Manchester International Festival returns this summer across the city and online from 1-18 July

Date published: 07 June 2021

From a giant sculpture of Big Ben in Piccadilly Gardens made from 20,000 books to an exhibition in the sky, much of this year’s Festival is free to attend, with more work than ever in public spaces around the city.

Festival Square, the home of the Festival, takes over Cathedral Gardens. There’ll be a packed programme of food, drink and free entertainment from international artists and Greater Manchester-based performers – including curated nights from Jamz Supernova, Homoelectric, Mr Scruff and DJ Paulette, and live performances from more than a dozen local acts chosen through a public call-out.


Festival Square at Manchester International Festival 2019. Image: Priti Shikotra
Festival Square at Manchester International Festival 2019. Image: Priti Shikotra


Your City, Your Festival

Greater Manchester residents are at the heart of a number of Festival events this year. On Deansgate, 160 Manchester residents will be taking part in a mass outdoor dance piece called Sea Change on the first day of the Festival. Over 100 Greater Manchester residents will feature in a book of love letters written by 11 Manchester-based writers for a project called I Love You Too. And in Manchester Arndale, Portrait of Black Britain will feature 100 portraits of Black British people, including many from Manchester.

In Arcadia, a new sound and light installation inspired by the natural world, audiences will be invited for the first time to explore The Factory, whilst it is still under construction – the major new arts space that will be MIF’s future home.


Global Playground. Image: Chris Nash and Ethan Davis
The Global Playground. Image: Chris Nash and Ethan Davis


For families, The Global Playground, is an uplifting new show mixing dance, music, theatre and puppetry as it explores how we play together.

Greater Manchester residents are also taking over the Festival’s talks and discussions series for the first time. Featuring artists, activists, key workers, campaigners and members of the Greater Manchester community, Looking Forward to Tomorrow will explore some of the big issues of the day, including the climate emergency and anti-Black racism.


Festival Square. Image: Louis Reynolds
Festival Square. Image: Louis Reynolds


A Rochdale connection

MIF’s new Neighbourhood Organiser programme is connecting the Festival to communities across Greater Manchester. Rochdale resident Nicky Iginla, one of the Neighbourhood Organisers, is hoping to bring new opportunities and experiences to the Rochdale community this summer – attending world premieres, taking part in training and job opportunities, volunteering behind the scenes and even performing in Festival events!

A COVID-safe festival

MIF is committed to presenting a safe Festival for everyone. As well as following all government and industry guidelines, organisers are working closely with specialist safety consultants to ensure all venues are COVID-safe and secure for everyone.

The Festival is also going digital to reach the widest possible audience – with livestreams and special online events providing a window into the Festival wherever you are.

Whether dancing in the streets of Deansgate, meeting new people, performing in Festival Square or simply enjoying the many free events and activities around the city and online, MIF is asking people from all over Greater Manchester to help create a joyous and celebratory moment for the city this July.

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