Manchester International Festival 2023 Launches

'Taking the temperature of our times'
March 14, 2023

The Met Office, the RAF and Welcome To Yorkshire have all confirmed this lunchtime that cheers and applause emanating from Manchester's Corporation Street earlier today were audible across much of the North. 

A claim by Dorothy from Hull's Hessle Road, that she also witnessed a third-party spy balloon heading west towards the Pennines around the same time as the reported celebrations - so far remains unsubstantiated. 

Mag North operatives were thankfully on hand at New Century Hall at 10am today, when Factory International announced the eagerly anticipated details of this year's Manchester International Festival (MIF) - which runs from 29 June to 16 July across Greater Manchester. 

It seems an age since the first biennial fest wowed visitors back in 2007 - and every other year since, this art and cultural celebration has grown in size and become ever-more influential - and an integral part of the warp and weft of Northern culture. 


This year, a wide-ranging programme of original new work by artists from around the world is set to take place in venues and spaces throughout the city and of course at Factory International’s keenly awaited new home, which opens its doors for the first time for the Festival, in advance of its official opening in October.

This summer, Yayoi Kusama’s inflatable sculptures will form a centrepiece of the Festival, and the first work to be presented at Factory International’s flagship new venue. You, Me and the Balloons will take over the vast warehouse space, inviting audiences to take an exhilarating journey through Kusama's psychedelic creations.

Other highlights include Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and footballer Juan Mata, who will be exploring art - and football in the red and blue city. Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto brings a mixed reality concert, there's also a live photographic performance by Benji Reid and a musical adaptation of a cult queer classic by Philip Venables and Ted Huffman

MIF23 organisers have promised 'the expansive programme of new work premiering at the Festival will see artforms merge, breaking new creative ground and challenging perceptions.' 

Festival Square relocates this year to the new HQ's outdoor spaces - and the fortnight is going to be packed with free live music from over 100 performers, and a wide variety of food and drink, creating a new riverside destination for the city.

Organisers confirmed today that there will be £10 tickets available for every show and a huge select of free events - ensuring we can all enjoy the amazing atmosphere.

Events are going to take place in spaces and places across the city - including a city-wide quest for collectible coin artworks by Ryan Gander, a celebration of our connection to water on the banks of the River Medlock by Risham Syed and Angie Bual, and a chilling adaptation of a lost dystopian masterpiece in the depths of the John Rylands library by Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight

Maxine Peake (Image: Paul Husband)

With a focus on being ever more inclusive - and expanding on the significant digital presence the Festival has pioneered since 2017, MIF23 is also going to feature a broad online offer including livestreams and behind-the-scenes broadcasts, plus the world premiere of a new film by artist and director Jenn Nkiru, and a programme of talks from Guardian Live that will take place in person and online - full details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Local people and residents are once again at the heart of MIF23, and will be performing on Festival Square, volunteering in an array of roles across the Festival - and most importantly - showing the world why Manchester is so very special

As you would expect of a community with a history of looking out for each other, many of the festival works reflect on the personal experiences of the city’s diverse communities, from youth led performances, and exhibitions surrounding mental health as part of Balmy Army to a futuristic and interactive journey through Manchester by Blast Theory and Manchester Street Poem led by those most marginalised in the city. 

But it's not all about Mancunians. A group of international artists are heading to the North West to take up residency in communities in Greater Manchester, to soak up the Festival and collaborate on projects for the future, including El Conde de Torrefiel, The Nest Collective, Shilpa Gupta and FAFSWAG

And with its commitment to developing the next generation of creative talent, MIF23 are providing artists from all stages of their careers with platforms to develop and learn during the festival. Six artists from the North will shadow the creation of MIF23 projects through the Factory Creative Fellowships, and ten creatives involved in Manchester’s music scene will be offered financial support towards the creation of a new project and the opportunity to perform on Festival Square as part of the recently launched Factory Sounds.

Justin Vivian Bond (Image: Christopher Scalzi)

And with a reach and appeal worldwide, much of the work made in Manchester for MIF23 will go on to travel internationally, building on an audience to date of over 1.6 million people in more than 30 countries who have experienced MIF’s work overseas.

Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Factory International & Manchester International Festival John McGrath says: “From the radical and agenda setting to the purest of celebrations, MIF23’s programme covers a huge range of art forms and styles - from a ritual on the banks of a newly uncovered river, to mixed reality from one of Japan’s greatest composers, from a hunt for artworks across the city to a residency from one of American music’s most vibrant superstars. A genuine melting pot of creativity where artists share their ideas with each other and the public, the Festival will once again take the temperature of our times, and imagine possibilities for the future.

As always MIF is rooted in its home - in the spaces and places of Greater Manchester. So at the same time as we take up residency in our flagship new venue with our centrepiece exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s incredible inflatable sculptures, the Festival will extend its reach throughout the city: finding unexpected locations to show its work in, and working with local artists and residents to perform and take part. MIF23 will be a true celebration of the city and its cultural offerings.”

And Manchester residents are playing a key role as part of Factory International too: participating in flagship commissions, co-designing programmes of activity, and shaping the organisation through involvement in its public forums. Skills, training and development opportunities for local people are provided through the Factory Academy, helping to build the technicians, producers and other talent that will bring the future alive, and providing opportunities for careers in Manchester’s ever-growing Creative Industries.

Blast Theory (Image: Andrew Testa)

Factory International will without a doubt strengthen the city’s status as a national and international centre for culture, creativity and innovation, and a major visitor destination. The economic impact of Factory International will be considerable, creating or supporting up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and adding £1.1 billion to the city’s economy over a decade.

MIF23 will be the first opportunity for audiences to experience Factory International’s new venue, ahead of its official opening in October. Designed by Ellen van Loon, OMA Partner and lead architect, the ultra-flexible building is based around vast, adaptable spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling artists to develop and create large-scale work of invention and ambition, of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world. It is the largest new national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000, and is made possible thanks to initial HM Government investment and backing from Manchester City Council and Arts Council England.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Deputy Leader Manchester City Council, says: "We take culture very seriously here in Manchester. It plays a big part in our global reputation and economic success, making Manchester a city that people and businesses the world over want to visit, work, live, and invest in. The Festival is a real celebration of that – showcasing the fantastic venues and spaces around the city, drawing national and global audiences, and creating opportunities for local people to get involved, through jobs, volunteering and the chance to perform and participate in shows.

"Being able to invite audiences to experience our brand-new building for the first time as part of this year's brilliant Manchester International Festival, as well as a programme of events right across the city, is very exciting and should not be missed. This new chapter takes our cultural ambitions to the next level and then some. Putting a world-class building on our doorstep that brings with it a wealth of jobs, training, and opportunities that further cement our place as an international centre and incubator for culture, creativity and innovation.

"The eyes of the world are once again on Manchester, the festival, and this new space - and they will not be disappointed."

Tickets for MIF23 are on sale to Factory International members from 28 March and on general sale 30 March.

The MIF23 programme and up-to-the minute news is available HERE:

Header Image/Credit - Yayoi Kusama