Having just recently received a giant lift in terms of upcoming funding, the Manchester International Festival is getting bigger and more diverse every year firmly rooting Manchester on the international arts circuit. Running from the 29th June – 16th July 2017 is ready to pack a real punch and here at culturised we’ve picked out the highlights.




Simon Stephens’ (Punk Rock, Pornography) has teamed up with Karl Hyde (Underworld) and Scott Graham to create a deeply personal portrait of 21st Century England in what has been billed as “daring collage of words, music and movement”. The trio have interviewed their contemporaries in the search for the stories left out by a nation. These songs and stories from a forgotten England highlight the forms of fatherhood and its complexities in a world no longer divided by left or right, working or middle class. This world premiere is definitely one to watch.

Royal Exchange, Manchester, 1-22 July


Returning to Reims

An adaptation of Didier Eribon’s bestselling memoir by director Thomas Ostermeier this is a preview of what we can expect in the future from pioneering new arts venue Factory, set to open in 2020 under the direction of the MIF. Set in a recording studio Nina Ross (Homeland) tapes a documentary voiceover based on Eribon’s memoir, and begins to reflect on her own background as the daughter of a union leader and activist. Eribon himself returned home upon the death of his father to discover that his family allegiance had switched from communism to the far right Front National. This world premiere can speak to each of us about our place in the social order and the role we each have to play in political activism.

HOME, Manchester, 5-14 July

Cotton Panic!

This industrial music drama is set to be a huge hit at this year’s festival. Telling the tale of a time when cotton was like gold in Lancashire and its thriving trade built the economy that would be part of the backbone of the Industrial Revolution. Disaster strikes as the US Civil War begins to unfold and this compelling piece of theatre moulds music, drama, and a phenomenal script depicts the damage inflicted on the North. Created by Jane Horrocks, Nick Vivian and Wrangler, featuring Stephen Mallinder of the great Cabaret Voltaire this is a unique creative endeavour adding some rich variety to this year’s programme.

Upper Campfield Market Hall, Manchester, 8–15 July



Machynlleth comes to Manchester

Deep in rural Wales is a hidden gem of the comedy circuit. Each year thousands descend upon a small town for its annual comedy festival. Nestled between valleys this small town festival gets some big name acts and now it is bringing itself to Manchester. With a top line up of favourites including Sara Pascoe, Max and Ivan, Mark Watson and Tim Key this is a certain stop point for those in need of some serious laughs.

International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, 7–9 July



Available Light

Choreographer Lucinda Childs, composer John Adams, and architect Frank Gehry brings their original production of 1983 to a brand new audience. A fusion of movement, music, and art this mesmerising choreography is a distillation of the American minimalist aesthetic. A must watch for dance lovers.

Palace Theatre Manchester, 6–8 July



Dark Matter

Curated by BBC Radio 6 Music tastemaker Mary Anne Hobbs, Dark Matter is eight immersive shows from pioneering national, international and Manchester-based musicians. Lighting designer Stuart Bailes will transform Gorilla and the O2 Ritz, creating new universes for each artist. The line-up takes in everything from drone metal to freeform jazz, street poetry to radical electronica – all pushing creative boundaries to the limit. If you are on the lookout for something a little different this is certainly an experience to catch running the length of the festival.

Gorilla and O2 Ritz, Manchester, 29 June – 15 July

House Gospel Choir

Legendary Chicago house DJ Frankie Knuckles once astutely described house music as ‘church for people who have fallen from grace’ – and tonight is a chance to hear just what he meant. An outstanding collection of singers and musicians, London’s House Gospel Choir marry the spirituality of church music with the euphoria of the dancefloor. Regardless of faith this will be an uplifting soulful experience for all witnessing something truly unique.

Pavillion Theatre, Manchester, 1 July 



Last and First Men

Based on the cult novel by British science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men blurs the boundary between fiction and documentary. This is an extraordinary new multimedia work by Oscar-nominated Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049). Last and First Men combines music, film and Tilda Swinton’s elegiac narration into a poetic meditation on memory, loss and the idea of Utopia. For this world exclusive, the BBC Philharmonic will be performing Jóhannsson’s score live with the film at The Bridgewater Hall. This will be an incredible experience for film and music lovers alike making this world premiere unmissable.

The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 6 July




Featuring a major public performance and a wide-ranging exhibition, Susan Hefuna’s timely, poetic work addresses some of the most potent issues of our time: migration, movement and sensations of togetherness. The performance will be occurring on Sunday 9th July and is free to all whilst the exhibition will run across the entire festival. Local residents, originally from fifteen different countries including Iran, Sierra Leone, Trinidad, Pakistan, Albania and Kuwait, will trace individual paths through Whitworth Park. Featuring dancers from Studio Wayne McGregor, the work will take creative inspiration from migrants’ experiences and stories.

The Whitworth, Manchester, 30 June – 16 July