This summer, Festival Square moves to Cathedral Gardens. We’re bringing the party to our new home with loads of incredible – and completely free – gigs for everyone to enjoy. From mellow-yet-cool singer songwriters, to jazz-centric DJs, to orchestral reinterpretations of your favourite music, here are just a few of the acts you can come and see at MIF21 without buying a ticket.
2 July, Festival Square, FREE
Billy Nomates is seriously one to watch, hotly tipped by countless music publications. The Bristolian post-punk artist, AKA Tor Maries, is fresh and direct. Her debut single No is a tribute to forms of resistance both big and small. Her lyrics are simple, but don’t lack bite. See Hippy Elite, where the refrain “hug a tree/for me” pokes fun at what she sees as empty gestures.
5 July, Festival Square, FREE
R&B artist Pip Millett was championed early in her career by Jorja Smith. Now the Stockport-born star is paving her own way, stunning audiences with her soulful music, which is at times politically visceral and always deeply introspective.
6 July, Festival Square, FREE
TYSON is another one to watch in the fast-moving contemporary R&B scene. Her debut EP Pisces Problems, released by the change-making Ladies Music Pub label she co-founded, is currently making waves. You can expect smoky, minimal and super luscious sounds from this London-based creator.
7 July, Festival Square, FREE
Chloe Foy has been a glittering presence on the Manchester music scene for almost a decade, but with this year’s release of her debut LP Where Shall We Begin, she’s stepping fully into the spotlight. Line of Best Fit describes it as a record where ‘sensations run wild’. Her taut but tender songwriting is sure to dazzle live too. Afterwards, the vibes continue with a DJ set from alt-pop legend Jane Weaver.
11 July, Festival Square, FREE
Fronted by singer and flautist Ríoghnach Connolly, Manchester’s Honeyfeet are one of those ‘if you know, then you really know’ acts. Performing on the Manchester scene and beyond for over eight years, the uber-talented musicians combine soul and rock and roll, creating a nostalgic sound that packs a real punch. All topped off with Connolly’s mesmerising vocals. Feel instantly transported.
The Untold Orchestra
2 July, Festival Square, FREE
Bringing to life – and to the stage – the experiences of Black women in the creative industries and society at large, The Untold Orchestra bring their new show to Festival Square. Inspired by the Nina Simone song Four Women, female performers from across the arts – DJ Paulette, poet Shirley May, singer Yemi Bolatiwa and dancer Maisha Kungu and circus performer Serena Marimba – will reimagine what an orchestra can be in the 21st Century.
Watch their previous collaboration with Yemi Bolatiwa, performing Strange Fruit:
8 July, Festival Square, FREE
Jazz trumpeter Matthew Halsall founded Gondwana Records and has been cultivating a thriving contemporary jazz scene in Manchester for years. His music is rich with what Vinyl Chapters calls ‘meditative and organic improvisations’. He’s bringing that discerning ear to Festival Square, headlining with a DJ set which will be as diverse as it is intriguing.
15 July, Festival Square, FREE
Oh yes – we’re getting back in the swing of things! The legendary Manchester club night where anything goes is coming to Festival Square. Experience the very best in Afrobeat, R&B, dancehall, reggaeton and more as long-time friends of Swing Ting, Lovescene, Fox and Joey B take to the decks.
9 July, Festival Square, FREE
If anyone knows, then DJ, broadcaster, label boss, tastemaker BBC Radio1 Xtra and 6 Music stalwart Jamz Supernova knows where the most exciting new music can be found. We’ve handed Jamz the Festival Square keys for the evening, and she’s bringing with her Bristol-based rapper DJ Grove, fresh from her Queer+Black EP, and hotly-tipped junglist Nia Archives.
Here’s a taste of what to expect from Jamz Supernova collaborator Nia Achives:
10 July, Festival Square, FREE
Saturday nights in Festival Square crackle with energy when Homoelectric take over. Legendary Mancunian DJ Luke Unabomber brings his hot and heavy night with sizzling sets from Gina Breeze, House of Ghetto, Will Tramp and Lukas Bugatti late into the night. Perfect summer night hedonism.
Get a taste of what’s to come with this hour-long set from Homoelectric founder Luke Unabomber:
Dave Haslam presents…
12 July, Festival Square, FREE
Documenting the Northern music scene since the 80s, DJ and writer Dave Haslam is bringing us his latest post-punk finds. Downbeat surf from Manchester’s Blanketman and artful awkwardness from Hebden Bridge’s The Lounge Society will fill Festival Square up with jagged riffs and impulsive punk energy.
Watch the video for Blanketman’s anti-surf single Beach Body:
16 July, Festival Square, FREE
Mr Scruff has been Keeping Manchester Unreal for an astonishing 22 years this summer. After the pandemic paused his monthly live sessions, we’re welcoming him back to the city for a six-hour Keep It Unreal takeover of Festival Square on Friday 16 July, in partnership with Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM – joined by a ton of familiar faces like MC Kwasi and Secret Night Gang.
Here’s a little of what you can expect from a Mr Scruff party:
Big People Music
18 July, Festival Square, FREE
We’re letting Big People Music take us home on the final Sunday on the festival, and we’re in safe hands. In collaboration with the inimitable Manny Flavahz, and with their in-house orchestra in tow, they’ll be putting on a live show with huge stars Misha B and Abnormal Sleepz. If it sounds like a showstopper, that’s because it is.
Watch the video for Misha B’s hit Home Run:
Homecoming Live: Online
17 July, Online, FREE
(Also: 17 July, Manchester Central, £22.50, Young MIF £15; lower-waged GM residents £10)
For one night only, we’re teaming up with Lagos’ Homecoming festival to present some of the most exciting artists from Africa and the diaspora – and you can stream it all online for absolutely free (or buy a ticket to attend the live show in person). Founder in 2017 by Grace Ladoja, Skepta and Greatness Dex, Homecoming celebrates a wide variety of African creativity, from music to sport, fashion, art and design. Their MIF takeover features sets from Afrorave star Rema, London’s Midas the Jagaban and Manchester’s-own DJ-producer Anz, all hosted by DJ and broadcaster Julie Adenuga.
Watch the sultry video for Rema’s single Soundgasm:
Lucy Holt is a writer from Manchester.