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Manchester International Festival 2021 programme announced

Manchester International Festival (MIF), returns from 1-18 July with a vibrant programme of original new work from across the spectrum of visual and performing arts and music by artists from over 20 countries.

The reasonably amazing lineup includes Angélique Kidjo, Akram Khan, Arlo Parks, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Boris Charmatz, Cerys Matthews, Christine Sun Kim, Cillian Murphy, Deborah Warner, Forensic Architecture, Ibrahim Mahama, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Laure Prouvost, Marta Minujín, Lemn Sissay and Patti Smith

  • Events will take place safely in indoor and outdoor locations across Greater Manchester, including the first ever work on the construction site of The Factory, the landmark cultural space that will be MIF’s future home
  • A rich online offer will provide a window into the Festival wherever audiences are, including livestreams and work created especially for the digital realm
  • With almost all the work created in the past year, MIF21 provides a unique snapshot of these unprecedented times. Artists have reflected on ideas such as love and human connections, the way we play, division and togetherness, equality and social change, and the relationship between the urban and the rural
  • For the first time, the curation of the Festival’s talks and discussions programme has been handed over to local people, building on MIF’s work involving the community as artistic collaborators and participants in work shaped by them
  • Festival Square returns in new location Cathedral Gardens with a packed programme of food, drink and free live music, DJs and more
  • As one of the first major public events in the city, MIF21 will play a key role in the safe reopening of the city’s economy and provide employment for hundreds of freelancers and artists
  • Much of the programme will be free to attend, with more work than ever in public spaces around the city

People sitting outside in the sunshine at tables in MIF's pop-up Festival Square in Manchester

Headshot of John McGrath

John McGrath, the Artistic Director and Chief Executive of MIF.

Manchester International Festival Artistic Director & Chief Executive, John McGrath says: “MIF has always been a Festival like no other – with almost all the work being created especially for us in the months and years leading up to each Festival edition.  But who would have guessed two years ago what a changed world the artists making work for our 2021 Festival would be working in?”

“I am thrilled to be revealing the projects that we will be presenting from 1-18 July this year – a truly international programme of work made in the heat of the past year and a vibrant response to our times. Created with safety and wellbeing at the heart of everything, it is flexible to ever-changing circumstances, and boldly explores both real and digital space.

“We hope MIF21 will provide a time and place to reflect on our world now, to celebrate the differing ways we can be together, and to emphasise, despite all that has happened, the importance of our creative connections – locally and globally.”

Hop along to the MIF official website from from Thurs 20 May 2021 if you’re interested

Coming in 2021 from MIF & The Factory

Virtual Factory

Manchester International Festival returns for 18 extraordinary days (1-18 July), plus new Virtual Factory commissions in the digital realm, an international showcase and collaborations with Manchester’s local creators.

Under The Radar: Inua Ellams & Javaad Alipoor

6-17 January 2021

Manchester International Festival, Arts Council England and The Public Theater will showcase work by Inua Ellams and Javaad Alipoor at New York’s Under The Radar festival (6-17 January 2021), as part of a three-year partnership, that began in 2020, to promote artists and companies based in England to a global audience. Inua Ellams writer of international hit Barber Shop Chronicles will present Borders & Crossings a new work in development about migration (7-10 Jan) and Javaad Alipoor best known for his works incorporating real-time mobile technology, will present an online version of his acclaimed Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran (7-17 Jan).

Virtual Factory: Tai Shani, Robert Yang, Jenn Nkiru

February 2021 onwards

Virtual Factory is a series of online commissions by leading international artists inspired by the architecture and concept of The Factory, the landmark new arts venue being built in Manchester which will be MIF’s future home. It launched this summer with the avatar LaTurbo Avedon’s digital intervention Your Progress Will Be Saved on an island in global gaming platform Fortnite Creative.

For the second Virtual Factory commission, in February 2021, Turner Prize winning artist Tai Shani takes inspiration from forgotten histories and stories to craft a new work depicting a dark fantastical world. Coming later in 2021 are projects by the New York City-based game developer and professor of video games, Robert Yang and the British-Nigerian artist and director Jenn Nkiru, whose global reputation was cemented by her work on Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Apeshit video.


1-18 July 2021

Manchester International Festival returns with 18 days of original, new work and special events from across the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture. Staged every two years in Manchester, MIF has commissioned, produced and presented world premieres by artists including Marina Abramović, Damon Albarn, Laurie Anderson, Björk, Jeremy Deller, Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, Elbow, Philip Glass, David Lynch, Wayne McGregor, Steve McQueen, Yoko Ono, Maxine Peake, Punchdrunk, Skepta, and The xx.

Already announced, The Walk will see Little Amal, a 3.5 puppet representing displaced refugee children, begin her 8000km journey to Manchester from Gaziantep in Turkey, across 70 cities, towns and villages throughout Europe, culminating at the opening weekend of MIF21. Festival Square returns in a new location, expect fun-filled days of food, drink and free entertainment. The full programme will be announced in spring 2021.

Press images for The Walk

Press images from previous Manchester International Festivals

Festival in My House… And Yours

January – May 2021

MIF has been working with and supporting hundreds of Greater Manchester artists throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, from commissions to develop and present work online to Remote Residencies and free regular drop-ins for artists and freelancers.

This continues through 2021 with the return of MIF’s popular micro-festival series Festival In My House, reimagined for the online realm. Each month between January and May, a local collective of artists will present digital events exploring themes ranging from sustainable fashion and organic cookery to theatre and storytelling


Manchester International Festival reveals first MIF21 Event

MIF 21

Manchester International Festival (MIF) announces its first event for the 2021 edition of the Festival (1-18 July 2021), with The Walk, the culmination of the extraordinary journey from Gaziantep in Turkey to Manchester of nine-year-old refugee girl, Little Amal in the form of a giant living artwork.

Working together with renowned theatre company Good Chance – creators of critically-acclaimed The Jungle – and world-famous creators of War HorseHandspring Puppet CompanyThe Walk will see Little Amal – a 3.5 metre tall puppet and an emblem of the millions of displaced refugee children separated from their families – travel 8,000km across Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the UK in search of her mother. Embodying the urgent message ‘Don’t forget about us’ Little Amal will be welcomed by over 70 cities, towns and villages with art – from major street parades and city-wide performances of music, dance and theatre, to intimate community events, between April and July 2021.

The poignant finale moment on Sunday 4 July – forming a highlight of MIF21’s opening weekend – will be marked with a free large-scale outdoor event in the heart of Greater Manchester, a place that has long welcomed its diverse and dynamic population of refugee and migrant communities, and has the highest concentration of dispersed asylum seekers in the UK outside of London.

A programme of creative engagement activity in the lead up to, and across the Festival’s opening weekend with communities from across Greater Manchester will help to create Little Amal’s welcome.

The Walk will shine a light on the region and its people, as a home and refuge for those who need it. It will build on the legacy of MIF projects such as the Beating Wing OrchestraToGather (MIF17), The Welcoming Party (MIF17) and most recently School of Integration (MIF19) which saw over 100 people from over 50 countries take over Manchester Art Gallery to deliver unique classes, from food and customs, to ethics and politics.

John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Manchester International Festival said “We’re delighted to be a major partner on The Walk, our first event to be unveiled as we plan for MIF21, and to welcome Little Amal to Manchester for the conclusion of her extraordinary journey. At MIF, we have a proud history of creating large-scale participatory events that bring the city together. As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, a project like this feels more important than ever – encapsulating everything that the arts can do; crossing borders, starting important conversations, and bringing communities together.”

“We hope that families, communities, schools, friends and neighbours – everyone who calls Greater Manchester their home, will help us welcome Little Amal.”

Amir Nizar Zuabi, Artistic Director of The Walk stated “It is because the attention of the world is elsewhere right now that it is more important than ever to reignite the conversation about the refugee crisis and change the narrative around it. Yes, refugees need food and blankets, but they also need dignity and a voice. The purpose of The Walk is to highlight the potential of the refugee, not just their dire circumstances. Little Amal is 3.5 metres tall because we want her to inspire us to think big and to act bigger.”

At this time of unprecedented global change, The Walk is an extraordinary artistic response: a cultural odyssey transcending borders, politics and language, to tell a new story of shared humanity – and to ensure the world doesn’t forget the millions of displaced children, each with their own story, who are more vulnerable than ever during the global pandemic.


MIF to premiere Riz Ahmed’s new live music show

Riz Ahmed
Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed

Manchester International Festival (MIF) presents the world premiere of The Long Goodbye (26-28 March 2020) a bracing and emotional live music show from musician, storyteller, actor and activist Riz Ahmed.

An electrifying journey into our here and now, The Long Goodbye is a close-up look at the breakup of a toxic relationship with the country you call home. It is written and performed by Ahmed and directed by director, writer and dramaturg Kirsty Housley (Tao of Glass, MIF19), with creative direction from Andrea Gelardin.

Riz Ahmed will perform The Long Goodbye for three nights only, from 26-28 March 2020 at Manchester’s atmospheric former railway station, Mayfield. Tickets will go on general sale on Monday 17 February 2020.

The Long Goodbye is the latest in Manchester International Festival’s series of pre-Factory events, paving the way for the opening of The Factory, the major new arts space being developed in the heart of the city which will be MIF’s future year-round home.

MIF is presenting the show outside a festival year. It is one of a number of pre-Factory events taking place in 2020, with the next festival taking place in July 2021.

Riz Ahmed says, “I can’t wait to come to Manchester and share the world premiere of this live experience. It takes us on a journey through our past to the current crossroads we face as a multicultural society”

Riz Ahmed has starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryVenomFour LionsNightcrawler, and the final season of the hit HBO show Girls. He took the spotlight as the first South Asian actor to win an acting Emmy for his lead role in HBO’s The Night Of.

As a musician, Ahmed came up in the London music scene as a rap battle champion, going on to write and perform both as a solo artist and with Swet Shop Boys. His provocative solo release, Post 9/11 Blues, was banned before a viral groundswell forced it onto radio. The Swet Shop Boys album, Cashmere, toured to sold-out crowds from Coachella to NYC’s Webster Hall. In a nod to their cultural impact, protestors against Trump’s ‘muslim ban’ at Los Angeles International Airport protest were heard chanting its lyrics. Also released in 2018 was Mogambo, a swaggering survival anthem for our fraught times followed by a series of incendiary, sold-out live shows in the US and UK.

John McGrath, Artistic Director & Chief Executive of MIF says: “We are so pleased to be working with Riz Ahmed to premiere his new show ‘The Long Goodbye’ in Manchester. Riz is an extraordinary and fearless artist and an increasingly important commentator and activist. For audiences it will offer a hint of the range and calibre of work that will be made and experienced when we open The Factory.”

The Long Goodbye is commissioned by Manchester International Festival and Brooklyn Academy of Music, and produced by Manchester International Festival. Following its world premiere in Manchester, The Long Goodbye will be presented in Brooklyn, New York as a part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) new season – Yours Theirs Ours.

Ace and MIF launch new scheme to showcase artists in New York


Manchester International Festival (MIF) and Arts Council England today announced a new partnership, which will see them supporting English artists to perform in New York at The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival.

Over the next three years the partnership will see MIF and Arts Council England working with The Public Theater to showcase the work of acclaimed English artists at Under the Radar, which takes place every January and attracts audiences and performing arts professionals from around the world. Artists will be given help with travel, accommodation and other practicalities to enable them to present work at Under the Radar and will be mentored by MIF to help them maximise the opportunities of showcasing their work at a major international festival.

This is one of a number of international showcasing events that Arts Council England is investing in to promote English artists and companies to a global audience and to provide opportunities for artists to export their work to international markets.

The first artists being supported through the partnership are Lucy McCormickJess Thom and Selina Thompson, who are featured at this year’s Under the Radar, which kicks off on Wednesday 8 January and runs until 19 January.

Lucy McCormick with her Girl Squad is presenting her hit show Triple Threat, a trash-step/dub-punk morality play for the modern world, directed by cabaret legend Ursula Martinez. Created and performed by Lucy McCormick, the show runs from 8-10 January at Joe’s Pub (a venue and programme of The Public).

Jess Thom stars in a radically neurodiverse production of Samuel Beckett’s landmark Not I, which runs from 10-19 January at BRICS in Brooklyn. This is the first production featuring someone with Tourette’s performing the playwright’s texts, and all performances are Relaxed and accompanied by an ASL interpreter/performer.

Selina Thompson has written salt., which draws on the experience of two artists who retraced the Transatlantic slave trade between the UK, Ghana and Jamaica. Performed by actor and singer Rochelle Rose, salt. runs from 10-19 January at Martinson Hall (The Public).

Lucy McCormick said: “We couldn’t think of a better place for the US premiere of Triple Threat than at the iconic Joe’s Pub during Under the Radar. Touring to the US for the first time can be a real financial and logistical challenge, so having the support of MIF and Arts Council England to make it possible has been invaluable, and we are pumped for the potential connections and partnerships that will come out of this opportunity.”

Jess Thom said: “I’m really excited to see what conversations the show will generate in terms of access, inclusion and what work is and isn’t made accessible to disabled people. Touretteshero is part of a thriving disability arts scene in the UK and we’re keen to find out how this work will be received in New York. It’s great that we’re getting to BRIC in Brooklyn to show Not I there as part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival. This represents a longstanding goal for our company, and cold as it’s going to be, I can’t wait!”

Selina Thompson said: “I’m so incredibly excited to get to show my work as a part of Under the Radar this year – I think seeing how the work will be responded to in this context will be an enriching experience for myself and my team.”

Speaking about the new initiative, Simon Mellor, Deputy Chief Executive, Arts & Culture, Arts Council England, said: “By bringing the best of England’s art and culture to a global audience we help to strengthen our cultural sector, facilitating international partnerships, developing opportunities for artists to export their work and promoting England as an international centre of culture and creativity. We’re proud to continue this work by partnering with Manchester International Festival and The Public Theater to bring these productions by Lucy McCormick, Jess Thom and Selina Thomson to Under the Radar.”

Mark Ball, Creative Director at Manchester International Festival said: “It’s fantastic to be working with Arts Council England and our good friends at The Public to showcase some of England’s most exciting artists at Under the Radar. At a time of significant change for our country, it’s vitally important to continue to offer international platforms and opportunities for cultural exchange to artists. Lucy, Jess and Selina are three wonderful talents and we’re thrilled to see them presenting work to New York audiences. This is an important strand in our approach to nurturing the careers of artists as we head towards the opening of The Factory, the landmark venue which will be MIF’s permanent home.”

Mark Russell, Associate Director, Under the Radar Festival, added: “The Public Theater and Under the Radar Festival are very excited to partner with Manchester International Festival and Arts Council England on this new initiative. UTR has had a long ongoing relationship with artists from England and is proud to expand that with this new collaboration. International exchange is a core mission of the Under the Radar Festival and this initiative will bring to light many of the diverse and vibrant theater-makers working in England today.”

MIF and Arts Council England are also supporting a further three English artists to attend the Under the Radar Symposium to meet with potential promoters and presenters. These are Manchester-based theatre maker Javaad Alipoor, best known for his works incorporating real-time mobile technology, including The Believers Are But Brothers (‘an extraordinary teched up show’ New York Times) and Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in TehranRachel Mars whose ‘triumphant’ (Guardian, 4 stars) Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters was one of the hits of the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe; and Inua Ellams, writer of international hit Barber Shop Chronicles.

The MIF-Arts Council England partnership with Under Radar will run until 2022. Artists selected for 2021 and 2022 will be announced in due course.


Lucy McCormick

Triple Threat

The Public Theater: Joe’s Pub

8-10 January 2020

Created and Performed by Lucy McCormick

Directed by Ursula Martinez

Girl Squad: Samir Kennedy and Lennie

Produced by Karl Taylor

Post-popular prodigy Lucy McCormick and her Girl Squad present her U.K. smash-hit Triple Threat, a trash-step/dub-punk morality play for the modern world. Casting herself in all the main roles, McCormick will attempt to re-connect to her own moral conscience by re-enacting the New Testament via a Nu-wave holy trinity of dance, power ballads, and performance art. Directed by cabaret legend Ursula Martinez, McCormick puts her best foot forward in the face of existential deadlock.

Having achieved cult status at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, she has toured the show across the U.K., Europe, and Canada, and will now make her U.S. debut with it at Joe’s Pub.

Triple Threat was commissioned by hÅb and Contact for Works Ahead, with support from Soho Theatre, Cambridge Junction and the Marlborough Theatre.

The performances of Triple Threat are supported by Arts Council England, working in partnership with Manchester International Festival to support England based artists to appear at Under the Radar.

Selina Thompson


The Public Theater – Martinson Hall

10-19 January 2020

Written by Selina Thompson

Performed by Rochelle Rose

Director: Dawn Walton

Assistant Director: Emmy Lahouel

Designer: Katherina Radeva

Sound: Sleepdogs

Lighting Design: Cassie Mitchell

Production Manager: Natalie Wong

Commissioned by Yorkshire Festival, Theatre Bristol, and MAYK. Supported by the National Theatre Studio.

A journey to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. In February 2016, two artists got on a cargo ship, and retraced one of the routes of the Transatlantic Slave Triangle – from the UK to Ghana to Jamaica, and back. Their memories, their questions, and their grief took them along the bottom of the Atlantic and through the figurative realm of an imaginary past.

It was a long journey backwards, in order to go forwards. This show is what they brought back.

The performances of salt. are supported by Arts Council England, working in partnership with Manchester International Festival to support England based artists to appear at Under the Radar.

Jess Thom

Not I by Samuel Beckett


647 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217

10 -19 January 2020

A Touretteshero and Battersea Arts Centre Production, in association with the Albany.

Performed by Jess Thom

Directed by Matthew Pountney

ASL Performer: Lindsey D. Snyder

ASL Consultant: Alexandria Wailes

Designer: Ben Pacey

Production Team: Mark Munday, Erik Perera, and Peter Storer

Producers for Battersea Arts Centre: Rosie Scudder, and Reena Kalsi

Co-Presented by The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and BRIC

Jess Thom has Tourette’s, a condition that means she makes movements and noises she can’t control, called tics. Following award-winning Backstage In Biscuit Land, she takes on Samuel Beckett’s short play in a theatrical experience that explores neurodiversity and asks: who is allowed to perform what and who gets the final say? All performances are accompanied by an ASL interpreter/performer and are Relaxed. This means that if you tic, shout, or move about, you’re more than welcome. And the great thing is, everyone can benefit from a Relaxed performance.

Not I is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and the British Council.

The performances of Not I are supported by Arts Council England, working in partnership with Manchester International Festival to support England based artists to appear at Under the Radar.


Manchester International Festival announces 2019 theatre and performance highlights


Manchester International Festival, the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events, today unveiled its 2019 programme, which will take place across 18 days (4-21 July 2019). An array of internationally-acclaimed artists from all over the world will present UK and world premieres at the cross-art form biennial festival, the second with John McGrath as Artistic Director.











John McGrath, MIF Artistic Director and Chief Executive says: “At MIF19 we see a whole host of artists looking to the future – some with hope, some with imagination and some with concern. We never impose themes on the artists we work with, but it’s striking how this year’s programme reflects our complicated times in often surprisingly joyous and unexpected ways. Featuring artists from more than 20 countries, the Festival also has strong local roots, with several commissions featuring the people of Manchester as participants. MIF19 will be a feast of energy, which I hope will inspire debate and delight for the festival’s 18 days and far beyond.”

For the full festival programme, please visit


MIF, Young Vic and Green Door Productions today announce that Alfred Enoch (Harry Potter film series, How to Get Away with Murder) will star in the production and the first images of rehearsals have been released. Created by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, this musical collaboration is an electrifying new blend of drama, music and dance as it follows one man’s journey into the heart and soul of contemporary South Africa – with the audience at the centre of the action. Directed by Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of London’s Young Vic, with music inspired by Elba’s album Mi MandelaTree is an exhilarating show about identity, family and belonging, seen through the eyes of one man on the toughest journey of his life. Elba will produce along with his Green Door Productions. Tree will premiere this summer at Manchester International Festival, before transferring to London’s Young Vic.

It’s just 12 hours from London to his parents’ homeland, but to Kaleo (Alfred Enoch), South Africa is another world. A family tragedy finally forces him to visit for the first time – and as he takes his journey of healing, Kaleo must confront hidden histories and right the wrongs of the past. But first he must face the present: a shattered family, fighting to hold on to what they believe is theirs, in a nation haunted by the ghosts of its own turbulent past.

Creative Team

Created by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah
Kwame Kwei-Armah                  
Jon Bausor                                 Set & Costume Designer
Gregory Maqoma                       Choreography
Jon Clark                                    Lighting Designer
Paul Arditti                                 Sound Designer
Duncan McLean                        Video Designer
Michael Asante                          Music Supervisor/Composer
Mongi Mthombeni                     Dramaturg
Pippa Ailion CDG                      Casting Director

A Manchester International Festival, Young Vic and Green Door Pictures co-production. In association with Eleanor Lloyd Productions, Bob Benton for Anthology Theatre and Eilene Davidson.


Lolita Chakrabarti adapts the renowned novel for major new production starring Danny Sapani as Kublai Khan and Matthew Leonhart as Marco Polo

MIF19 commission interweaves dance, theatre, music, plus architectural design and projections by 59 Productions, to conjure up magical worlds

Manchester International Festival 2019 (MIF19) presents the world premiere of Invisible Cities, inspired by the renowned 1972 novel, which centres on the relationship between Kublai Khan, the volatile head of a vast empire, and explorer Marco Polo, who must transcend the barriers of language to describe it for him.

Director Leo Warner, choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, writer Lolita Chakrabarti, architects and artists 59 Productions and contemporary dance company Rambert have come together for the first time to create this extraordinary new, site-specific work, which reimagines the possibilities of live performance.

Conceived by 59 Productions, Invisible Cities will see Manchester’s atmospheric venue the Mayfield, a vast disused train depot, transformed through a spellbinding mix of theatre, choreography, music, architectural design and projection mapping.

Zenobia, a city of joy. Beersheba, a celestial city of gold. Isadora, a city of promise, seduction and desire. City by unseen city, the young explorer conjures from the ether a vast and spectacular empire – and all for the benefit of an emperor, his master, who may never get to see it for himself.

Performed by Rambert, with Danny Sapani as Kublai Khan and Matthew Leonhart as Marco Polo, Invisible Cities features design and projection by 59 Productions’ Olivier and Tony Award-winning team of architects, designers and animators. With a score by Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie of the ambient music duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen, soundscapes by award-winning Gareth Fry, Invisible Cities will transport audiences through time and space.

Creative Team
Leo Warner                                                 Director
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui                                   Co-Director and Choreographer
Lolita Chakrabarti                                       Adaptor
Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie          Composers
Jenny Melville                                             Set Designer
Laura Hopkins                                            Costume Designer
Fabiana Piccioli                                          Lighting Designer
Gareth Fry                                                  Sound Designer
Nicol Scott                                                  Video Designer
Sam Jones CDG                                        Casting Director
Benoit Swan Pouffer                                  Creative Advisor

Produced by Manchester International Festival, 59 Productions, Rambert and Karl Sydow.

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Brisbane Festival, Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival, Sadler’s Wells, SMG Live, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre (JACC) and Karl Sydow


Ivo van Hove brings his Internationaal Theater Amsterdam to the Lowry to perform his most controversial work.

Juliet Stevenson to feature in Re:creating Europe an evening of texts and speeches that have shaped the continent taking place on 12 July

One of the world’s most acclaimed directors, Ivo van Hove, will bring this gripping adaptation of Ayn Rand’s uncompromising 20th-century classic, a major inspiration for libertarian politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Fountainhead is a portrait of Howard Roark, a brilliant young architect who rejects easy routes to commercial success in favour of innovation and independence. Van Hove describes the novel as “a war of ideas”, encompassing art and architecture, commerce and capitalism, coupled with a passionate hymn to individualism and a dark, violent love story.

Published in 1943, Ayn Rand’s 700-page canonical novel has a long-established cult following. Donald Trump referenced ‘The Fountainhead’ as one of the only books he ever liked whilst Sajid Javid claims to read certain passages twice a year. Ivo van Hove first adapted and staged the novel in 2014 Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA) and it received its American premiere at Brooklyn Academy of Music last year.

On 12 July, ITA and De Balie, a leading venue for cutting-edge debates and art projects in the Netherlands, present Re:Creating Europe, an exploration of Europe through the literature that has defined its history. Featuring Juliet Stevenson and directed by Ivo van Hove, the performance forces you to reflect on what Europe is, and what it could be. In a year when a deeply divided Britain is set to leave the European Union, this production uses the words of artists, thinkers and political leaders – from Shakespeare to Goethe, Churchill to Obama – to evoke the very notion of Europe, forcing us to reflect on what it is, what it was and what it could become, performed here by members of his Internationaal Theater Amsterdam ensemble with further guest performers to be announced.

Creative Team for The Fountainhead

Ivo van Hove                                          Director
Janni Goslinga                                       Performers
Aus Greidanus jr.
Maarten Heijmans
Hans Kesting
Hugo Koolschijn
Ramsey Nasr
Frieda Pittoors
Halina Reijn
Bart Slegers
Jan van Rheenen, Erica van Rijsewijk    Translators
Koen Tachelet                                          Adaptor
Peter van Kraaij                                       Dramaturg
Jan Versweyveld                                     Scenography & Lighting Designer
Eric Sleichim                                           Composer
An D’Huys                                               Costume Designer
Tal Yarden                                               Video Designer
Bl!ndman (drums): Yves Goemaere        Musicians
Hannes Nieuwlaet
Christiaan Saris

Emmerique Grandpré Moliere                Private Producer

Presented as a pre-Factory event, The Fountainhead receives its UK premiere at MIF19.

Re:Creating Europe is produced by Manchester International Festival, De Balie and Internationaal Theater Amsterdam.


The acclaimed American choreographer Trajal Harrell comes to Manchester International Festival (MIF19) for the world premiere of Maggie the Cat, a new dance work inspired by one of Tennessee Williams’ most well-known characters, from the classic play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Focused on the inhabitants of a house, including Big Mama played by Harrell, Maggie the Cat is a provocative fusion of high art and pop culture, with multiple influences, ranging from ancient Greek theatre to the Harlem voguing underground, and a soundtrack that crosses genres, from electro and pop to classical music.

Directed and choreographed by Harrell, Maggie the Cat is the first part of a trilogy inspired by women who had to navigate treacherous waters to gain or retain their power. It addresses power, gender, rejection and inclusion through the prism of one of modern theatre’s most celebrated characters and asks questions about how we can represent powerful women without tearing them down to make room for powerful men.

Produced by MIF and presented at Manchester’s Dancehouse, the audience will be taken on a journey that, whilst tragic and thought-provoking, will also be entertaining and joyous.

Creative Team

Trajal Harrell                               Direction, Choreography, Costume Design & Sound Design
Erik Flatmo & Trajal Harrell        Set Design
Stéfane Perraud                         Lighting Design
Katinka Deecke                          Dramaturgy

Produced by Manchester International Festival, Maggie the Cat forms one part of a trilogy, Porca Miseria, commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Schauspielhaus Zürich, ONASSIS STEGI, Kampnagel (Hamburg), Holland Festival, the Barbican and Dance Umbrella, NYU Skirball, Berliner Festspiele and The Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi.


Survivor. Muse. Creator. Destroyer. From her 1967 debut with The Velvet Underground to her premature death just two decades later, Nico was one of pop culture’s most enigmatic figures. Now, long time admirers Maxine Peake (performer) and Sarah Frankcom (director) are conjuring the visionary artist up from the shadows with a stirring theatrical immersion into her sound, her identity and the world in which she fought to be heard.

The Nico Project is inspired by the icon’s stark, bleak and beautiful 1968 album The Marble Index. Ignored on its original release, the album is now rightly regarded as one of the defining masterpieces of 1960s counterculture. With text by award-winning playwright EV Crowe and music by acclaimed composer Anna Clyne, The Nico Project brings us closer to the ghosts that haunted Nico and the devastating past that shaped her, and celebrates the potency of female creativity in a field dominated by men.

The piece marks a lesser known Manchester music scene story. Nico moved to the city in 1982, having performed a gig there. Finding herself with nowhere to go afterwards she was found a room by a promoter and subsequently made Manchester her home and the base from which she toured Europe and played the live music circuit in the North until her death at the age of 48 in 1988.

Creative Team

Co-created by Maxine Peake and Sarah Frankcom
Anna Clyne                    Music
EV Crowe                      Text
Imogen Knight               Movement
Lizzie Clachan               Design
Paule Constable            Lighting Design
Helen Atkinson              Sound Design
With musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival and the Royal Court Theatre.


Created with an international team of leading performers, Claire Cunningham’s new dance work troubles notions of being told who or what we should be and explores the idea of self-tribute.

‘There are impersonators or tribute artists of every colour, sex, size, culture, age… What am I missing?’ Patty Carroll, Living the Life’: The World of Elvis Tribute Artists

Down at the end of Lonely Street – or Smedley Lane, as they call it in North Manchester – choreographer Claire Cunningham and her ensemble of leading disabled performers will invite audiences to join them for a drink at a Cheetham Hill social club as they pull back the curtain on the glittering world of the Elvis tribute artist.

Fresh from a crash course in Elvis-ing and intimate conversations with a range of tribute artists, Thank You Very Much takes to the floor in witty and revealing fashion. The company will pull on their rhinestone-studded jumpsuits to ask: are we caught in a trap? Who have we been trying to be all our lives? Has it ever been our choice? And is anyone ever truly incomparable?

Creative Team

Claire Cunningham                     Concept & Choreography
Dan Watson                                Associate Director
Bethany Wells                             Designer
Chris Copland                             Lighting Designer
Matthias Herrmann                     Sound Designer & Composer
Shanti Freed                               Costume Designer
Luke Pell                                     Dramaturg

Commissioned by Manchester International FestivalNational Theatre of Scotland and Perth Festival in association with tanzhaus nrw and Dance Umbrella. Produced by Manchester International Festival and National Theatre of Scotland.


Part-concert, part-performance Tao of Glass presents ten new pieces of music exploring life, loss and inspiration.

Created in the round for the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Following their acclaimed opera productions across the globe, world renowned composer PhiIip Glass and Obie and Olivier-Award winning performer-director Phelim McDermott reunite to create Tao of Glass with an ensemble of musicians and puppeteers.

Commissioned by MIF and Improbable, Tao of Glass is scored with ten pieces of Glass’ mesmerising music, all in response to provocations on life, death and wisdom, shot with Improbable’s trademark theatricality. In a rare opportunity to experience the legendary American composer in a setting completely contrasting to his signature larger scale productions, this world premiere will give audiences a rare chance to experience the personal and experimental process shared by these two collaborators.

Using a series of fragments from their own lives as artistic provocations, the artists – who have previously worked together on Akhnaten, Satyagraha and The Perfect American – have embarked on a playful creative journey, investigating ‘big questions’ in an intimate conversation with music, poetry and puppetry. Weaving evocative visual vocabulary, memoir and personal obsessions, the chamber-scale piece is reminiscent of Glass’ early experimental work.

An exploration of life, loss and a single question: Where does true inspiration come from? Tao of Glass is a storytelling tapestry.

Creative Team

Philip Glass                     Composer
Phelim McDermott           Writer, Performer & Co-Director
Kirsty Housley                 Co-Director
Fly Davis                         Designer
Colin Grenfell                  Lighting Designer
Giles Thomas                 Sound Designer
Ragnar Freidank            Documentary Maker & Collaborator

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Improbable, Perth Festival and Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen.

Produced by Manchester International Festival, Improbable and the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Can a group of disparate individuals come together to create a utopian state? And how big can this system become before it falls apart?

Author-directors Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel, have been developing complex immersive formats for interacting audiences under the Berlin-based collective label Rimini Protokoll since 2002. Utopolis Manchester is a visionary new work that transforms people’s view of the city as they discover the people and places that create Manchester’s daily life.

Gathering in dozens of small groups, in many different locations, audiences will head out to explore the city and its citizens and discover the many different ways in which people in the city create society, communities, and democracy.

Created by Rimini Protokoll and inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia, Utopolis Manchester asks whether another society might exist, if only for a utopian moment.

Utopolis Manchester is commissioned by Manchester International Festival and Schauspiel Köln.

The Manchester cholera epidemic of the 1830s is the unlikely inspiration for the first major UK project by one of the world’s most playful and provocative art collectives, Tokyo’s ChimPom – invited to MIF19 by Contact Young Curators, five emerging local artists brought together by MIF and Contact.

Cholera swept through Manchester almost 200 years ago. Tens of thousands of people were buried in cholera pits in the streets around modern-day Victoria Station and Angel Meadow – and thousands of others only survived because they drank beer instead of water. Chim↑Pom’s A Drunk Pandemic takes place in a temporary brewery, built for the purpose in a secret city-centre location. Audiences are invited to tour the brewery, try the beer, check out the special events – and expect the unexpected.

A Drunk Pandemic is commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival and Contact Theatre.


On 16 August 1819, more than 60,000 people flooded into St Peter’s Field from all over Manchester. They came in peace, united in their passion for the right to vote, but as the speeches began, armed troops on horseback charged into the crowd, killing 15 and injuring more than 600. The Peterloo Massacre was a pivotal moment in British history, a landmark on our road to democracy.

MIF is marking its 200th anniversary with an extraordinary day of performance, poetry and music as part of a two-part commission. ANU, one of Europe’s most daring theatre companies, are taking to the streets for a day-long series of immersive performances, all completely free. Inspired by the lives and stories of those who died at Peterloo, the company are collaborating with people from all over Greater Manchester to explore what Peterloo meant then and what it means today – reflecting on the events of 1819 while forging a vital new connection with our 21st-century city.

The evening sees the world premiere of a major new piece of music, by composer Emily Howard, one of our most original musical voices, and poet Michael Symmons Roberts, winner of the Costa Poetry Award.  Both an elegy to the fallen and a celebration of our city, the work will be performed at The Bridgewater Hall by the BBC Philharmonic and a massed chorus featuring the BBC Singers and three Hallé choirs – with all tickets priced at just £10.

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival.


Idris Elba & Kwame Kwei-Armah
Upper Campfield Market Hall, Campfield Avenue Arcade, M3 4FN
Thursday 4 July – Saturday 13 July, 8pm
Saturday 6, Sunday 7 & Saturday 13 July, also 4pm
Previews Saturday 29 June – Wed 3 July, 8pm

Tickets £35 / £30 previews & concessions /
£10 for Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage
Recommended 14+ / under-18s must be accompanied by an adult / +44 (0)333 320 2890

Invisible Cities
Mayfield, Baring Street, M1 2PZ
Friday 5 July – Sat 13 July, 8pm
Saturday 13 & Sunday 14 July, also 2.30pm
Previews Tuesday 2 – Thursday 4 July, 8pm
BSL performance: Thursday 11 July
Captioned performances: Wednesday 10 & Sunday 14 July
Tickets £35 / £30 previews & concessions /
£10 Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage / +44 (0)333 320 2890

The Fountainhead
The Lowry
Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ
Wednesday 10 & Thursday 11 July, 6.30pm
Saturday 13 July, 2pm
Tickets £18–£35 / £13-£30 concessions /
£10 for Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage
Presented in Dutch with English surtitles / +44 (0)333 320 2890

Re:Creating Europe
The Lowry
Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ
Friday 12 July, 8pm
Tickets £18–£35 / £13–£30 concessions /
£10 Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage / +44 (0)333 320 2890

Maggie the Cat
Trajal Harrell
The Dancehouse, 10 Oxford Road, M1 5QA
Thursday 11 July, 7.30pm
Friday 12 & Saturday 13 July, 7.30pm & 10pm
Sunday 14 July, 6pm
Tickets £20 / £15 concessions / £10 Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage / +44 (0)333 320 2890

The Nico Project
Maxine Peake & Sarah Frankcom
The Stoller Hall, Chetham’s School of Music, Hunts Bank, M3 1DA
Friday 12, Saturday 13, Tuesday 16, Thursday 18 & Saturday 20, 7.30pm
Saturday 13 & Saturday 20 July, also 3pm
Wednesday 17 & Friday 19 July, 6pm & 9pm
Previews Wednesday 10 July & Thursday 11 July, 7.30pm
Press night: Friday 12 July, 7.30pm
BSL performance: Tuesday 16 July, 7.30pm
AD performance: Wednesday 17 July, 6pm
Tickets £35 / £30 concessions / £10 Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage / +44 (0)333 320 2890

Thank You Very Much
Claire Cunningham
Ukrainian Cultural Centre, 31 Smedley Lane, M8 8XB
Wed 17 – Sat 20 July, 7.30pm
Press night: Wed 17 July
Tickets £20 / £15 concessions / £10 Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage / +44 (0)333 320 2890

Tao of Glass
Philip Glass & Phelim McDermott
Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, M2 7DH
Thursday 11 – Saturday 20 July, 7.30pm
13, 18 & 20 July, 2.30pm
Tickets £18–£41 / £13–£30 concessions / £13–£33 previews
£10 Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage / +44 (0)333 320 2890

Utopolis Manchester
Rimini Protokoll
Multiple locations, Manchester city centre
Wednesday 10 – Saturday 13 July, 6–10.30pm
Tickets £20 / £15 concessions / £10 for Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage
Recommended 12+ / under-16s must be accompanied by an adult / +44 (0)333 320 2890

A Drunk Pandemic
Chim↑Pom & Contact Young Curators
Friday 5 – Sunday 21 July
A secret location
Times and ticket information to be announced
Age 18+

The Anvil: An Elegy for Peterloo
Emily Howard, Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC Philharmonic
The Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley Street, M2 3WS
Sunday 7 July, 6pm
Tickets £10 / +44 (0) 333 320 2890