Once every two years Manchester International Festival brings the city together to celebrate its people, culture and creativity. I managed to get to a few of the events held around the city and I've highlighted my favourite parts here.
This year, as always with MIF, the real pressing and gritty matters of our city are addressed and turned into art that truly resonates with the people, totally contemporary to the city at that time. In True Faith we can appreciate Manchester's incredible music-scene and the legacy of arguably our city's biggest musical icons, in ToGather we celebrate the diversity and embrace our multicultural society and in Manchester Street Poem we are immersed into the world of Manchester's homelessness crisis, something we each see and often ignore every day.
Art Exhibition, Manchester Art Gallery, 30th June - 3rd September
True Faith is an exhibition all about the legacy of iconic Manchester bands Joy Division and New Order. Showcasing work from their designer Peter Saville, the collection includes album artwork, videos, photography and film to illuminate the overall aesthetic of the bands pre and post Curtis.
As you walk into the gallery you are met with suspended strip lighting arranged like ghostly trees around the darkened gallery space. Around them are colourful fragments of metal, imitating bins and fences - the whole concept is evocative of an urban park at nighttime, aided by the hooded figures dressed in painted parkas that seem to follow you around the room. It's very theatrical and as you scurry into the aside areas to watch live performances or music videos you do feel like you're part of the subculture.
Ian Curtis is of course a huge focus for the first room of the exhibition in particular. There is a very fuzzy, almost indistinguishable video of him performing, jerky movements and angelic voice adding to the creepy ethereal vibe of the place.
The second room is less concept and more actual material from shows. There are original DIY posters and handbills that I love the idea that they were just litter to a lot of Mancunions not so many years ago and now they're on the art gallery wall. It's a great showcase of the Manchester Punk circuit (Rafters, the Electric Circus, the Squat) before Joy Division found their home at the Factory in 1978.
The exhibition closes with Ian Curtis' handwritten lyrics for Love Will Tear Us Apart which feels very much like a homage and dedication. True Faith is on until 3rd September at the Art Gallery for anyone who hasn't managed to see it during the weeks of MIF17.
Exhibition and Performance, Whitworth Park and Gallery, Susan Hefana, 30th June - 3rd September
ToGather brings together a full-scale exhibition in The Whitworth with performances in the park recognising the multicultural importance of Manchester. Bringing together 30 local residents, each of refugee/asylum seeker backgrounds who live in Manchester.
The group shared stories and objects from their lives and how they came to live here, coming together for a public performance, all about migration and movement in the park on the 9th July. Scanner scored the piece with moving sounds and voices from the group.
The performers moved around the park with dancers from Studio Wayne Mcgregor and their movements were transmitted back to the gallery in real-time to emphasise the concept of movement and fluidity of individuals irrespective of their origins.
ToGather felt very special and symbolic. It's important to highlight the diversity of the city, celebrating the backgrounds of our multitude of residents.
Manchester Street Poem
Unfear, NQ, Underworld
Walking into the exhibition co-created by Karl Hyde and Rick Smith of Underworld, you enter into what is essentially a huge cardboard box. There is cardboard and masking tape covering the walls and floors, so you yourself physically enter into the world of those people this piece gives voice to.
I caught a Q&A session with the producers on the 12th of July and they talked us through the process of how they went onto the streets and asked a range of people who were living on the streets about themselves. They asked their name, their age and if they would share their story.
It's true that everyone does have a story, and to these people who life has been unkind to a platform to share theirs made for an incredible exploration into contemporary society. There were stories of addiction, abuse, criminality but also stories of very 'normal' people where things just broke down in their lives. Stories about things we all worry about: deaths in the family, lack of funds vs. rising cost of living, unexpected unemployment and the massive failings in our welfare system.
Manchester Street Poem was immersive and powerful. The stark messy strokes of black and white paint coupled with trance-like music and the voices of those involved playing loudly in the background made me grateful to get back outside into the sunlight. It made me recognise my privilege in being able to walk away from it.
If you were moved or affected in anyway by Manchester Street Poem please consider looking into the Manchester Homelessness Charter where you can volunteer, donate, or just learn more about pledging to end homelessness in Manchester.