From debauched discotheque to gourmet fast food and gay choirs, here's 8 reasons to visit the festival hub this year
Though it's an arts festival which has built a reputation over the last decade for original and often radical works - this year from cutting-edge international artists including Thomas Ostermeier (Returning to Reims), Boris Charmatz (10,000 Gestures) and Jeremy Deller (What is the City but the People?) – anyone well schooled in the Manchester International Festival (MIF) tradition knows that the heart of the festival pumps until the early hours in Albert Square.
It is here, in Festival Square, where all - from spectators to journos and the artists themselves - converge to discuss and dissect performances, typically over JW Lees ale and toothsome bites from Michelin star-winning festival stalwart, Paul Heathcote.
It is here where, on a sunny day, you might find Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese snoozing in a deckchair, BBC Radio 6 tastemaker Mary Anne Hobbs broadcasting live from a gazebo studio, or your boss going tops-off to Fleetwood Mac in the Pavilion tent 'til 2am.
'Fezzy Square' opened for a preview earlier this week (see the video above) but will launch fully on Friday 30 June.
Here’s our top-picks from this year’s Festival Square line-up:
Drunk at Vogue (Fri 30 June, 11pm-3am, £12): These debauched discotheque fiends have been drafted in to open the square with a wallop on Friday with what's being billed as an ‘explosive party’.
Steven Doherty (Mon 3 July, 7pm, £50): The former Le Gavroche chef and first Brit to run a three Michelin-starred restaurant will host what’s sure to be a blinding supper club in the square’s Glass House (also appearing are : David Moore of London’s Pied a Terre, Mark Hix of HIX and chef Carl Noller of The Yard in Cheshire).
Djs at Festival Square (Fri 30 Jun – Sat 15 Jul, 10pm ‘til late, Free): Nightly sessions in the teepee include stints from Tim Burgess (The Charlatans), Dave Haslam (Hacienda), Youth and some special guests - more here.
The Sunday Boys (Sun 9 July, 5.30pm, Free): A choir for gay men and their ‘allies’, the Manchester male voice collective will emerge from their Gay Village HQ for this free Pavilion show.
The Radical City (Wed 12 – Sun 16 july, 3pm, £10): The city’s premier Blue Badge guide and Confidential editor-at-large, Jonathan Schofield, will once again be leading a series of tours from Festival Square, the pick of which is likely to be ‘The Radical City’ - which will explore the city’s radical history from Peterloo to Pankhurst.
Flavia Coelho (Sat 15 July, 7.30pm, £12): Ahead of the launch of new album, Sonho Real, this lively Brazilian-born, Paris-based samba-bossa fusion singer makes her Manchester debut.
Substance (Mon 10 July, 8pm, £15): To mark a decade since the passing of Manchester cultural polymath Anthony H. Wilson, Festival Square will host a special evening of discussion, DJs, dance and a new commission by composer Joe Duddell – who’s also collaborating with Manc indie heroes New Order for the festival’s catchiest commission: Σ(No,12k,Lg,17Mif)
Hispi (Fri 30 June – Sun 16 Jul, daily, prices range): Chef Gary Usher – who recently had two of his three bistros named amongst the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants – will offer punters his own take on festival fast food.
For more information and to book tickets head to mif.co.uk