When I first came to Manchester, one of the many reasons I stayed was the international festival. It wasn’t just the festival but it was kind of mind blowing to have so many premiere art events in such a short distance and reasonable priced. The big one which I will never forget is Marina Abramović’s presents which surprised me at the time and then blew me away i retrospect. 2 years I watched a contemporary ballet called the tree of life and there has been plenty more great experiences.
I bought quite a few events early May in between my travels. I missed the opening of the tickets, so a lot of events were sold out so I grabbed what I could even if I didn’t know so much about the events.
Here’s all the events I went to and really enjoyed…
MIF Opening: What is the City but the people? : Thursday 29th July
I actually applied to be one of the people to cross the massive yellow catwalk which was constructed in Piccadilly Gardens. But while applying for it, I received a form asking a ton of questions about my profession. There was about 25 points and I couldn’t say yes to any of them, so I assumed I most likely wouldn’t be selected (rightly or wrongly).
I actually shot a ton of footage for the event, which I won’t lie was incredible. Each and everyone had a fantastic story, from a refugees who have made their way across europe and parts of the middle east, people who have had sex changes, people with chronic diseases, drag queens, teachers, 2 people on a blind date, cyclists, nurses, beekeepers, cake makers, a woman with a new-born baby, Ian Hislop the Architect, Noel from Oasis etc. It was incredible but the two which really got me was the woman who was celebrating her 100th birthday this year; and a man who was raped and in the attack passed HIV. Just incredible and as the screens said, maybe this is just cities – but it is this city.
It really reflected the diversity and of the city in such a great way. It was a real high and well worth watching the video although you couldn’t beat being there. So great it didn’t rain, because that would have ruined everything.
Not related to MIF but after the high of the MIF opening, at the barber the next day. A man walked in without an appointment and when he was offered one with female barber could cut his hair. He refused saying he wanted a male barber. Felt like a bump back from the previous high.
Party skills for the end of the world : Friday 30th June
I had no idea what I had set myself up for. It wasn’t till I saw a poster while taking the tram one day. I knew it was immersive theatre but I had no idea how immersive. So the vague ticket description saying wear suitable shoes had me wondering for a long while.
When I got to the secret venue, my Uber driver was confused and asked if I was in the right place? To be fair I was thinking the same thing too.
Of course I can’t describe all which happened because that would spoil it for others and frankly it would be pretty impossible to do this justice.
It started with a good classic martini or in my case a few (I also made a dirty martini, that was the cloudy martini I had before the alarms went off).
We were moved deeper into the derelict building and then free to try a number of skills to take forward to the end of the world.
At some point more alarms and we were moved quickly through the building. Now I see why suitable shoes are required
Finally we ended up in a big room with a band playing something I imagine Underworld would play at the end of the world.
Then after a speech and blessing we were free to play in a vast building, and play we did till about midnight. I rejected the idea of going to the old pint pot because I had another MIF event at 1030am the next morning.
Interdependance: We need to talk about Power : Saturday 1st July
There are so many things to be said about these series of talks and what better place to have them that in the Ancoats Halle, which I have never visited although I can see it from my window. I went along 2 years ago in the old Granada site but these talks were far better and the everything about them was +10 on the previous ones.
Seeing Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and David Olusoga together on stage was pretty incredible. Each talking about power from the angle of race. Then when you can’t imagine how it could get better, Bad Language presented Jason Hickel (Writer of the Divide), Andrew O’Hagan and Deanna Rodger.
I’ve already made a note to go along to the monthly bad language events, when it doesn’t clash with Volleyball or Werewolf.
MIF tour: Identity and the Fabric of the City : Saturday 1st July
After Interdependance in the Ancoats Halle, there was just enough time to head home have breakfast then walk down to Festival Square for a tour of inner Manchester.
My thought was I lived in Manchester for 9 years and still don’t really know much of the history of Manchester (as clearly noticed when going to the Salford Lads club and asking who the man was on the photos? Yeah I know!)
The tour was short but very insightful, as we walked from festival square/albert square to the central library, through St Peters Square, along princess street then china town. Finally we headed to kings street and on to deansgate. Many facts and interesting stories. Will have to go on another one of the tours soon.
Fatherland preview : Monday 3rd July
With my upcoming conversation on BBC Merseyside about the crisis of masculinity. I got a ticket and wasn’t quite sure what to expect; but what I got was quite a surprise and a fantastic theater performance in the excellent royal exchange theatre. I was very fortunate to have snatched a 2nd row seat too, giving real impact to everything I was watching unfold.
The play was funny, tragic and held together really well. I saw the preview, so I expect by the time it was out of the preview it would be even tighter than what I saw. I was also shocked to find out that quite a few of the cast were not professionals.
What if Women ruled the world? : Thursday 6th July
This is the one ticket I couldn’t get first time around. I loved the concept and tried my best to blag a ticket. But luckily after seeing the previous MIF events, I went back to the site and found a bunch of tickets had been released. So I instantly snapped up one and pushed my other commitments for that night (sorry residents committee) but it was so worth it.
Like partyskills & fatherland I don’t want to reveal too much although I am finally writing this on the last day of MIF 2017 (I got back from Berlin too late to really go to any of the ending events). We weren’t really allowed to take pictures too, but as soon as it was finished no one was bothered so I grabbed some of the amazing set and what an amazing location to host it (mayfield depot) which is the same place I saw Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack 4 years ago.
The best way of thinking about what if women… as partly theater play and partly serious panel discussion. I’m planning to watch the other ones just to see how different they were from the one I went to.
My only negative to the event was the chairs were pretty sore on the bottom after sitting for so long. At least with Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack you could shift your weight around a little, although I remember that being too long for standing.
Interdependance: We need to talk about Technology : Saturday 8th July
The introduction of the robot from Sheffield University, and the reaction from the panel especially Joanna Bryson who verbalised her reaction as, ahhhh cute but wait why has it got a feminine sounding name? And why is it trying to act like pet? I’m now fighting not to treat it the way you want me to react. It reminded me of the very first time I saw a Aibo (sonys robotic dog, which I later owned) at the ICA in London. Everyone was so besotted by it then a member of the panel walked across the floor and kicked it off the stage. Of course Joanna wasn’t planning on doing this but her reaction turned to slight anger about the robot.
I was also trying to squeeze in more MIF events before going away for a week. I wasn’t wrong, another great series of talks hosted by the Aleks Krotoski. If I didn’t have to rush off to Volleyball to coach, I would have tried to catch up with her and some of the incredible guests.
I was very taken by Birgitta Jónsdóttir (who I heard so much about but never met or seen her live) and Laurie Anderson (who I hadn’t really come across before), who were just fantastic in everything they said. Joanna Bryson in the AI debate was off the hook, certainly someone I want to hear more from in the future.
On reflection, MIF pretty much couldn’t do no wrong. From the start with the decision to put the people of the city front and centre (I kind which I’d filled that form out now) to the amazing contemporary theatre productions. From deep note taking conversations in great spaces to immersive experiences in derelict buildings.
I was explaining to my sister how incredibly wonderful MIF is and why she should make the trip up to Manchester in 2 years time for MIF 2019. I said this while having dinner at the London Barbican after going to the into the unknown exhibit, which I was looking forward to.
I was deeply disappointed as I didn’t even get see the black mirror exhibit (they turned it off 5mins before the end and I went and visited everything else (theres 3 parts) before being told the exhibit is actually in the public lobby. To say I was peed off was an underestimation. From what I can see of the long turned off screen in the lobby, it would play visions of the black mirror universe.
My thoughts of a box with advertising surrounding you like 15 million merits, where the screens would pause and play a high pitch noise till you look again, certainly was over-thought. I guess? Maybe a suggestion for 2 years from now, as I can imagine creating this for MIF 2019 using existing technology.
I said it before but the MIF (Manchester International Festival) was one of those things which makes me very happy that I moved to Manchester. Yes could do the same in other cities but the size and culture of Manchester makes it seem like the ideal match. If you haven’t been before, mark it down in your calendar for 2 years time!
What a excellent 9 days! Just excellent!