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Manchester International Festival

  • Date: 31 March 2011
  • Artform: Combined arts, Music, Theatre, Visual arts
  • Area: North
Manchester International Festival pavillion at dusk, lit by trailing fairy lights Festival site, Manchester International Festival, 2009, Lynne Irving

Manchester International Festival, an artist-led, commissioning festival presenting new works from across the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture, will join the Arts Council's new National portfolio from April 2012.

Held in a number of diverse locations in and around Manchester city centre biennially over three weeks in Summer, the multi-artform festival encompasses theatre, music, dance, visual arts and literature created by world-leading artists, a myriad of arts organisations, community groups and individuals.

The inaugural festival in 2007 featured over 31 specially commissioned productions, performances and projects, created by an extraordinary shortlist of leading artists from across the spectrum of culture, the arts and innovation - including Carlos Acosta, William Orbit, and Heston Blumenthal. A series of world premieres included the first operatic work by Damon Albarn, Monkey: Journey to the West and a stage version of The Pianist. During 2007's festival the Observer described Manchester as '... the beating cultural heart of Britain'.

The 2009 festival saw Kraftwerk performing at the Manchester Veledrome; space within Manchester Art Gallery transformed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid and the music of Bach, and much more. Eighty nine per cent of overall tickets were sold, with 55 per cent of ticket buyers coming from Greater Manchester and 45 per cent from the rest of the UK and abroad.

More than a third of the 2009 programme was also free to attend, meaning that income posed no barrier to those wishing to enjoy the festival, and ensuring that more people experienced a range of fantastic new work created by major international artists. This included:

  • 5,500 people who attended the free live relay of a critically acclaimed concert featuring band Elbow and Hallé Symphony Orchestra
  • 25,000 people who lined Deansgate to watch artist Jeremy Deller's Procession, a parade of floats made by local communities
  • the 12,500 children and their families who enjoyed two days of activities at the Great Indoors weekend in the city's town hall

In total, Manchester International Festival 2009 generated £35.9 million in economic impact and Manchester's reputation as a leading cultural centre was once more headline news. Charles Leadbetter, author and authority on innovation and creativity, wrote in 2009: 'MIF has spread a sense of excitement and confidence throughout the city, galvanising the cultural sector to higher ambitions and drawing people to the city'.

Programme for 2011 is most ambitious yet

The programme for Manchester International Festival 2011, which was announced in March, is the most ambitious yet. Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk will premiere a live show featuring specially created instruments such as a nine-metre-long pendulum and a digital pipe organ, during a three-week residency.

Immersive theatre company Punchdrunk presents its first show for children, blind Malian superstars Amadou & Mariam stage their first concert entirely in the dark, and filmmakers The Quay Brothers and violinist Alina Ibragimova will create the promenade staging of chamber music in the last medieval quarter of Manchester. The festival will see the world premiere of new work by Damon Albarn and theatre director Rufus Norris, Doctor Dee, which will go on to be performed as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, and poet Lavinia Greenlaw's work Audio Obscura will be installed in Piccadilly Station.

Opportunities for local people to get involved in the festival include the world premiere of Victoria Wood's That Day We Sang, starring a newly formed children's choir, and the launch of Vertical Farm an ambitious project to create the UK's first multi-storey vertical farm, located in a disused tower block in Manchester.

An extensive education programme, numerous free events and collaborations with local arts and community groups again forms a central part of Manchester International Festival 2011, which runs from 30 June to 17 July 2011.

Find out more about combined arts, theatre, music, visual arts, and children and young people in Arts Council's new national portfolio.