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Manchester International Festival

Manchester International Festival
Status Active
Genre Festival
Dates July (dates vary)
Frequency Biennial
Venue Multiple across Manchester
Location(s) Manchester, UK
Country United Kingdom
Years active 9
Inaugurated 2007
Founder Alex Poots for Manchester City Council
Previous event 2–19 July 2015[1]
Next event 2017 (dates to be arranged)
Attendance 259,648 (2015)
Area International
Budget £12 m for 2015 festival
* £2.5 m Manchester City Council
* £1.4 m Arts Council England
Leader John McGrath (artistic director)
People Tom Bloxham (board chairman)
Rosa Battle (board member)
Keith Black (board member)
Jeremy Deller (board member)
Steve Downes (board member)
Joyce Hytner (board member)
Brian McMaster (board member)
Chris Oglesby (board member)
Richard Paver (board member)
Nancy Rothwell (board member)
Peter Salmon (board member)
Andrew Stokes (board member)
Kully Thiarai (board member)
Michael Morris (artistic advisor)
Hans Ulrich Obrist (artistic advisor)
Peter Saville (artistic advisor)
Sponsor Various

The Manchester International Festival is a biennial international arts festival, with a specific focus on original new work, held in the English city of Manchester. The festival is a biennial event, first taking place in June–July 2007, and subsequently recurring in the summers of 2009, 2011 and 2013. MIF 15 took place between 2–19 July 2015.


  • Pre-festival commissions 1
  • MIF 07 2
  • MIF 09 3
  • MIF 11 4
  • MIF 13 5
  • MIF 15 6
  • MIF 17 7
  • The Factory 8
    • Design team appointments 8.1
      • Shortlisted design teams 8.1.1
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Pre-festival commissions

The Festival was promoted and initiated with three pre-festival commissions. The first of these took place in November 2005, when Gorillaz performed live at the Manchester Opera House. Recordings of these performances were later released as the Demon Days Live DVD. The second was The Schools Festival Song, a new piece by Ennio Morricone and Nicholas Royle sung by an 8,000-strong schools' choir, organised by Young Voices, which took place on 4 December 2006.

The third was an art installation, in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum, by Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen, as a response to the 2003 Iraq war and as a tribute to British service personnel killed in that conflict. It was exhibited in the Great Hall of Manchester Central Library from 28 February to 15 July 2007.

MIF 07

The first edition of the Festival ran from 28 June - 15 July 2007. The Festival's showpiece production was Monkey: Journey To The West, a re-working of the ancient Chinese legend Journey to the West by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, collaborating on their first major project since Gorillaz. Albarn wrote the score while Hewlett designed the set and costumes.[2] Adapted and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, whose credits range from classical Chinese opera to the Meryl Streep movie Dark Matter, the show also featured 45 Chinese circus acrobats, Shaolin monks and Chinese vocalists. The production was designed and created by Théâtre du Châtelet in co-operation with the Manchester International Festival and the Berlin State Opera, and performed at the Palace Theatre.

As well as Monkey, the Festival showcased two other events. The first was Il Tempo del Postino, a visual arts show curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno and produced in conjunction with the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, performed at the Manchester Opera House. The other was a new stage adaptation of The Pianist, combining the original words of Władysław Szpilman spoken by actor Peter Guinness, with the music of Frédéric Chopin performed by leading pianist Mikhail Rudy, and directed by Neil Bartlett at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.[3]

Finance for MIF 07
Funding for the 2007 festival[4]
Source of funding Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Manchester City Council
Other public funding (including Arts Council)
Other funding
Ticket sales

Total amount = £8.8m

Expenditure for the 2007 festival[4]
Source of expenditure Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Artistic programme
Marketing and press
Festival operations

Total amount = £9.0m

The 2007 festival made a £0.2m loss (£8.8m worth of funding minus £9.0m expenditure), which was made up by the council's contingency and made up in the 2009 festival.[5]

The economic impact to the region was £28.8m.[6]

MIF 09

Kraftwerk with special guest Steve Reich playing at Manchester Velodrome

The 2009 Manchester International Festival took place between 2–19 July 2009; in October 2008, a press release announced the first three commissions for 2009.[7] These werePrima Donna, Rufus Wainwright's debut opera, Everybody Loves a Winner, a "new theatrical experience" by director Neil Bartlett, and a "unique environment within Manchester Art Gallery" for solo piano, violin and cello JS Bach works, created by Zaha Hadid Architects.

The entire festival programme featuring more than 20 commissions was announced in March 2009. It included a Jeremy Deller and a collaboration between Elbow and The Hallé orchestra.[8] Manchester alternative rock band Epiphany are also appearing as part of the procession. The festival also featured It Felt Like A Kiss, a multimedia production created by documentary-maker Adam Curtis, Damon Albarn and Punchdrunk theatre company.

Other artists included De La Soul, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, Antony and the Johnsons with the Manchester Camerata, Carlos Acosta and The Durutti Column, performing a tribute to the late Tony Wilson.

Finance for MIF 09
Funding for the 2009 festival[5]
Source of funding Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Manchester City Council
Other public funding (including Arts Council)
Other funding
Ticket sales

Total amount = £9.5m

Expenditure for the 2009 festival[5]
Source of expenditure Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Artistic programme
Marketing and press
Festival operations

Total amount = £9.3m

The 2009 festival made a £0.2m profit (£9.5m worth of funding minus £9.3m expenditure), which made up the £0.2m deficit incurred by the 2007 festival.[5]

The economic impact to the region was £35.9m.[9]

MIF 11

The 2011 edition of the Festival ran from 30 June to 17 July 2011 and staged 27 original projects,[10] featuring artists and performers such as Björk, Damon Albarn, Snoop Dogg, Marina Abramović, Victoria Wood, WU LYF, D/R/U/G/S and Air Cav,[11][12] along with the Punchdrunk's Doctor Who production The Crash of the Elysium.[13] Manchester International Festival's director Alex Poots stated that "the most important thing for us to do is make an artistically and culturally important festival that is of the highest quality".[14] The abolition of the Northwest Regional Development Agency, which contributed £900,000 to the 2009 festival, resulted in a loss of funding for 2011's Manchester International Festival.[14]

Björk began the MIF11, with the live debut of her new album Biophilia,[15] with Dave Simpson of The Guardian stating that she "provided a stunning visual display", adding that "the Icelandic singer made a typically eye-popping entrance on huge platform shoes and sporting blue and white facepaint".[16] Sinéad O'Connor also performed at the festival, earning favourable reviews; Pamela Owen of the Daily Mail, whilst acknowledging that "she clearly wowed the audience", however, criticised her "dowdy" appearance and described her as wearing a "mumsy trouser-suit".[17]

Damon Albarn debuted his opera Doctor Dee, based on the life of Elizabethan scientist and philosopher John Dee, at the Palace Theatre. Directed by Rufus Norris, the production was described as "by no means an opera in the conventional sense" by The Guardian‍ '​s Alfred Hickling, who described Dr Dee as "an erudite affair", giving it four stars.[18]

Finance for MIF 11
Funding for the 2011 festival[19]
Source of funding Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Manchester City Council
Other public funding (including Arts Council)
Other funding
Ticket sales

Total amount = £11.3m

Expenditure for the 2011 festival[19]
Source of expenditure Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Artistic programme
Marketing and press
Festival operations

Total amount = £11.2m

The 2011 festival made a £0.1m profit (£11.3m worth of funding minus £11.2m expenditure).[19]

The economic impact to the region was £37.6m.[20]

MIF 13

The Old Woman at the Palace Theatre, Manchester

The festival returned in 2013 and ran from 4 to 21 July [21] attracting an estimated quarter of a million attendees, generating £40 million for the city of Manchester.[22] The 18-day Festival included over 300 performances of more than 30 new commissions and special events which included collaborations with artists such as Maxine Peake, Kenneth Branagh, The xx, Massive Attack and Tino Sehgal.[23]

The 2013 Manchester International Festival pavilion at night in Albert Square
Rob Ashford

and Kenneth Branagh directed a new adaptation of Macbeth at the Church of St Peter in Ancoats. Branagh starred as Macbeth alongside Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth in a performance which The Daily Telegraph‍ '​s Dominic Cavendish described as "a thrilling and cinematically fluid production" in his five star review.[24] The production was co-commissioned with New York's Park Avenue Armory where it played to rave reviews in May and June 2014.[25] During the shows run at MIF13, Macbeth was broadcast to cinemas around the world by National Theatre Live.[26]

One of the main events was Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis, a collaborative performance from Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja and Bafta-winning filmmaker Adam Curtis which took place in the Mayfield Depot. Robert Wilson directed Mikhail Baryshnikov and William Dafoe in a surrealist adaptation of Daniil Kharms' short story The Old Woman at the Palace Theatre.[27]

MIF13 introduced a members scheme which granted people access to priority booking for the most highly anticipated events. Also new was a £12 ticket scheme, allowing

  • Manchester International Festival official website – including links to press reviews
  • Not Part Of Manchester International Festival Website – fringe events held at the same time as the main festival in 2007
  • Not Part Of Festival Website - fringe festival that will take place to complement MIF in the future

External links

  1. ^ a b c d Manchester International Festival site
  2. ^ Ward, David (19 March 2007). "From Britpop to Britop".  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ a b   point 11. Pdf.
  5. ^ a b c d   Pdf.
  6. ^ Manchester City Council (13 February 2008). p. 7, point 10.
  7. ^   Pdf.
  8. ^ Brown, Mark (20 March 2009). "Manchester festival makes room for Elbow, Hallé and Kraftwerk".  
  9. ^ Manchester City Council (13 January 2010). p. 6, point 21.
  10. ^ Walters, Sarah (22 July 2011). "Manchester International Festival: First here... then the world".  
  11. ^ "Wu Lyf top Manchester International Festival's new music".  
  12. ^ Singh, Anita (17 March 2011). "Damon Albarn and Björk at Manchester International Festival".  
  13. ^ Manchester International Festival site
  14. ^ a b """MIF director Alex Poots: "There's unfinished business. Creative Times. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Needham, Alex (1 July 2007). "Manchester international festival is go".  
  16. ^ Simpson, Dave (1 July 2007). "Bjork - review".  
  17. ^ Owen, Pamela (2 July 2007). "What's happened 2 U? Rocking Sinead O'Connor is barely recognisable in long hair and mumsy trouser-suit".  
  18. ^ Hickling, Alfred (2 July 2007). "Dr Dee, Palace Theatre, Manchester".  
  19. ^ a b c   point 3.2.4. Pdf.
  20. ^ Manchester City Council (18 October 2011). p. 15, point 22.
  21. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (14 November 2012). "Kenneth Branagh to play Macbeth among church-goers".  
  22. ^ Bourne, Dianne (24 July 2013). "£40m windfall for city as the curtain falls on festival bonanza".  
  23. ^ "UK to the world: Culture boosts North of England". Creative Industries. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  24. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (6 June 2014). "Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, review".  
  25. ^ "Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston MACBETH Directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh". Manchester International Festival. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  26. ^ "MACBETH Filmed by National Theatre Live". Manchester International Festival. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  27. ^ Vallely, Paul (5 July 2013). "Theatre review: The Old Woman, Manchester International Festival".  
  28. ^ Delamotta, Deanna (22 April 2013). "Can’t be Bard! Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth at MIF gets two extra performances".  
  29. ^ Brooks-Pollock, Tom (12 October 2013). "Manchester International Festival created hundreds of new jobs in £38m boost for city, report says".  
  30. ^ a b c   point 3.5. Pdf.
  31. ^ Manchester City Council (15 October 2013). p. 17, point 14.
  32. ^ Eruotour, Eno (12 June 2015). "Manchester International Festival - how does it benefit the city?".  
  33. ^ a b c d   Appendix 1 Pdf.
  34. ^ Manchester City Council (7 October 2015). pp. 13-14, point 3.2.4.(ii).
  35. ^ Manchester City Council (7 October 2015). p. 17, point 7(a).
  36. ^ a b Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (25 November 2014). "Manchester international festival founding director off to New York".  
  37. ^ Blake, David (25 November 2014). "$400m New York Arts Centre Snaps Up MIF Director Poots". Manchester Confidential. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  38. ^ Mark, Brown (13 May 2015). "National Theatre Wales artistic director John McGrath departs for Manchester festival job".  
  39. ^ "Starlight Theatre".  
  40. ^ Chapman, Stephen (27 September 2013). "Granada’s Quay Street complex bought by Allied London and Manchester City Council". Prolific North. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  41. ^ a b Sherwin, Adam (29 July 2015). "The Factory project: New £110m arts venue named after Tony Wilson's Factory Records to open in Manchester".  
  42. ^ Williams, Jennifer (22 July 2015). "Manchester's £110m Factory Theatre takes a big step forward with architects set to be appointed".  
  43. ^ a b "Manchester to get new £78m theatre named The Factory". BBC. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  44. ^ Youngs, Ian (29 July 2015). "The Factory Manchester £110m arts venue approved". BBC. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  45. ^ Hutchison, David (20 July 2015). "Simon Mellor appointed project director for Manchester’s the Factory".  
  46. ^ a b   point 5.0. Pdf.
  47. ^ Woolman, Natalie (3 January 2012). "MIF general director Simon Mellor to join arts council".  
  48. ^ a b "Provision of design services lots 1-7 for the Factory Development, Manchester". 24 July 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  49. ^ Fulcher, Merlin (23 September 2015). "Stellar shortlist revealed for Manchester's new £110m arts venue".  
  50. ^ Marrs, Colin (1 October 2015). "No architects on Manchester’s Factory competition jury".  


The five shortlisted firms: Ove Arup & PartnersBuilding Design PartnershipBuro Happold • Kahle Acoustics sprl • Threshold Acoustics.

  • Acoustic Engineer Services:

The five shortlisted firms: Ove Arup & PartnersWSP UK (Trading as WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff)Buro HappoldHoare Lea and PartnersAECOM.

  • Fire Engineer Services:

The five shortlisted firms: Turner & Townsend Cost Management • Gardiner & Theobald • Gleeds Cost Management • EC HarrisRider Levett Bucknall (UK).

  • Cost Consultant and Employer's Agent Services:

The five shortlisted firms: Ove Arup & PartnersBuro HappoldWSP UK (Trading as WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff)Max FordhamMott MacDonald.

  • Building Services Engineer Services:

The five shortlisted firms: Expedition EngineeringOve Arup & PartnersWSP UKBuro HappoldMott MacDonald.

  • Structural & Civil Engineer Services:

The five shortlisted firms: Fisher Dachs Associates • Charcoalblue • Ove Arup & Partners • Theatre Projects Consultants • Theatreplan.

  • Theatre Consultant Services:

Out of the 48 architectural firms who expressed an interest, the following nine were invited to go forward by the council:

  • Architectural Services:

On 23 September 2015, the Architects' Journal announced the shortlisted design teams,[49] however the former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Angela Brady, was amongst a number of architects who expressed their concern that there are no architects amongst the jury who will name the successful bidding firm. The jury comprises: Richard Leese, (leader of Manchester City Council), Tom Bloxham, (chairman of the festival and Urban Splash), and Michael Ingall, (chief executive of Allied London). The jury are assisted by a technical panel: Maria Balshaw, (director of the Whitworth, University of Manchester and Manchester City Galleries - comprising Manchester Art Gallery and Gallery of Costume), Pat Bartoli, (head of the council’s City Centre Regeneration Team), John McGrath, (artistic director and chief executive of the festival), Greg Attwood, (development director at Allied London), and Dave Carty, (development manager of the council’s City Centre Regeneration).[50]

Shortlisted design teams

  1. Architectural Services: Lead design consultant, preparation and brief, concept design, development design, technical design, provide construction production information, handover and close out. Estimated cost £4 million.
  2. Theatre Consultant Services: Provide theatre consultant design services from feasibility and design options, developed design, technical design including auditorium, rehearsal rooms, hall design and other spaces relating to producing and performance, construction production information, handover and close out. Estimated cost £1.2 million.
  3. Structural & Civil Engineer Services: Provide structural and civil engineering design services to produce the structural design, including that relating to the production of 3-D special co-ordination and clash detection between the structural and other design elements from pre-construction, construction and handover and close out. Estimated cost £1.25 million.
  4. Building Services Engineer Services: Responsible for ensuring that all aspects of the mechanical and electrical design are fully co-ordinated including the production of 3-D clash detection between the mechanical and electrical services and any other design elements from pre-construction, construction and handover and close out. Estimated cost £1.25 million.
  5. Cost Consultant and Employer's Agent Services: Responsible for cost management services including concept design, options appraisals, developed design, technical design, contract pricing, change management, cost control during construction, signing monthly valuations as client representative and final account settlement. Estimated cost £1.3 million.
  6. Fire Engineer Services: Provide fire engineer services developing the fire strategy from pre-construction, construction and handover and close out. Estimated cost £100,000.
  7. Acoustic Engineer Services: Provide acoustic engineering services developing the acoustic strategy from pre-construction, construction and handover and close out. Estimated cost £420,000.[48]

The £9.5m design contract has been put out to tender.[41] The design team are being procured through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) procurement process via seven lots, each with an estimated duration of 45 months (3 years, 9 months i.e. the summer of 2019) from the award of the contract in mid-November:

Design team appointments

When the procurement process has been completed there will be a detailed design and delivery strategy as well as a detailed business case for presentation to Manchester City Council's Executive Committee.[46]

  • July 2015 - issue of the contract for design services[48]
  • Mid-November 2015 - design team appointments (see below)
  • May 2016 - planning application submission
  • January 2017 to December 2018 - construction
  • January 2019 to June 2019 - commissioning of facilities and test events
  • July 2019 - opening ceremony

The timeframe established by the Project Board contains the following key milestones:

The design and development process will be overseen by a Project Board set up by Manchester City Council with Maria Balshaw appointed the Single Responsible Owner for the project. Funding and project monitoring is the responsibility of Arts Council England (ACE) who have agreed to second Simon Mellor, ACE's Executive Director, Arts and Culture,[45] for up to two days a week (to be based in the Manchester project office in Manchester Town Hall). His role will be to support the further development of the business case and to work up the technical brief for the design team.[46] Mellor was previously a General Director at MIF.[47]

[43] The council said that the venue would "play an integral part in helping Manchester and the north of England provide a genuine cultural counterbalance to London".[44] but the council have since managed to secure a further £32 million from "a variety of sources" but added that no public money would be used.[43] Initially the Chancellor,

The Factory is a £110 million theatre and arts venue to be built on the former site of Granada Studios, in the St John's Quarter of Manchester (currently the Starlight Theatre),[39] being developed by Manchester Quays Ltd, a development partnership between Allied London and Manchester City Council,[40] and is to be the permanent home of the Manchester International Festival. Its name comes from Factory Records, the independent record label founded by the late Tony Wilson. The flexible space will hold up to 5,000 people and will be capable of transforming from a seated theatre to a standing environment.[41][42]

Granada Studios entrance on Water Street.

The Factory

In November 2014 it was announced that Alex Poots, Manchester International Festival's founding director, would be stepping down from his role after MIF 15.[36] Poots is leaving his position to take on the role of chief executive of the Culture Shed in New York.[36][37] In May 2015 it was announced that Poots will be succeeded by John McGrath, the Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales.[38]

MIF 17

The economic impact to the region was £38.8m.[35]

The 2015 festival broke even (£12m worth of funding minus £12m expenditure).[33]

Expenditure for the 2015 festival[33]
Source of expenditure Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Artistic programme
Festival operations (including marketing and press)

Total amount = £12m

Non-public sector funding for the 2015 festival[33]
Source of funding Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Sponsorship and individual giving
Value in kind from co-producers
Other non-public funding
Ticket sales

Total amount = £7.9 (or 66% of total festival funding of £12m)

Public sector funding for the 2015 festival[34]
Source of funding Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Manchester City Council
Arts Council England
Other public sector funding

Total amount = £4.1 (or 34% of total festival funding of £12m)

Finance for MIF 15

The 2015 festival was expected to attract 250,000 visitors,[32] however it exceeded this figure by attracting 259,648.[33]

On the 21st of January 2015, it was announced that the next MIF15 commission would be, a new musical with music by Damon Albarn, book and lyrics by Moira Buffini and that it would be directed by Rufus Norris. is inspired by Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and is a co-production with The National Theatre. It was performed at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from the 29th of June to 12 of July 2015.[1] will tour to the The National Theatre opening on Monday 23rd November 2015 and running into 2016.

On the 19th of November 2014 Manchester International Festival announced the first three new commissions for MIF15. Tree of Codes is a new contemporary ballet directed and choreographed by Wayne McGregor with music composed by Jamie xx and visual concept by Olafur Eliasson. The performance, took place 2–10 July 2015 at Manchester Opera House, was inspired by the book Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer and featured soloists and dancers from The Paris Opera Ballet. The Tale of Mr Tumble a new theatre show for young children and families; Justin Fletcher invited audiences to step inside the colourful world of one of most cherished TV characters, the show took place at Manchester Opera House from the 11 – 19 July. Manchester International Festival announced their full line-up in Spring 2015.[1]

Manchester International Festival returned in 2015 and ran from 2 to 19 July.[1]

MIF 15

The economic impact to the region was £38m.[31]

The 2013 festival broke even (£11.9m worth of funding minus £11.9m expenditure).[30]

Expenditure for the 2013 festival[30]
Source of expenditure Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Artistic programme
Marketing and press
Festival operations

Total amount = £11.9m

Funding for the 2013 festival[30]
Source of funding Amount £m ( % of all funding )
Manchester City Council
Other public funding (including Arts Council)
Other funding
Ticket sales

Total amount = £11.9m

Finance for MIF 13

[29] Manchester City Council provided £2 million in funding and the festival boosted the local economy by £38 million.[28]

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