If you’re looking to be inspired and soak up some culture during your trip to Britain, there are loads of unique experiences to be had during Manchester International Festival. With world premieres, exclusive art performances, theatre, music and film, you can catch performances across the city from a diverse range of renowned artists including Yoko Ono, David Lynch, Ivo van Hoe, Abida Parveen, Janelle Monáe, Maxine Peake, Idris Elba and Skepta.
Running from 4 – 21 July, Albert Square in the city centre will be transformed into the festival’s buzzing hub, ‘Festival Square’, where you can enjoy free live music, DJs, food and drink!
Bells for Peace
The opening night of the festival will see Yoko Ono premiere her latest piece to the world! The internationally known artist’s Bells for Peace will see a sea of people meeting in the Cathedral Gardens to take part in singing and bell ringing to amplify a message of peace. Many bells will be handmade locally, but if you fancy going to this free event, you are encouraged to bring your own bell and join in!
During the festival the iconic director David Lynch will be taking over HOME, a cool venue known for championing multi-cultural and independent arts. My Head Is Disconnected will be the UK’s first major exhibition of Lynch’s paintings, drawings and sculptures. Other highlights include a showing of The Elephant Man, and a discussion on transcendental meditation.
Inspired music evenings
If you want to experience a musical event like no-other, make sure you catch an MIF evening of music. One such performance will see Chrysta Bell, cellist Oliver Coates, who has worked with Radiohead and Karl Lagerfeld, and the unique Japanese vocalist Hatis Noit join together, for a one-off musical experience.
Acclaimed theatre director of the recent sold-out West End show All About Eve, Ivo van Hove, premiers his adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in the UK at MIF19. Showing at The Lowry Theatre, this controversial story of unrelenting individualism and capitalism will be presented in Dutch, with English surtitles. With performances from 10 – 13 July, tickets start from just £18.
Abida Parveen with Nahid Saddiqui
For another never-to-be-repeated musical event, try to catch internationally renowned spiritual singer, Abida Parveen, dubbed as ‘the Queen of Sufi music’, perform with legendary classical South Asian dancer, Nahid Siddiqui. Projecting an inspirational message of peace, love and harmony, the performance comes to the stage on July 5, with tickets starting at £18 – don’t miss out on this unique evening!
The Nico Project
Celebrating the strength of a genre-defining female artist in a male-dominated industry, Maxine Peake channels the enigmatic yet troubled musician Nico, in The Nico Project. Known for her contribution to 1960s counterculture and debut with The Velvet Underground, Nico’s music helped shape generations to come. Catch this production from 10-21 July at The Stoller Hall, tickets cost £35.
Travel to the heart of the city, opposite the Central Library, for a luxurious Afternoon Tea at The Midland Hotel. A glorious Grade II listed red-brick building, the hotel has served Afternoon Tea in the quaint Tearoom since it’s opening in 1903!
Alternatively, why not turn a coffee break into an experience, by trying artisanal coffee with an international twist at TAKK. Inspired by trips to Iceland and Scandinavia, this trendy coffee house offers tastes from all over the world. With roasts that change on a weekly basis, the owners go above and beyond to offer one of the coolest coffee experiences in the city.
If you fancy a real treat, Icestone Gelato has it all with sprinkles on top! As well as crepes, pancakes, waffles and freak shakes, this place offers gelato flavours you didn’t know you needed to try (hello, blueberry muffin ice cream)! Slightly lower on the indulgency scale, you can also order healthy frozen yogurt, fruit ice, mocktails or falooda – there are even gluten-free options too!
Where to eat in Manchester
If you want to try a modern take on Chinese cuisine, Tattu, in Manchester’s Spinningfields area is a great spot for an international meal. Presenting an exciting menu of steamed, fried and baked dishes, the main focal point of the restaurant is a four-metre high cherry blossom tree that sits in the middle of the restaurant floor – we bet you can’t resist taking photos here!
Fancy trying a completely new dining experience during your trip to Manchester? Introducing, Where The Light Gets In, in Stockport. Although a little out from the centre of Manchester, this creative, completely ‘sans-menu’ restaurant, set in a former coffee warehouse, offers a brand-new way to dine. Customers are not given a choice, but rather receive the dishes deemed to be the best use of that day’s produce, with all root vegetables coming directly from their own farm.
As well as being a great spot for Afternoon Tea, The Midland also serves a fantastic evening meal. Known for its signature six and nine-course tasting menus, The French at the Midland Hotel is less than a five-minute walk from the festival hub. Recently refurbished and now with Adam Reid, winner of the BBC’s Great British Menu competition, as Head Chef, The French serves high-quality British cuisine in the heart of Manchester.
Where to stay in Manchester
The four-star Velvet Hotel is an independent and extravagantly decorated accommodation in Manchester. Offering king rooms and luxe penthouse suites, its central location makes it a great base for you to enjoy MIF19.
Housed in a converted 19th-century textile factory, ABode Manchester is a boutique hotel offering a range of rooms and suites, each graded in the hotel’s trademark categories - from ‘enviable’ all the way up to ‘fabulous’! Handily located in the centre of the city, this hotel also has its own swanky restaurant.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the MIF hub, King Street Townhouse is a ‘baby grand hotel’, offering a range of stylish rooms. From snug and cosy to spacious suites with roll-top baths and views of Manchester cathedral, this Italian renaissance building has a lot to offer. An infinity spa pool, cellar cinema room, mezzanine lounge and alfresco terrace all combine to create a great experience for your stay in Manchester.