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A guide to the Manchester International Festival

The biennial Manchester International Festival returns in July. Get the lowdown on some of the big hitters to book now.
Manchester International Festival
Photograph: Tarnish Vision

The full programme premiering at the big, beloved, biennial Manchester International Festival (Jul 4-21) drops later in March – but we've already got the lowdown on some of the big hitters to book now. Check them out:

For the adventurous

Either one of this powerhouse pairing would have been a coup for MIF but ‘Tree’, a drama with music centred around contemporary life in South Africa, is the combined creation of Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah (the new artistic director of London’s Young Vic theatre). It will be performed in the round in the atmospheric Upper Campfield Market Hall, with a soundtrack by Elba. Catch this world premiere before it branches out. Upper Campfield Market Hall. Jun 29-Jul 10. £35, £30 concs.

For the pop-curious

How’s this for a big opening night? Kick off your MIF with some ‘Dirty Computer’ love with Janelle Monae, as the woman of the moment unleashes brilliant singles like ‘Pynk’ and ‘Make Me Feel’ on the Bowl. Vagina pants at the ready! Castlefield Bowl. Jul 4. £35.

For the sensitive souls

It may not be the first time Yoko Ono has been part of MIF (she had a beautiful piece in 2013’s ‘Do It’ exhibition), but ‘Bells For Peace’ is a much more ambitious undertaking. Thousands of Mancunians will be singing and ringing as a people’s choir performs in the shadow of the city’s cathedral. Cathedral Gardens. Jul 4. Free.

For the thrill-seekers

In 2013, MIF invited The xx to take over an underground cavern and perform for 60 people a night. It was, undoubtedly, an all-time MIF highlight. In what could be just as mind-blowing, Skepta will present ‘Dystopia987’: a journey into the London rapper’s vision of the future. Part gig, part DJ set, and part a waking dream taking place somewhere you’ve never been before... Secret location. Jul 17-19. £35, £30 concs.

Bonus info: The future of MIF is Factory


You may have noticed that the name of this enormous, state-of-the-art cultural centre is inspired by the groundbreaking record label that put Manchester music on the world stage. Factory, being built on the site of the Old Granada Studios, is the cityís most daring undertaking for years. Scheduled to open in 2020, it will become the new home of MIF, and will also present a year-round programme of major works. After more than a decade of big names coming to MIF, the festi’s reputation for bringing extraordinary artists and work to the city will continue.

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The city’s history proves that there’s a cheeky, independent streak that runs through it, and that can still be felt today. Creative new cooks are transforming forgotten areas of the city into thriving food hubs, dynamic multi-storey music venues are providing a platform for the next big thing, and huge investment into the arts has seen the launch of the multi-million pound cultural centres. 

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