In Haunt

2019 is a year that will see Manchester become home to a parliament of ghosts, pushing the boundaries of immersive performance and providing a portal into fantastical, invisible cities. These are just some of the elements that will form part of the seventh biennial Manchester International Festival (MIF19).

MIF19 revealed its 2019 programme in early March, outlining ’18 extraordinary days’ (4-21 July) of cutting-edge artistry, transformative performance and unique cultural opportunities coming to the city from across the world. It is opening with a profound event in Cathedral Gardens (4 July, 6pm) titled BELLS FOR PEACE and led by Yoko Ono, with the public invited to sing and ring in a gathering for peace.

20 UK and world premieres will feature in the festival, set not just to alter experiences of the cityscape but to shift and shake-up perspectives. With internationally acclaimed artists coming to be part from over 20 countries, anticipation is already high for this globally recognised event.

Never shying away from experimentation and daring, this year’s festival delves into some particularly deep, even dystopic, elements. Contemporary concerns, fears and fascinations – from pressures of identity and language to questions of the future – are interrogated, explored and exposed.

In turn, HAUNT Manchester presents a selection of weird and wonderful highlights of MIF19…

David Lynch at HOME

David Lynch by Mark Berry

Photo: David Lynch - By Mark Berry (also featured image)

Iconic filmmaker, musician and artist David Lynch is typically considered at home amidst all things unnerving, weird and wonderful. He’s the director of works which have shifted perceptions and stunned audiences, including Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks. From dystopic and disturbing visions to absurd encounters and dreamlike states, Lynch’s creativity across art forms is both powerful and profound.

Now he is taking over Manchester’s HOME in what is set to be one of the most gripping and unique shake-ups: a special season of free events for the duration of MIF19. The HOME gallery space, for example, will host his first major UK exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculptures, titled ‘My Head is Disconnected’. And with one-off live shows from Lynch-inspired musicians taking place in the theatre, presented by Lynch collaborator Chrysta Bell, as well as ongoing cinema screenings of Lynch’s films and rare shorts, it is anticipated to be an unforgettable experience.

Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn (FHEA), Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and American Studies and founding member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, says:

"It will be very exciting to experience David Lynch's 'My Head is Disconnected' as a sublime, multi-media and installation-led experience. Lynch's extraordinary imagination, his flirtation with Gothic terror, the fantastic, the impossible and the incomprehensible, will undoubtedly inform these new creative works.

"Lynch may not strictly be considered as a Gothic filmmaker, but he frequently conjures familiar cultural nightmares in his visual spectacles. This is a rare opportunity to encounter a season that celebrates his unique vision as a contemporary artist, musician and filmmaker.”

The Anvil

The Anvil is set to be a profound two-part performance marking the 200th anniversary of a turbulent and transformative moment in British history which happened right here in Manchester – The Peterloo Massacre.

16 August 1819 was the date that over 50,000 innocent people gathered in what was then St Peter’s Field (the area near to where St Peter’s Square now stands) to peacefully protest in favour of parliamentary reform. However, this peace was shattered as the authorities panicked and horse-mounted troops moved into the crowd, killing an estimated 15 people and leaving more than 600 injured.

Now, in a unique world premiere, composer Emily Howard and Michael Symmons Roberts (award-winning poet and Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University) have collaborated to write a moving new work – titled The Anvil: An Elegy for Peterloo. Themes of determination, a struggle for justice and resonant remembrance are expected, reflecting back to what became a dark day in British history. ‘Anvil’ will be performed by the BBC Philharmonic and a massed chorus featuring the BBC Singers and three Hallé choirs at The Bridgewater Hall on the evening of Sunday 7 July. During the daytime, experimental theatre company ANU will also be taking to the streets of the city for a whole day of immersive performances, inspired by the stories of those who died.

TREE

TREE

Photo: TREE Workshop - Credit: Mark Brenner

A blend of drama, music and dance exploring hidden South African histories and the ghosts of a nation’s past, plunging the audience into the centre – TREE is world-premiere from the iconic Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah. With performances taking place in Manchester’s atmospheric Upper Campfield Market Hall from Saturday 29 June - Saturday 13 July, TREE follows one man’s moving journey into his parents’ homeland. Travelling to South Africa from London, the figure of Kaleo is confronted with themes of family feuds, identity struggles and a nation haunted by both the pain and processes of the past. Will he be haunted by times gone by or can his insight inform the future?

Invisible Cities

Fantastical places will burst into life and pull the audience into them in what is set to be an immersive world-premiere exploring the edgy relationship between the historical figures of empire head Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, the explorer. However, Invisible Cities is about so much more than people of the past as in the course of catapulting current audiences through the worlds of Zenobia, Beersheba and Isadora, it encounters themes of identity, urban expansion and alternative futures. Created especially for Manchester’s Mayfield site in an ambitious collaboration between Leo Warner, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Lolita Chakrabarti, 59 Productions and Rambert, this will be an enchanting encounter with ‘otherness’ through theatre, choreography, music, architectural design and projection. It will run from Tuesday 2 - Sunday 14 July.

Parliament of Ghosts

Ibrahim Mahama

Photo: Ibrahim Mahama Photo © White Cube George Darrell

From Friday 5 - Sunday 21 July artist Ibrahim Mahama presents Parliament of Ghosts at The Whitworth, a haunting haul of lost and once-abandoned objects laid out to form a vast parliamentary chamber at the centre of the gallery. A collection of relics or resonant for the contemporary? It takes a profound, delving and impactful look at the country of Ghana – a nation with its own rich and turbulent history, so often under-covered. Having declared independence from Britain in 1957, new narratives of Ghana’s people considering their identity, expression and culture emerge. From scrapped school furniture to cast-away bus seats, Mahama sets out to show through these found Ghanaian items (as well as art, photography and film) just some of these stories.

Atmospheric Memory

Ever thought of the pieces of the past floating all around us? The air could be seen as a ‘vast library’ of endless potentials and incredible insights – or at least that was the proposal of computing pioneer Charles Babbage over 180 years ago. 

Now artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has taken up this concept in an immersive installation within a special custom-built structure (innovatively called The Atmospheric Memory Chamber) at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. Here a series of ‘Atmospheric Machines’ will be positioned that will be able to mine the air itself for traces of speech and then transform them into visuals. This is a unique opportunity to encounter the ghosts of previous breaths, the spirits of former speech and to explore the hidden realms of what we breathe thanks to cutting-edge technology and phantasmagorical flair.

From delicate vapour trails to intense full-surround projections, see the secret stories of the air around us like never before. Running from Saturday 6 - Sunday 21 July.

Alphabus

Alphabus

Photo: Reggie Regg Roc Gray - image credit: Sodium

Travelling through tales of power and weakness, the haunting of cultural myths and the captivation of the contemporary, Alphabus is an intense combination of continent-crossing street dance and hard-hitting poetry. Taking place at The Great Northern Warehouse Friday 5 – Sunday 7 July, New York dancer-choreographer (and creator of FlexN Manchester, a significant feature of MIF15) Reggie ‘Regg Roc’ Gray will come together with Manchester’s spoken-word group Young Identity, as well as dancers from both New York and Manchester. Alphabus is set to be an expression of turbulence yet togetherness, creativity as well as conflict; a piece that questions audience prejudices and confronts issues of our time through words and movement.

Tao of Glass

Concert-meets-performance in an in-the-round immersion. Inspired by a dream and the reflections on life, death, darkness and light which arise from such dream-states, Tao of Glass is the world premiere of a collaborative project which features music from composer Philip Glass, along with an in-the-round performance directed by Phelim McDermott. Set to transform the Royal Exchange theatre into an enchanting dream world of meaningful meditations and deep emotions, musicians and puppeteers will be a key element in this unique and personal feature that runs from 11-20 July.

The Nico Project

Nico is a legendary musician and artist, inspiring generations and known for work such as the 1968 album The Marble Index and her collaborations with the Velvet Underground. The Nico Project, as part of MIF19, will pay a unique theatrical tribute (running from 10-21 July) to this key cultural figure (who sadly died in 1988) through an all-female creative team, including Maxine Peake and Sarah Frankcom. Drawing on the sounds that fueled her, the places that inspired her and the ghosts of her past, The Nico Project will be a gripping piece very much running in the vein of the artist’s work. It will take place in the atmospheric location of The Stoller Hall (which previously hosted ‘Scoring Fear’ as part of The Gothic Manchester Festival 2018), with text from the award-winning E.V. Crowe and music by esteemed composer Anna Clyne.

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