Manchester International Festival 2019 announce Janelle Monae, David Lynch, Maxine Peake, Philip Glass and many more


Janelle Monae (Credit:JUNO)

Manchester International Festival has unveiled an outstanding 2019 programme across 18 days this summer and Getintothis’ Rick Leach has all the details.

Internationally-acclaimed artists from over 20 countries – many working in one-off creative collaborations – will present 20 UK and world premieres at the cross-art form biennial festival between July 4 and 21.

With most of the work created especially for the Festival, MIF19 will provide a unique snapshot of contemporary preoccupations, from identity and language, and borders and migration, to the power of collective action, technology and utopian/dystopian visions of the future.

Following the success of MIF17’s award-winning What Is the City But the People?, MIF19 will open with Yoko Ono’s new mass-participatory event BELLS FOR PEACE, a gathering of thousands of people coming together to ring and sing out for peace in Cathedral Gardens, in the heart of the city.

Fifty years after her early bed-in collaborations with John Lennon, this is a major new commission from an artist who has boldly communicated her commitment to social justice throughout her career.

Women pushing the boundaries of music are a highlight of the MIF19 programme, including an exclusive show from Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, producer and actress Janelle Monáe on the opening night of MIF19 and a unique collaboration between Sufi superstar Abida Parveen and Kathak dancer Nahid Siddiqui.

For Queens of the Electronic Underground Mary Anne Hobbs (BBC Radio 6 Music) brings together five of the most exciting electronic acts for an evening of bleeding-edge sounds and breath-taking visuals: Jlin, Holly Herndon, Aïsha Devi ft. MFO, Klara Lewis and Katie Gately.

Jlin (Credit: Mahdumita Nandi)

In The Nico Project at The Stoller Hall Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom, and an all-female creative team, pay tribute to the legendary musician with a stirring theatrical immersion into Nico’s sound and identity, inspired by her stark, bleak and beautiful 1968 album The Marble Index.

With text by award-winning playwright EV Crowe and music by acclaimed composer Anna Clyne, The Nico Project explores the ghosts that haunted Nico and celebrates the potency of female creativity in a field dominated by men.

Grime star Skepta’s DYSTOPIA987 steps beyond the live music experience, reimagining the rave culture of the past in an uncertain future with a series of intimate and immersive events held in a secret Manchester location. Skepta will perform along with guest appearances from hand-picked performers, DJs, and a wealth of new technology inhabiting a hidden netherworld.

The legendary David Lynch is taking over HOME for the duration of MIF19. In the gallery My Head Is Disconnected is the first major UK exhibition of his large-scale paintings, drawings and sculpture.

David Lynch’s My Head is Diconnected

In the theatre Lynch collaborator Chrysta Bell will host a one-off series of live shows from Lynch-inspired musicians, while the cinema will feature screenings of his classic movies, short films, conversations and more.

Continuing MIF’s innovative use of the city’s found spaces, Invisible Cities sees Leo Warner of 59 Productions (War Horse, David Bowie Is), acclaimed choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, writer Lolita Chakrabarti, Rambert dance company and an all-star creative team, collaborate for the first time on a wholly original mix of theatre, choreography, music, architectural design and projection mapping created for Mayfield, Manchester’s iconic former railway depot.

Inspired by the renowned Italo Calvino 1972 novel, which is centred on the relationship between Kublai Khan and explorer Marco Polo, this new and site-specific work reimagines the possibilities of live performance.

Also working together for the first time, Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Tree is the story of a young man on a journey of healing, told through dance, music and film – the fulfilment of the pair’s long-held ambition to make a piece of work together inspired by South Africa. Directed by Kwei-Armah, with music inspired by Elba’s album Mi Mandela, Tree is a show about identity, family and belonging.

Tree workshop (Credit: Mark Brenner)

Further continuing the Festival’s tradition of creative partnerships: composer Philip Glass and actor-director Phelim McDermott have collaborated on acclaimed opera productions in London, New York and beyond, but Tao of Glass is their most personal project yet.

Inspired by a dream, this world premiere marries meditations on life, death and wisdom with ten brand new pieces of music from Glass, presented in the round by McDermott, with an ensemble of musicians and puppeteers.

At  Manchester Art Gallery Tania Bruguera, fresh from a Tate Modern commission, invites audiences to join her School of Integration and consider why integration is always the responsibility of the immigrant in a powerful, provocative and inspiring new work.

Local people originally from countries around the world will give free classes on a curriculum that includes languages, culture, ethics, politics, economics and many other  forms of knowledge in a  new shared learning  experience.

6 Music Festival comes to LIverpool

At the Whitworth, the half-forgotten history of Ghana, is explored in Parliament of Ghosts, a major installation from artist Ibrahim Mahama.

This new commission for MIF19 features abandoned train parts, documents from governmental archives and a haunting assemblage of lost objects, rescued and repurposed to form a vast parliamentary chamber in the heart of the gallery.

In dance, acclaimed American choreographer Trajal Harrell places Tennessee Williams’ Maggie the Cat centre-stage in his magnetic new dance work – a provocative fusion of high art and pop culture, with multiple influences ranging from ancient Greek theatre to the Harlem voguing underground, and a soundtrack that crosses genres, from electro and pop to classical music.

Claire Cunningham’s Thank You Very Much will look at identity through the prism of the Elvis tribute artist as the choreographer and her ensemble of leading disabled performers take to the floor in witty and revealing fashion in a new dance work which takes apart the myth of how bodies should be and have been trained to be.

Studio Créole  will see Adam Thirlwell and Hans Ulrich Obrist construct an intimate language laboratory, specially designed by Rem Koolhaas and Cookies, to present new stories by Patrick Chamoiseau, Sayaka Murata, Adania Shibli, Sjón, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Dubravka Ugrešić and Alejandro Zambra – written for MIF19 and read live by their authors while simultaneously translated and interpreted into performance.

Music that makes perfect sense: Philip Glass’ Symphony No 11

Language is also a key preoccupation of acclaimed Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s immersive installation Atmospheric Memory, a series of ‘Atmospheric Machines’ that attempt to ‘materialise sound’ – inspired by computing pioneer Charles Babbage’s proposal that the air is a ‘vast library’ holding every word ever spoken – in a fascinating fusion of daring artwork and sensory performance.

Manchester’s own history is centre-stage in The Anvil: An Elegy for Peterloo, which marks the landmark 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre in a major two-part commission.

ANU, one of Europe’s most daring theatre companies, will take to the streets for a day-long series of immersive performances inspired by the stories of those who died at St Peter’s Field.

Creative pioneer Laurie Anderson will present To The Moon, an expanded virtual reality work she is developing with the artist Hsin-Chien Huang, featuring a VR experience and an immersive installation.

Laurie Anderson (Credit: Tarnish Vision)

The festival also sees the world premiere of a major new musical work by composer Emily Howard and poet Michael Symmons Roberts, performed by the BBC Philharmonic and a massed chorus featuring the BBC Singers and three Hallé choirs.

The places and spaces of the city become the stage for two immersive works: The Berlin- based company Rimini Protokoll’s Utopolis Manchester is a visionary new work that transforms the view of the city to discover the people and places that create Manchester’s daily life, in a journey inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia.

The Manchester cholera epidemic of the 1830s is the unlikely inspiration for The Drunk Pandemic, the first major UK project by Chim Pom from Tokyo, one of the world’s most playful and provocative art collectives, who come to MIF19 at the invitation of Contact Young Curators.

Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ) imagines what life might be like if animals lived with us not as our pets but as our peers in an interactive Live Art experience created by Hamburg-based artist Sibylle Peters (Theatre of Research) and London’s Live Art Development Agency (LADA), featuring installations, performances and encounters from artists, including Joshua Sofaer and Marcus Coates.

Dogs in music- the Top 10

Cape Town-born artist Kemang Wa Lehulere, has a Festival-long residency at Manchester Central Library, exploring the city and its libraries as he begins researching and creating a future Festival commission.

Sir Mark Elder, Musical Director of the Hallé, and Johan Simons, the acclaimed Dutch theatre director, are also developing a new work for The Factory, inspired by composer Dimitri Shostakovich and the writer Vasily Grossman. They will be discussing this new work before a performance of  Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, Leningrad.

Other highlights include a new collaboration between Brooklyn’s Reggie ‘Regg Roc’ Gray (FlexN Manchester at MIF15) and Manchester-based spoken word collective Young Identity; a new iteration of Karl Hyde’s MIF17 hit Manchester Street Poem; and a series of intimate discussions and public debates under the banner of Interdependence, the ideas strand of MIF’s public programme.

Yoko Ono (Credit: Matthew Placek/Copyright Yoko Ono)

Selected MIF2019 highlights:

Yoko Ono: Bells for Peace
Cathedral Gardens
Thursday July 4, 6pm

Idris Elba & Kwame Kwei-Armah :Tree
Upper Campfield Market Hall
July 4 -13  8pm,  July 6, 7  & 13 also 4pm. Previews June 29 –  July 3 8pm

Janelle Monáe
Castlefield Bowl
July 4

David Lynch at HOME
Exhibition: July 6-21 12–8pm daily, except 12–6pm Sunday
Information about film screenings, music events, masterclasses and discussions will be announced in due course.
My Head Is Disconnected continues in the gallery after MIF19 until September 29

The Halle: Leningrad
The Bridgewater Hall
July 11

Maxine Peake & Sarah Frankcom :The Nico Project
The Stoller Hall, Chetham’s School of Music
July 12, July 13, July 16, July 18 & July 20, 7.30pm. July 13 & July 20, also 3pm
July 17 & 19 July 6pm & 9pm
Previews July 10 & July 11, 7.30pm

Philip Glass & Phelim McDermott :The Tao of Glass
Royal Exchange Theatre
July 11-20 7.30pm  July 13,18 & 20 2.30pm

Mary Anne Hobbs (Credit:Tarnish Vision)

Mary Anne Hobbs, Jlin, Holly Herndon, Aïsha Devi ft. MFO, Katie Gately, Klara Lewis :Queens of the Electronic Underground
July 20 O2 Ritz

Laurie Anderson in Residence :To the Moon
The Studio, Royal Exchange Theatre
July 11-20

Further information and full details of all events available at