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Leave London for Yoko Ono, David Lynch and more at Manchester International Festival

Festival square at Manchester International Festival, MIF
Festival square at Manchester International Festival, MIF

Culture vultures should flock to Manchester next month for the boundary-pushing Manchester International Festival. Starting on July 4, the biennial event features a carefully curated line-up of music, exhibitions, theatre and everything in-between.

Yoko Ono will set the tone for 2019, kicking off proceedings with her mass-participatory event ‘Bells For Peace’. The first major work Ono has created for Manchester, the BYOB (bring your own bell) project will see thousands of people meet at Cathedral Gardens to ring in a message of peace and unity.  

Photo Matthew Placek, Copyright Yoko Ono

Legendary names continue with a retrospective exhibition by David Lynch at Manchester’s cultural hub Home. ‘My Head is Disconnected’ promises a fascinating collection of drawings, sculptures and photography, offering a unique insight into the weird and wonderful mind that created ‘The Elephant Man’ and ‘Blue Velvet’.

The festival also boasts a bad-ass line-up of musicians. While tickets have been snapped up for Skepta’s immersive gig, music fans can still bag tickets for Janelle Monáe’s MIF debut, and Queens of the Electronic Underground  a night of live music curated by BBC Radio 6 Music’s Mary Anne Hobbs featuring rising stars of the electronic music scene. 

Tarnish Vision

Utopolis Manchester is among the festival’s most avant-garde performance pieces – an ambitious outdoor production which takes place in shops and cafes along Oxford Road. Created by Rimini Protokoll and inspired by Thomas More’s sixteenth-century book ‘Utopia’, the cross-city piece questions our society and asks if another model is possible.

And if your preferred MIF event is sold out, don’t despair; Festival Square is always a highlight  and you don’t need a ticket. The relaxed space is a hub of street food, DJs and live music. Just pull up a deckchair, order a wood-fired pizza, and listen to the likes of Haçienda legend DJ Paulette or soul outfit Children of Zeus for free  that’s worth the trip to Manc alone.  

Manchester International Festival, various venues. Jul 4-21. Prices vary.

Want more local stuff? Check out the 20 top things to do in Manchester.

Need a break from the big smoke? Check out these amazing day trips from London

How about a really wild weekend away from London instead? 

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