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About This Festival

The UK’s second-largest urban area, a city built upon the shoulders of the Industrial Revolution, a place with deep ties to capitalism and communism and home to an ever-so-slightly popular football club, Manchester is an innovative city that has had its fair share of claims to fame. The fame and innovation continues with the Manchester International Festival, the world’s preeminent festival displaying exclusively original and reimagined work and special events. Founded in 2007, hot on the heels of the successful Commonwealth Games of 2002, MIF is a biennial international arts festival that takes place over the course of 18 days in July.

Giving Birth to a World-Class Festival

Manchester International Festival was borne of three very distinct, very prominent commissioned performances. The first performance took place in November 2005; when Gorillaz performed Demon Days Live at the Manchester Opera House. The second was The Schools Festival Song, written by renowned film composer Ennio Morricone and Manchester writer Nicholas Rovle and sung by a choir made up of 8,000 school children, which took place on December 4, 2006. The third was an art installation by Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen (no, not that Steve McQueen) entitled “Queen and Country,” a tribute to British service personnel killed in the 2003 Iraq War. It was displayed in the Great Hall of Manchester Central Library in 2007.

MIF delivers world-class commissioned works in all areas of the arts: music, film, theater, visual arts, dance, and comedy. With this in mind, leading artists from across the cultural spectrum come to Manchester to create more than 20 world premieres and special events. Just about everything you’ll see at MIF is exclusive to the UK, though many of the shows will go on to travel the world after making their debuts in Manchester.

Hallucinating Collectively

With such impressive beginnings, it’s no surprise that MIF continues to draw top-tier acts from around the world. From the godmother of performance art Marina Abramović staging a full-scale biographic opera to Snoop Dogg performing his seminal album Doggystyle in its entirety, MIF runs the gamut of culture, from highbrow to pop to experimental.

What makes some of these performances so experimental? How about seeing artists-in-residence, the xx, perform at one of 18 concerts over the course of 18 days, at a secret location to a crowd of only 60? Or perhaps you’re in the mood for something more large scale, like catching a show that combines the intense live music of Massive Attack with the disturbing filmic imagery of Adam Curtis, all inside a former train station – an experience that Massive Attack co-founder Robert Del Naja has described as “a collective hallucination.” If music isn’t your thing, or you’re in the mood for something a bit more immersive, groundbreaking exhibits like do it 2013 turn the idea of viewing art into an interactive exchange between the artists and the visitors. Want to get inside the creative mind of an artist? In 2015, FKA Twigs sat down with Hans Ulrich Obrist to discuss her MIF15 residency, as well as performed four exclusive performances at the Old Granada Studios.

MIF happens only once every two years, so there's still plenty of time to plan. At the rate that it’s progressing, it’s sure to be even bigger and better by then.

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