"Radical, Ambitious, Inclusive”: MIF’s Ciaron Wilkinson on 2019’s extraordinary festivities

Manchester International Festival continues to trail blaze a path of innovation; its 3-week curation of art is unlike anything we see up North.

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 4 August 2019

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But don’t just take our word for it, let MIF’s own Ciaron Wilkinson explain why this year’s festival will be unforgettable…

JB: Can you tell us about your role at MIF?

CW: As Cultural Connector, it’s my job to connect MIF with people across Greater Manchester and tell them about all the ways they can get involved both during the 18-day festival, as well as with our year-round activity. I’m lucky because I get to spend a lot of my time out meeting with amazing people from community groups, grass roots organisations, youth centres, schools – the list goes on.

JB: MIF is getting bigger and bigger with each occasion. How have you seen the relationship between the festival and the public grow?

CW: There are now more ways than ever for people to play a part in the Festival in fact in 2017 over 4,000 people participated in some way. We had over 100 Manchester residents walking on a runway in Piccadilly Gardens, people showing off their hidden talents as part of Party Skills for the End of the World and local artists performing in some of our main commissions. This year we’re marking the anniversary of Peterloo with a new classical work by local composer Emily Howard and poet Michael Symmons Roberts, as well as artists in the city creating new immersive performances and artworks. Young people are getting involved too, including children from schools across the city taking part in MIF19 as critics, as guides and as artists. Add to that Festival Square where over 100 acts, including a huge amount of Manchester talent, will perform across the course of the 18 days and best of all its free!

JB: If you could sum up this year’s MIF in 3 words, what would they be?

CW: Radical, Ambitious, Inclusive.

JB: How would you like to see Manchester as a creative hub develop?

CW: Our year round work will expand even more when MIF has it’s home at The Factory, an ultra-flexible new cultural building being built in the heart of the city, which will enable the creation of large-scale artistic work of invention and ambition it might not be possible to make anywhere else. It’s going to bring together everything from dance, theatre, music, opera, visual arts, to amazing digital work, often combined in radical ways. This will complement Manchester’s already exciting creative sector, reinforcing the city’s reputation as an alternative to London for opportunities within the industry.

JB: Dead or alive, and across any discipline: Who are your three dream festival headliners?

CW: Four Tet, teamLAb, Yayoi Kusama

JB: What event are you most looking forward to at this year’s MIF and why?

CW: Alphabus which is a collaboration between New York dance troop the D.R.E.A.M Ring and Manchester based spoken word collective Young Identity. I’ve seen this project grow over the last four years from Flexn Manchester in 2015, Flexn Residency in 2017 through to Alphabus this year. In a relatively small cast there are four poets and three dancers from Manchester and for me this is a typical MIF commission, bringing together two different art forms and keeping Manchester at the centre.

JB: Where would you want MIF to progress to?

CW:We’ve set ambitious targets to make sure that the Festival represents the diversity of Manchester, from our workforce to our programme and most importantly our audiences. We’re making great progress and I hope that eventually everybody in the city feels like the Festival has something for them.