2nd March 2021



Record breaking year for Manchester International Festival

5 min read

This year’s Manchester International Festival was a £40 million pound record-breaker – with more productions on offer, bigger audiences, a greater number of free events, and wider community involvement.

A report due to be considered next week by Manchester City Council’s Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee and the Council’s Executive, shows that the biennial festival is continuing to grow in popularity both with audiences and with international artists keen to be a part of it, and that it was worth £40.2 million to the local economy – up from £38.8 million in 2015.

This year’s Festival was the sixth since the inaugural Festival in 2007, and the first under new artistic director John McGrath.

It was the biggest to date with 18 extraordinary days of performances and exhibitions presented in landmark locations, hidden spaces and a host of unique venues across Greater Manchester.  It included over 380 performances of 32 different commissions and special events.

The Festival’s international reputation as a leading world incubator for cutting-edge art* continues to grow. Key growth areas for this year’s Festival were the active participation of local people in productions, increased attendances through free outdoor events, and a significantly stronger global on-line presence.

Headlines from the 2017 Festival:

–       MIF17 was a global Festival featuring artists from more than 15 countries, including China, Pakistan, Egypt, Iceland, United States, France and Germany

–       Active involvement in MIF productions by local people increased three-fold, with almost 28,000 person engagement hours logged

–       More MIF shows than ever are now off on tour around the world – from Vienna to Sydney, from Lahore to Hong Kong, at least 11 shows premiered at MIF17 will be seen elsewhere

–       Increase in free shows took visitor numbers to record high of over 300,000

–   More than 150,000 people visited Festival Square, a rise of 25,000 on MIF 15

–  Expanded digital activity engaged more than 1.5 million viewers around the world with MIF creative content, ranging from a groundbreaking collaboration with the BBC Live platform to the Festival’s first digital gaming commission

–   Factory Trailblazer shows signposted the international flavour of this exceptional new arts space, due to open in 2020

–       Five star reviews secured for many MIF shows – ranging from blockbusters such as True Faith, to surprise gems like The Welcoming Party

–  Involvement by emerging Manchester artists hugely increased through initiatives such as Jerwood Fellows and Creative50

–       The £12 ticket scheme returned for a fourth Festival with 10.7% of all sellable tickets across the programme at £12, exclusively to Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage.

–   Four free exhibitions and three free large scale public events were attended by more than 85,000 people.

–       More than 150,000 people visited Festival Square.

–       The MIF volunteer programme exceeded its target by recruiting 442 volunteers of whom nearly half were Manchester residents.

–       The Festival’s Creative Learning programme was expanded significantly for
MIF17.  Working with 68 different education partners, more than 4000 people participated in the programme, and there were opportunities for local people to be involved in 57 Festival performances.

–       The number of corporate sponsors also increased this year, with MIF17 supported by a total of 89 corporate sponsors and media partners – growing from 70 in 2015.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “This year’s Manchester International Festival was a record-breaker in more ways than one.

“The maths alone confirms our belief that cities need culture, as much as culture needs cities like ours that continue to support, nurture, and positively embrace all that the arts have to offer.

“We have a long history in Manchester of innovation and firsts – and that is as true of the arts as it is about science and technology.  This year’s MIF demonstrated this with the festival of firsts further cementing its position at the forefront of the international cultural scene.

“As the development of our unique ground-breaking venue that will be The Factory also gathers pace, the next few years will continue to be all about innovation as Manchester takes centre-stage at the heart of a cultural revolution that will be unrivalled in the UK and beyond.”

Manchester International Festival works with co-commissioning partners around the world. MIF17 shows will travel to the Schaubühne Berlin, Wiener Festwochen, Karachi Biennale, Lyric Theatre London and more. These partnerships contribute significantly to MIF’s funding, in addition to support from the Council and Arts Council England. Income for the 2017 Festival from private sponsorship, individual giving and trusts and foundations stands at over £3.2 million pounds.

The Festival also gives more local home-grown talent a chance to shine, and MIF17 opened with a celebration of Manchester – What is the City but the People? – which invited more than 100 local residents to walk a huge catwalk in Piccadilly Gardens.

John McGrath, Artistic Director and CEO, Manchester International Festival, said: “It’s been fantastic to gather up the evaluations and the responses from the wonderful artists who were part of MIF17. Everyone has spoken of how special Manchester felt – the welcome they were given by the MIF team and our partner venues, and also by the people of the city.

“Active participation in the festival has tripled this year, with local people at the heart of shows ranging from the intimate stories in Manchester Street Poem, to our loud and proud Fatherland Chorus. This engagement with place and local stories was often cited by our international visitors most as one of the things they most appreciated about MIF17.

“MIF is unique: a Festival where not only is most of the work a world premiere, but also much of the work could only have been born in our great city of invention.”

The next edition of Manchester International Festival will take place 4 – 21 July 2019.



The impact and value of this year’s Manchester International Festival was independently scrutinised by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre (MHM) and New Economy. MHM conducted an online audience survey of a sample of ticket buyers and audience members, whilst New Economy analysed the economic impact of the Festival and found it to be £40.2 million.

* “One of the leading worldwide incubators for new, cutting-edge art. Though the festival has an international outlook and reputation, it also showcases Manchester stories and talent”
New York Times, June 2017

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