Manchester International Festival (MIF) On A Budget - Our Highlights

Short on spends, but keen to sample some of this year’s hotly anticipated MIF programme? Look no further than Emma Nuttall’s guide to the best discounts and free events…

Well-known for showcasing this massive northern town as the vibrant centre of innovation and creativity it is, Manchester International Festival (MIF) is soon to return in just over two weeks (2-19 July). Pressure is on MIF Founding Director Alex Poots (this will be his last festival before taking over NY’s Culture Shed), plus special Artistic Advisor and freelance curator/critic Hans-Ulrich Obrist to deliver a spectacle — and the line-up so far doesn’t disappoint. Big guns Bjork, FKA Twigs, Charlotte Rampling and serial-MIF performer Damon Albarn promise world premières of radical and experimental live music, theatre and interdisciplinary art.

“MIF has made greater steps towards inclusion, with major and widespread discounts, plus making one third of their programme totally free”

However, with soaring ticket prices that sell out well before most of us have had chance to save up, it can be a challenge to gain access to any of the MIF experience at all — something which only adds to the festival’s exclusive allure. For an international arts festival dependent on securing funding, this could be seen as problematic and potentially harmful to the long game in maintaining Manchester’s cultural prowess — which is not dependent on the high calibre of performers being brought in on a biannual basis, but upon the development of a culturally fertile community that fosters its next generation of artists.

Thankfully, MIF has begun to tackle these issues and this year has made greater steps towards inclusion, with major and widespread discounts, plus making one third of their programme totally free. Here’s our guide to the best on offer…

1. Take advantage of being a Mancunian

Live in Greater Manchester? Then you may be entitled to a decent 10% off tickets: events across the festival are available at £12 to residents on or below the national living wage. All you have to do is insert your postcode when booking online. The scheme was introduced in 2013 and has doubled this year from 5% to 10%. Greater discounts to seniors, children, full-time students and job-seekers have also been implemented.

2. Let one of the UK’s most exciting artists take you behind the scenes

Ed Atkins is known as one of the pioneers of contemporary art founded in digitized life (see our view on his work here). His portfolio shows extensive use of cutting-edge technologies and so you can expect nothing less from his MIF exhibition, Performance Capture.

Laid out in stages across three rooms at Manchester Art Gallery, in Room One, performance artists chosen by MIF are invited to start the process of generating their own computer image or avatar. Each performer’s image is captured and sent through to Room Two. This is where the magic happens: the image is digitally re-modelled, cut, and a soundtrack is created. In Room Three, the manipulated image appears and is managed on screen in a perpetual cinema. Each step of the process will be open to visitors; expect a major exploration of performance, identity, and representation.

3. Performance and people watching at the festival hub

The twinkling ‘Festival Square’ is always one of the most anticipated venues on the MIF programme. It plays host to the Pavillion Theatre, The Glass House, the MIF Box Office, various pop-up hubs for food plus a constant stream of live entertainment. Visitors and performers can hang out all day to enjoy the club nights, innovative comedy, guided walks and exclusive tours available.

Music on offer ranges from brass bands to world music, acoustic sets, folk bands, kora players, to gospel choirs and even a solo harpist. There is also a selection of handpicked DJs playing in the Pavilion each night; everything from chill-out, fierce funk, to ‘80s classics and the newest in new disco can be expected. Local names include Dave Haslam, Will Tramp, Mary Anne Hobbs and Chris Massey.

Look out, too, for BBC at MIF, a pop-up studio by the bar during the first week of the festival – you’ll be able to catch live broadcasts, interviews and other ‘goings on’ from around the rest of the festival.

The Double Negative, 2015
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