’re both really into the arts, so MIF has been great for us – there have been so many weird and wonderful things to experience. We started out as regular donors, but we were so impressed with shows such as The Pianist, at the first Festival in 2007, that we wanted to be more involved. So for MIF13, we joined the Commissioning Circle.

Philanthropic giving and sponsorship these days are much more about engagement rather than just going along to a press night and hoping for the best, and we have to say the whole process at MIF is so enjoyable. When you see a finished show you’ve been following, there’s a real sense of pride and ownership. It means a lot more because you’ve understood the depth of work that’s gone into the production.

You can genuinely build a relationship with the creative team as they put together their show – and you get back what you put in. You might get a call saying, ‘Can you come to a rehearsal in London tomorrow?’ The more flexible you can be, the more you’re able to experience.

It’s important to recognise that it isn’t just about paying money to have access to famous people. For us, it’s more about supporting the arts in Manchester and making sure these really exciting projects actually happen. A by-product of that for us is tickets, obviously, but we also get real insights into the creative process.

There’s also a sense that we’re supporting something that is really valuable for the city from a cultural and business perspective. MIF has raised the bar, not only in terms of the level of ambition but also in what audiences now expect. We’ve brought clients and friends from outside the city to shows – they’ve just been blown away by the buzz in Manchester when the Festival is on.

Members of the Commissioning Circle have formed friendships with one other. There’s a real camaraderie, and that extends to the Festival team itself. The Commissioning Circle works at its very best when the artists and creative teams interact with us because they can see how interested we are in what they’re doing. That relationship genuinely feels like a partnership – we don’t call it the ‘magic circle’ for nothing.

Official partners

Public sector partners

Media partners

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