Racing towards MIF17

We’re launching the first MIF17 projects today – and John McGrath, MIF’s CEO & Artistic Director, is here to run you through the programme.


One of the things that most amazes me about an athlete like Mo Farah is that having produced the run of a lifetime to win the Olympic 5,000m final, he immediately goes back and starts again on the 10,000m! Working at MIF can sometimes feel like training with Mo Farah…

Since the start of the year, we’ve been putting together an extraordinary programme of work by an extraordinary range of artists from across the world for MIF17. We’ve just about got the programme planned now. But unlike other festivals, where the work already exists, all of MIF’s work is new – so we’re now heading straight back on to the track to turn our artists’ ideas into reality.

Today, though, we’re allowing ourselves a bit of a celebration. We’re sneak-previewing four of the pieces that will feature in MIF17, and are also launching an ambitious programme of work with Manchester’s artists and communities.

The four pieces we’ve chosen to reveal are among those that have been in development the longest. They feature a range of artists, many new to MIF, who are responding to the world around us in invigorating ways.

One work feels particularly urgent this week. Yael Bartana’s What if Women Ruled the World? will bring together some of the world’s leading female politicians, scientists, campaigners and thinkers in a semi-fictional scenario inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant film Dr Strangelove. Each night, a new group of experts, joined by a core of professional actors – ten women and just one man – will attempt to solve an urgent world problem as the clock ticks towards destruction.

By contrast, Fatherland – a collaboration between director Scott Graham, musician Karl Hyde (of the legendary Underworld) and writer Simon Stephens – explores the world of men in the UK today, with text based on a series of interviews about fatherhood and a soundtrack that will shake the walls of the Royal Exchange’s beautiful building. A physical opera of searing beauty.

Two other pieces focus much more on the fun and eccentricity of life. The great French choreographer Boris Charmatz is creating 10000 Gestures, an extraordinary work in which a cast of 25 dancers will move for 90 minutes without ever repeating a single movement. Try doing that for even five minutes – it’s almost impossible to walk!

And in What Is the City but the People?, the people of Manchester will choose a series of unique individuals to walk a huge fashion runway built through the centre of Piccadilly Gardens. Conceived by the great artist Jeremy Deller, who many of you will remember from Procession at MIF09, this unique self-portrait by the city will open MIF17. A joyous, public celebration, it will be open to everyone for free – with no tickets required.

This openness will be a key feature of MIF17. Today, we’re also announcing a big new programme of work for Manchester’s artists and communities: My Festival, a year-round opportunity for you to be involved in creative activity, training and exchange with the MIF team and other creative citizens in the city. For Festival in My House, part of My Festival, each month a Manchester household will be chosen to produce and host their own micro-international festival in their home for their neighbours! Also today and also part of My Festival, we’re announcing the Jerwood Creative Fellowships, where six Manchester artists and creatives will be given bursaries to observe and learn from the creators of some of MIF17’s most ambitious projects.

I hope everyone enjoys this snapshot of MIF17. The full range of work, with some very exciting surprises, will be announced on Thursday 9 March 2017. In the meantime, I’d better get back to developing these projects to make sure they’re ready for the start of MIF17 on 29 June 2017. It’s also time to start work on the programme for MIF19 – I guess Mo Farah runs the marathon, too!


John McGrath is the CEO and Artistic Director of MIF.



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