Yoko Ono, Idris Elba and Skepta announced as part of next year’s MIF programme, which runs from 4-21 July 2019

Manchester International Festival (MIF) today announces the first artists for its 2019 programme, with each commission set to offer a distinctive and very personal take on how we relate to today’s world. MIF19 takes place from 4-21 July 2019, with artists from across the globe creating an enormous variety of new work in spaces throughout the city.


MIF19 Opening Event

Yoko Ono 
BELLS FOR PEACE –  Yoko Ono invites us to gather together in Cathedral Gardens for the opening event at MIF19 and send a message of peace to the world. Thousands of diverse voices and a people’s orchestra of bells from home and abroad will ring and sing out for peace – and welcome the world to Manchester.

Yoko Ono has been among the world’s most renowned and respected artists for more than 50 years. This new commission is the first major work she has created for the city of Manchester.

As the opening event for MIF19, BELLS FOR PEACE follows the success in 2017 of What Is the City but the People?, which was an opportunity for the people of Manchester to present a self-portrait of themselves and the place they live.

Yoko Ono said: “The beauty of this piece will break the sky and more. One of the reasons this is very different is the fact that all of us will be making the sound together. More than ever, we must come together to heal each other, and the world. PEACE is POWER! I love you all.”

Manchester InternationalFestival announces impressive first raft of guests
Photo Matthew Placek, Copyright Yoko Ono
Created by Idris Elba Kwame Kwei-Armah

Tree takes audiences on a thrilling journey in search of the soul and spirit of contemporary South Africa. Created by Idris Elba, whose album Mi Mandela provides the soundtrack, and Kwame Kwei-Armah, the new Artistic Director of London’s Young Vic, this major world-premiere production takes place in the round within Upper Campfield Market Hall, one of Manchester’s most atmospheric spaces.

Idris and Kwame’s new work features music, dance and film combined with an exciting and dynamic cast to explore the past, present and future of a country at a crossroads – all through the eyes of one young man on a journey of healing.

Idris Elba said “Kwame and I have both had a strong desire to work with each other for a long time now; we’ve known each other since we were in our very early twenties and have talked about the kernel of an idea for this show for a while.  Our joint ambition being to make a piece of work inspired by South Africa, using the album Mi Mandela as a starting point.  We’ve both experienced personal moments of healing connected with the country and we’re starting to explore that together. For me, an interesting part of the process is looking at the next part of the story; the new universe that sprung up after Mandela. To be able to investigate that with Kwame, a writer with such tremendous vision for whom I have great respect and love, and within the artistic community of MIF, is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

Kwame Kwei-Armah said “The idea of dancing with a friend whose art and ideas have inspired me for as long as we have known each other simply thrills me.  To bring this work to MIF and the Young Vic is as exciting as it gets for me.

Manchester InternationalFestival announces impressive first raft of guests
Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah – image credit David Sandison
DYSTOPIA987 –  Skepta invites you to enter another world in this series of intimate and immersive experiences. Held in a secret Manchester location, Dystopia987 is a waking dream that presents Skepta’s singular vision of the future: deep, dark, radical and riveting.

Featuring a live set from Skepta, guest appearances from hand-picked performers and DJs, a wealth of new technology and a cast inhabiting a hidden netherworld, Dystopia987 is a journey into eternity – a future riven with uncertainty and fear but rich in wonder and possibility.

Since emerging as a producer and MC in 2004, Skepta has become one of the most significant British artists in music today. The Mercury Prize winner and BRIT Award nominee has built a diverse audience through both recordings and live performances, and his enduring influence is felt throughout contemporary culture.

Skepta described the project as “Real Life Magic”.

Manchester InternationalFestival announces impressive first raft of guests
Skepta – image credit Olivia Rose
MIF Artistic Director and CEO John McGrath said: “I’m thrilled to be announcing the involvement of such extraordinary artists in Manchester International Festival 2019.  Yoko Ono will be creating a very special opening event for Mancunians – and the world – in the city centre: a joyful response to our complicated times.  Idris Elba is one of the most dynamic creative figures working today, and in this new collaboration with the wonderful Kwame Kwei-Armah, he brings his vision and passion to a brand-new piece of musical theatre.  And Skepta, an artist known for pushing musical boundaries, is going to be surprising everyone with a vision of the future that is immersive, high tech and personal.

MIF has an ambitious programme of creative engagement activity, collaborating with people from across Greater Manchester as part of MIF’s Creative Community; a year-round initiative designed to build ongoing relationships and dialogue between MIF and local people through co-design, creative projects, volunteering, skills development, training and more. This programme of work includes Festival in My House and Festival in My Neighbourhood, an opportunity for the people of Manchester to curate their own mini-festivals year-round.

With MIF set to operate and create the artistic programme for The Factory, the landmark cultural space being developed in the city, the series of pre-Factory events is also continuing. The next is Special Edition, a series of music events with Bonobo, Bugzy Malone and Bicep organised with Manchester promoters The Warehouse Project and 6 Music’s Mary Anne Hobbs, which take place at Mayfield from 3-10 November. More pre-Factory events will be announced as part of the full MIF19 programme which is due to be a

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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