Spotlight on: Manchester International Festival’s music legacy

Music has been an integral part of MIF from the start.

Last month we announced the appointment of Jane Beese as our Head of Music, a new role which builds on this legacy, and reflects the importance that music will have at The Factory – the new world-class arts venue which will be our future home.

As we look forward to this exciting new chapter, we took a look back at some our highlights from over the past few years…

In 2005 MIF launched with Gorillaz Demon Days Live, a trailblazer that showed the type of work that the Festival would go on to produce.

Silhouette of musicians agains a colour blocked background

The show, a live performance of a 2D band, featured the Gorillaz performing live with specially created visuals from Creative Director Jamie Hewlett, alongside guest performances from Manchester Gospel Choir, a 30-piece children’s choir, Neneh Cherry, Trugoy and Posdnuos from De La Soul, Roots Manuva, Ike Turner, Martina Topley-Bird and Happy MondaysShaun Ryder.

After Demon Days Live, Damon Albarn returned to create Monkey: Journey to the West for MIF07; wrote and starred in Dr Dee, and created the music for a – a reworking of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the digital age.


In 2015, on the site where The Factory is being built, we worked with the phenomenal FKA twigs on her Soundtrack 7 residency. Audiences saw twigs and team working together to create seven new dance pieces in response to new music, culminating in a performance at the end of the week and a 35-minute film.


New Order and students from RNCM on stage designed by Liam Gillick

New Order + Liam Gillick So it goes.. at Manchester International Festival 2017 credit Jon Super

Also on the site of The Factory, New Order took over Stage 1 of Manchester’s iconic Old Granada Studios for a special series of intimate shows, created in collaboration with visual artist Liam Gillick, and composer-arranger Joe Duddell.

For New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes.., the group deconstructed, rethought and rebuilt a wealth of material from throughout their career: familiar and obscure, old and new. Performing it live, they were joined by a 12-strong synthesiser ensemble from the Royal Northern College of Music, with Joe Duddell providing the orchestrations.

Inspired by this reinvention of the band’s catalogue, Liam Gillick transformed the historic Stage 1 into an immersive environment, creating a stage set that reacted dynamically to the music.


Collaboration has always been a big focus for MIF and music is a vital part of that. From Jamie xx creating the music for Tree of Codes, a contemporary ballet choreographed by Wayne McGregor; Karl Hyde co-authoring Fatherland with Simon Stephens and Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham and working as co-composer with Matthew Herbert; Anna Clyne reworking The Marble Index for MIF19’s The Nico Project and Jlin creating the soundtrack for online game Songs of the Lost.


In 2018 we took over Mayfield Depot for a series of pre-Factory events with a line-up curated by Mary Anne Hobbs that featured Bonobo’s Outlier series, two unique homecoming shows from Bugzy Malone and an immense live set from Bicep. These one-off nights set the scene for the scale of events that will take place at The Factory’s 5000 capacity warehouse.

The Factory is a world-class cultural space being developed in the heart of Manchester. Building on the success of MIF, it will commission and present the world’s most exciting artists, attracting up to 850,000 visitors a year. Music will be presented at The Factory alongside many other artforms, including dance, theatre, opera, visual arts, popular culture and innovative contemporary work incorporating the latest digital technologies.

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