Manchester International Festival releases free music lineup for Festival Square

The 2021 Festival Square music programme puts the spotlight firmly on local talent.

Georgina Pellant Georgina Pellant - 17th June 2021

MIF has revealed its festival square music programme for summer – and it’s jam-packed with local artists.

This year’s festival runs from July 2-18 and sees over 100 free gigs taking place at the new Festival Square hub on Cathedral Garden – which returns in a safe, seated format for 2021.

MIF has also partnered with United We Stream this year to broadcast a selection of its live Festival Square performances directly into people’s homes.

Our highlights include performances from rappers Abnormal Sleepz and LayFullStop, Children of Zeus’s Konny Kon, soul singer Pip Millett and The Untold Orchestra, plus Homoelectric, Katbrownsugar, Lovescene, Matthew Halsall, SheBeKeke, Swing Ting and OneDa – but there are so many amazing artists set to perform here over the course of the fortnight.

This year’s Manchester International Festival runs from July 2-18

Underground Manchester music champions Reform Radio and Thirty Pound Gentlemen will present some of the finest young emerging talent, arranging nine performances ranging from afrobeat to French electro at The Festival Square over three days.


Dave Haslam will also present three specially-curated nights of Manchester talent, starting with a showcase of local record label Griot City Records (July 4). His Griot City Experience will feature performers like DJ Werkha, and poets SheBeKeke and Reece Willams, followed by further showcases with artists like Lounge Society, Blanketman and DJ Mark Rae.

And in a unique piece exploring the experiences of black women within the creative industries and society at large, The Untold Orchestra join up with singer Yemi Bolatiwa, original Hacienda resident DJ Paulette, poet Shirley May, dancer Maisha Kungu and contemporary circus performer Seren Marimba to present a tribute to Nina Simone’s Four Women.


Grove will be bringing their black, queer and feminist sounds to Manchester as part of a curated lineup by DJ and broadcaster Jamz Supernova.

And of course Manchester’s infamous LGBTQ+ club night Homoelectric will be bringing the party – albeit for one night only – with DJ sets from residents like Will Tramp and Gina Breeze, plus performances from vogue house House of Ghetto.

100 free gigs taking place at the new Festival Square hub for MIF 2021

Also curating at MIF’s Festival Square this year is the legendary Manchester DJ and producer Mr Scruff, who’s bringing the likes of Rebecca Vasmant and Secret Night Gang down on July 16. He’ll end the night with a special B2B DJ set with hip hop pioneer Mikey D.O.N. 


BBC Music Introducing has also selected four of Manchester’s rising stars to play across four nights: singer, songwriter and producer Caoilfhionn Rose (July 8), electro dance music quartet Porij (July 10), singer-songwriter Ellysse Mason (July 11) and R&B artist Femi Tahiru (July 15).

And Manchester record label Swing Ting host a takeover with MCs, DJs, and live performances from residents and special guests playing everything from afrobeat and bashment to dancehall, including Tai Chi Rose, Tarsza and label founder Samrai.

Dave Haslam
Pip Millett

Fabaret will return on July 17, curated by Greg Thorpe, with a celebratory showcase of Manchester-based LGBTQ+ artists including drag legend Cheddar Gorgeous and dancer and choreographer Jason Andrew Guest.

Manchester’s legendary spoken word night One Mic Stand also returns for another year with ten spoken word artists including Ella Otomewo, Billie Meredith, Isaiah Hull, and Jardel Rodrigues.

Residents from Greater Manchester will take over Festival Square for Our City Our Festival on July 3 – a free day-long event of music, conversations, performances and participatory activities, celebrating the diversity and talent within Greater Manchester communities.


Last but not least, in an epic Festival Square finale, grime club night turned creative agency Big People Music will present a big show with Manchester singer Misha B and rapper Abnormal Sleepz performing alongside the new BPM Orchestra.

Norman Jay

The night will close with a handful of special guest DJ sets from some of the city’s best selectors.

Manchester International Festival (MIF) will take place across indoor and outdoor locations in Greater Manchester from July 1-18. It features a vibrant programme of original new work from across the spectrum of visual and performing arts and music by artists from over 20 countries.

Further DJ sets include DJ Paulette (July 2), Konny Kon (July 4), Kat Brown Sugar (July 6), Jane Weaver (July 7), Matthew Halsall (July 8), Kath McDermott (July 17) and High Hoops (July 17).

For the full lineup, visit the MIF website.