Manchester International Festival (MIF) kicks off in the city this Thursday with a huge two-week program showcasing the best new art, theatre, music and film across a number of venues in Manchester.
Running from 1-18 July, the festival is able to safely continue with social distancing, despite England not reaching stage 4 in the unlocking roadmap. Organisers have also included some online events for those unable to come down in person this year.
The first major event to return to Manchester since the pandemic hit, MIF 2021 brings a series of important artworks into open public spaces as part of a big new focus on outdoor events.
From the premiere of a new film starring Cillian Murphy to a theatrical performance of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay about grief, there are some real stand-out works forming part of the city’s annual international festival.
What’s on at MIF 2021?
Things will kick off with a huge flash mob-style dance performance on Deansgate this Thursday, featuring hundreds of dancers and over 150 local people from Manchester.
The creation of French choreographer Boris Charmatz, the huge outdoor dance performance will fill the central street with a throng of professional and non-professional dancers.
Elsewhere, an anti-consumerist grocery store, EART, will open as a fully-functioning Manchester shop selling generic, locally-sourced and unbranded produce as part of a project from leading Pakistani artist Rashid Rana.
And artwork from Christine Sun Kim will cover the city centre, ‘captioning the world that surrounds us’ with descriptions scrawled onto buildings and a plane flying a banner through the sky above.
Over in Piccadilly Gardens, a thought-provoking sculpture of Big Ben is currently being erected (on its side) according to the specifications of artist Marta Minujín. At 42 metres long, the iconic London landmark is being re-built from 20,000 copies of books that have shaped British politics over the years.
And at Manchester Central Library, a book of love letters told by over a hundred Greater Manchester residents is set to appear upstairs in the historic building’s grand Reading Room – rewritten in the words of a team of writers and poets.
Hanging in Manchester Arndale will be 100 portraits of Black British people, created by photographer and “56 Black Men” campaigner Cephas Williams to highlight the contribution of Black people living in the UK and challenge negative stereotypes.
In what will be the inaugural event for The Factory, MIF’s new dedicated arts centre, a field of starry, luminous tents will house a murmuring soundscape of poetry inspired by the natural world as part of Arcadia: a unique new light and sound installation created by opera and theatre director Deborah Warner.
For one weekend only (10-11 July), they will whisper the immortal words of nature poets ranging from WB Yeats and William Blake to Sappho, read by a cast including the likes of Brian Cox, Jane Horrocks and David Thewlis.
Further out of town at the Whitworth, exhibit Cloud Studies explores how state power reshapes the very air we breathe: shining a light on the environmental racism in Louisiana’s so-called ‘Cancer Alley’ – an area along the Mississippi River where majority-Black communities are exposed to the most toxic air in the US.
Curated by Forensic Architecture, a research agency of architects, artists, filmmakers, journalists, lawyers, scientists and software developers, it will examine how even air can be weaponised; from the air pollution that targets the marginalised to chemical weapons that eviscerate entire neighbourhoods.
Whilst in Cheetham Hill, a new commission by Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost will open the newly refurbished Manchester Jewish Museum. It will include a new film inspired by the museum’s history as a former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, that has been shot inside the museum and the surrounding Cheetham Hill area.
On top of all this, there’s a huge free music program going on at Festival Square – to be found this year at a new home on Cathedral Gardens, and online channel MIF LIVE will stream a mix of performance, live music, exclusive interviews, and a range of commentary and talks for those unable to attend in person.
How do I get tickets?
So far, three events have sold out – music performances from Arlo Parks and Damon Albarn, as well as outdoor Deansgate dance performance Sea Change – at the time of writing but the majority are still open and ready to book.
For the full list of events and tickets to all the exhibits, theatre performances, poetry, music shows and more, head to the MIF website.
Noughties throwback Lemar announces special 20th anniversary gigs in Manchester and London
The one and only Lemar is back now only with new album but two special shows to mark his 20th anniversary in music.
A chart-topping, BRIT and MOBO award-winning artists who rose to popularity in the early 2000s, Lemar has sold millions of albums worldwide and is now returning with his first new record in nearly eight years.
Having released his latest 80s funk inspired new single, ‘Future Love’, today (7 February) and officially announced his upcoming seventh album, Page In My Heart, the noughties pop and R&B artist is back on the scene and thought it only fit to pay tribute to 20 years in the biz.
Two decades on from his debut album, Dedicated, Lemar is hosting a pair of anniversary shows in London and right here in Manchester. Now this is going to be quite the throwback.
Best know for hit tracks like ‘It’s Not That Easy’, ’50/50′, ‘What About Love?’, ‘Another Day’ and many more, the 44-year-old returns to the stage with a new sound but one that also calls back to his roots and early work.
Speaking in a statement, Lemar says: “With this new album, I wanted to make something for anyone who ever bought Dedicated, as this year is 20 years since its release. I thought I’d like to make something for the people who got behind that album, something that they would appreciate and like.
Descirbing his new single, he went on to say, “it’s more uptempo, it’s got that soulful feel, it’s a bit looser, a bit Chaka Khan. A bit ‘Dance (With U)’… it’s got that kind of energy to it.”
The Tottenham-born singer hasn’t been ‘away’ per se, having continued to perform up and down the country in recent years, but both he and his fans have been waiting “patiently” to get the right collection of songs together to release new material.
His last album, The Letter, released back in 2015 and delighted die-hards but he says this latest project is about reconnecting with his fans, insisting that “it really is a page from my heart.”
Lemar will celebrate two decades of music and the 20th anniversary of Dedicated live with two special nights at O2 Ritz here in Manchester and London indigo at The O2 on the 27 and 28 of April, respectively. You best believe we’ll be getting one.
Tickets go on sale on 10 February at 10am. Tickets will be available HERE and at Ticketmaster.
This month award-winning piemakers Great North Pie Co will officially open in Manchester city centre, bringing its high-quality goodies to Kampus for the very first time.
Serving up a modern take on traditional pie and mash dinners, a new, seasonal menu features four butter-pastry pies, stuffed to the brim using only the best ingredients from North West producers.
From 14-hour braised beef and ale pies, to roast chicken and mushroom and the company’s hero classic Lancashire cheese and onion, pie fans can expect to find classic flavour combinations done well at the cosy and intimate new space.
Each pie on the menu is served with a wide range of sides, with choices including buttery mash or proper home-style chips, cauliflower cheese, pickled red cabbage, mushy garden peas or chip shop mushy peasall served withroast onion and brown sauce gravy or the house curry sauce- the ultimate feed.
There will also be weekly comfort food specials such as lamb and pea steamed suet puddings, corned beef hash, Lancashire Hot Pot, and keema and chips.
To round off the perfect meal, puddings include school dinner-style sweet treats like chocolate sponge and custard and the classic sticky toffee pudding.
Breakfast sandwiches will be served daily between 10:30am and 2.30pm and will feature quality versions of all the breakfast classics including Cheshire Smokehouse honey-cured bacon and Stornoway black pudding.
The drinks menu, meanwhile, includes the likes of Manchester Union Lager on draught, a selection of quality wines and proseccos, plus a handful of spritz style cocktails.
With booth-style seating for 20 inside and an outdoor area seating area for up to 30 more overlooking the Kampus garden and canal, the cosy new pie cafe is the first resident to arrive on the cobbles of Kampus’s Little David Street.
Neil Broomfield, co-founder of Great North Pie Co, said: “Since we started making pies it’s always been an ambition to have a base in the city centre.
“We’d been looking for a while and as soon as we saw Kampus, Little David Street and the gardens, we knew it was the right place for us. While it’s our first city centre venue, we don’t have plans to rollout out any more, as we place our focus on keeping the quality and consistency we aim for.
“We just want to concentrate on doing one thing and doing it well. The mix of traders coming into Kampus is amazing and we’re so proud to be part of it.”
Great North Pie Co also has venues in Lake District’s Ambleside and in Altrincham Market. Its products can also be found at monthly farmers markets, where they started the business, in locations such as Urmston, Knutsford, Northwich, Altrincham, Chester, Wilmslow, Chorlton, Bakewell, Macclesfield and West Didsbury.
The pie brand supplies pubs and restaurants nationwide and also supplies to the likes of Booths, Robinsons’s brewery, Dukeshill Hams, Manchester City Football Club, Stockport County FC, and other popular pubs and restaurants across the country.