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Ten things you won’t want to miss at the Manchester International Festival 2017

Andrzej Lukowski

As of today, Thursday June 29, 2017, the Manchester International Festival is go for another edition, the first under new artistic director John McGrath. Here are our picks of the dizzyingly exciting line-up.

What is the City but the People?

No city celebrates itself with half the charm of Manchester, so what better way to kick off MIF 2017 than this artwork – credited simply to The People of Manchester – in which Mancunians themselves become the exhibit, striding across a 100m+ raised runway through Piccadilly Gardens to the strains of live music from 808 State’s Graham Massey and various local musicians.

NB It’s a free event, though you can pay £5 to reserve a good spot to watch it from.

Piccadilly Gardens, Thu Jun 29

Party Skills for the End of the World

This site-specific show from cult artists Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari – of the legendary Shunt collective – plus Abigail Conway is an immersive adventure in which you’ll learn to celebrate life, even as it all ends.

Centenary Building, Salford, Until Jul 16

∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif): New Order + Liam Gillick: So It Goes…

One of Manchester’s greatest bands revisit their past in this fascinating experiment that bungs them on Stage One of the Old Granada Studios and backs them with visuals from artist Gillick and – most intriguingly – a 12-strong synthesiser ensemble from the Royal Northern College of Music. We’re promised ‘familiar and obscure, old and new’ material.

NB Officially sold out, but at time of going to press there were actually some to buy online.

Old Granada Studios, Thu Jun 29-Jul 15

Dark Matter

‘Immersive’ is very much the watchword at this year’s MIF. Curated by Mary Anne Hobbs, ‘Dark Matter’ is a special strand of musical programming in which lighting designer Stuart Bailes creates special, bespoke environments for a variety of pioneering artists, ranging from local MC/DJ/producer crew LEVELz (Thu Jun 29) to cloaked drone overlords Sunn 0))).

O2 Ritz, Thu Jun 29-Jul 15


The hugely successful Stockport-born playwright Simon Stephens teams up with physical theatre ensemble Frantic Assembly and Underworld’s Karl Hyde for a ‘daring collage of words, music and movement’ on the theme of contemporary fatherhood.

Royal Exchange Theatre, Sat Jul 1-Jul 22

The World Was Once All Miracle

This year is the centenary of Anthony Burgess, a famous son of Manchester best known as the writer of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ but also a prolific composer. ‘The World was Once All a Miracle’ is a song cycle put together by Raymond Yiu and combines text from six Burgess poems with a selection of his music, plus, of course, Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No 8’.

Bridgewater Hall, Jul 4

What If Women Ruled the World?

Balancing out a fairly masculine MIF line-up, Yael Bartana’s ‘What if Women Ruled the World?’ is an artwork that riffs on the all-male war room scene of ‘Dr Strangelove’ to present an all-female war room in which 11 women – a mix of performers and real-life scientists, politicians, activists and thinkers – join forces to debate the most pressing issues of the day. Directed by Royal Court boss Vicky Featherstone.

Mayfield, Jul 5-8

Returning to Reims

A massive coup for MIF, as the artistic director of Berlin’s revered Schaubühne ensemble Thomas Ostermeier adapts and directs French philosopher Didier Eribon’s acclaimed memoir. In it, an actress – Nina Hoss – tapes a documentary voiceover based on ‘Returning to Reims’ and reflects on how Eribon’s experiences of returning to his working class community and seeing his family shift political allegiance reflects her own.

HOME, Jul 5-14

Cotton Panic! (pictured above)

This multigenre show from Jane Horrocks, Nick Vivian and Wrangler, featuring Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire, deals with the little remembered but devastating effect of the US Civil War on the textile industry of northern England and the way in which British workers stood in solidarity with US slaves by refusing to accept Southern cotton. 

Upper Campfield Market Hall, Jul 8-15

10,000 Gestures

Apparently literally containing what the title says, this world premiere from the daring choreographer Boris Charmatz does literally feature 10,000 gestures from its 25-strong ensemble of dancers, none of which will be repeated.

Mayfield, Jul 13-15

Can’t make it? Check out London’s best theatre shows.

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