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More than Monkey Business

Manchester International Festival delivers the goods

Published on March 20th 2007.


More than Monkey Business

Get excited about this. The city is about to get the festival it deserves. With Manchester International Festival (28 June-15 July), the director Alex Poots has pulled it off - so to speak.

The launch this Tuesday afternoon revealed a roster of top acts which will shoot the event into the Premier League of British festivals.

Some people at the launch were slapping each other on the back and saying it would give the city a European profile. Some, with the third glass of champagne in their hand, were talking about a festival with world status.

The key is originality. As Poots says, he was only interested in running the thing, “if it wasn’t just another festival. Given Manchester’s reputation for innovation it made sense to concentrate on new work.”

Bringing world or British premieres we have Kanye West, Lou Reed, William Orbit, PJ Harvey and crazed Spanish flamenco troupe Ojos de Brujo. Holding up the Manchester corner are The Fall, originally founded by Mark E Smith in the second century BC, and the Happy Mondays on their thousandth comeback.

There’s also a series of gargantuan, 20,000 strong, DJ meets VJ events at Manchester Central (that’s the silly new name for G-Mex and the Convention Centre, folks) with the likes of Laurent Garnier, Frankie Knuckles, Pete Tong and those veteran Manc movers and spinners, Unabombers.

In the same venue there will be The Great Indoors: an ambitious free festival within a festival incorporating shows and activities for the family. Other freebies take place in various venues including The Quays, Kro Piccadilly and down at Rusholme.We also get the much publicised Chinese circus opera, Monkey: Journey to the West, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and composed by Damon Albarn with graphics from Jamie Hewlett.

Is the festival good for Manchester? Do you agree with Jonathan? Use our rant forum below

Others to look out for include Interiors with Johnny Vegas which St Helens' most famous son promises will satirise “the current obsession with property", and The Ground Beneath Her Feet, which brings film director Mike Figgis, the Halle Orchestra and a novel by Salman Rushdie together.

For foodies the show-off piece will feature Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck in Bray cooking up something original in the Festival Pavilion, a sexy structure which will rise in front of Manchester Central. This will also be a place for people to meet and find out what’s happening.

It’s good stuff covering 25 events. At the launch Council Leader Sir Richard Leese got a little excited with himself and said that this was an event that proved Manchester had re-invented ‘urban living as the epitome of civilisation’. Steady on there Mr Knight of the Realm but we know where you’re coming from.

This is a savvy festival that will not only satisfy the audiences but will get headlines. And headlines mean a higher city profile and a boost to the economy. Liverpool, with Capital of Culture, seems to be going down the line of community projects and events in 2008 – nice, but you never get international brownie points for that.

By pitching high Manchester International Festival gets big names, column inches and excited audiences.

Well done Mr Poots.

Jonathan Schofield

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Anonymous

Depends on the arse.

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Anonymous

As usual mancon make no reference at all to the Irish Festival again .

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Anonymous

Double whammy of good markets too - Levenshulme have a food and drink only market on Saturday and…

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There are no excuses for arse-kissing.

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