Manchester International Festival: Must-See Events

1 July 2021 to 18 July 2021Visit website

After a year off, Manchester International Festival is back, and they’re not ones to disappoint. The arts festival opened on Friday 2nd July with Sea Change, a “human flip book” that took over Deansgate, by choreographer Boris Charmatz. The huge arrangement of professional dancers and (non-professional) Manchester residents performed a dynamic dance piece celebrating togetherness, with each performer repeating the movement of the last.

If you’ve wandered around the city already this month, you might have noticed the festival’s ‘temporary landmark’ in Piccadilly Gardens, in the form of Big Ben by Marta Minujín.  The artwork consists of a huge structure resembling Big Ben, lying down in the city centre, and wrapped in copies of the thousands of books that have shaped British politics (pictured above) – you can even book a free ticket to explore inside.

And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve rounded up the must-see events still coming up as part of MIF 2021 this month.


Cloud Studies

The Whitworth Art Gallery

2nd-18th July

Commissioned by the Whitworth and MIF, Cloud Studies is a new exhibition by Goldsmiths-based research agency Forensic Architecture. The investigation brings to light the environmental racism present in Louisiana, a region with majority-Black communities, and the most polluted air in the United States. This urgent and moving exhibition has launched for MIF 2021, and continues at the Whitworth until 17th October. You can book your free ticket here.


Music at Festival Square

Cathedral Gardens

2nd-18th July

Usually based in Albert Square next to the historic Town Hall (which is now mid-renovation), Festival Square moves to Cathedral Gardens this year –– but is still delivering over two weeks of live music, DJ sets and film. With pop-up local food and drink from the likes of Honest Crust pizza, Eat Well MCR and more, and three stages of entertainment, all of the events at Festival Square are free to attend, from midday to late. Make sure to head down on Thursday 15th for a takeover by Swing Ting and Daytimers, delivering 13 hours of sounds from South Asia and beyond. Swing Ting will perform a four hour mix of Afropop, dancehall and soul, while the Daytimers line-up features sets from Taxi Cab Industries, Chande and Raheel Khan, and Vindya. No need to book, just turn up!


MIF21 Supper Clubs

Selfridges, Exchange Square

5th-13th July

All this art and culture is sure to build up one’s appetite, so MIF have teamed up with Selfridges and Eat Well MCR to bring a series of supper clubs by some of Manchester’s best-loved chefs. For four nights San Carlo Bottega, within Selfridges in Exchange Square, will become the site of exclusive set meals by Anna Søgaard (Erst), Julià Castelló (Tast), Mary-Ellen McTague (The Creameries, and founder of Eat Well MCR), Isabel Jenkins (Isca Wines) and Josh Al-kazhraji (The Moorcock Inn). With seriously limited space and a local, fine dining experience guaranteed, book ASAP to avoid disappointment.


Notes on Grief

Exchange Auditorium, Manchester Central

5th-17th July

This new production by Rae McKen brings Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful reflection, Notes on Grief, to life on stage at the Exchange Auditorium. In an essay – and then a book – published after his death in June 2020, Adichie wrote of her loss, grief and memory of her father –– now adapted to theatre as an apt and timely reflection for those who have lost a loved one. Tickets can be booked to watch live at Manchester Central, or to watch the production online from home.


The Long Waited, Weighted, Gathering

Manchester Jewish Museum

2nd-18th July

With the museum’s 18th century synagogue recently reopened after a two-year-long redevelopment, Manchester Jewish Museum opens its doors for Turner Prize-winning artist Laure Prouvost’s poignant installation, The Long Waited, Weighted, Gathering. Reflecting on Manchester’s Cheetham Hill area and its history as a hub for the city’s Jewish community, the synagogue has been brought alive with the stories of the women who found a home here. Celebrating the diversity and history of the city with sound art, film and textiles, a visit to the installation can be booked via Manchester Jewish Museum.

Your inbox deserves a little culture! Get our monthly newsletter