New Year, New MIF as festival welcomes Low Kee Hong and prepares to open The Factory

Manchester International Festival (MIF) has announced a brand-new creative director to breathe fresh life into the festival alongside its hotly-anticipated Factory venue

MIF’s newest Creative Director will be Low Kee Hong, the current Head of Theatre and Performing Arts at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and previously Artistic Director of the Singapore Arts Festival.

He will be leading on the future programme for the Festival – re-imagining MIF for the years ahead in ways that connect both locally and globally.

Overseeing the work of the Creative Engagement, Curatorial and International departments, the new Creative Director is set to start his new role in April this year with a packed itinerary of events, new openings, and festival highlights already pencilled in over the next two years.

The Factory Mif New Venue Virtual Tour Opening 2023
A virtual tour of The Factory and its surrounding creative spaces can be found online Image: Manchester International Festival

Factory reset

Working alongside Artistic Director John McGrath and the rest of the curatorial team, Kee Hong will help to expand and develop the artistic programme for MIF’s new creative powerhouse The Factory. 

Opening in 2023 (after quite a wait), Factory is “inspired by our city’s unmatched history of innovation” with a programme of dance, theatre, opera, visual arts, and unique contemporary works, all of which will be premiered in Manchester before heading overseas.

We got a recent glimpse of The Factory when its building site was used as a work-in-progress installation and backdrop to some of the MIF 2021 events. It will officially open on the former site of the Granada TV Studios on Water Street in 2023. Until then, a sneak preview of the building’s exterior, and a virtual art installation, concert, and performance space can be seen on its website. We've followed the progress of The Factory for the past five years or so and will, of course, be first in the queue for its opening events.

Mif 2021 Concert Image
MIF is a bi-annual highlight of Manchester's cultural calendar Image: Manchester International Festival

Re-imagining MIF for the years ahead

As well as overseeing all things The Factory and a range of fab new projects, the newly-appointed Creative Director will help to develop the itinerary for the next bi-yearly Manchester International Festival.

Having worked with a huge range of artists, producers, performers, and programmers internationally, Kee Hong is “deeply committed to involving the widest possible range of communities and voices”. 

Mif New Creative Director 2022 Low Kee Hong
Low Kee Hong will reimagine Manchester International Festival Image: Manchester International Festival

A key turning point for MIF

Discussing Kee Hong’s new role, and his influential position over at MIF, John McGrath says the change comes at a key turning point for the organisation as he looks forward to welcoming him to Manchester.

“Kee Hong will join MIF in the year before we open The Factory and will be working with me and the curatorial team to develop an exciting range of new projects for the space," McGrath says, “Equally importantly, he will be leading on the future programme for the Festival – re-imagining MIF for the years ahead in ways that connect both locally and globally.”

Kee Hong says he is "truly honoured and excited by this opportunity," adding that MIF "is an organisation [he has] always admired for its visionary and bold take on what tomorrow can look like".

As our cultural calendar for 2022 illustrates, this year is already poppin' when it comes to cool, cultural, creative things to do. We look forward to adding more and more of The Factory's eclectic, artistic, world-class events to our diaries as the year goes on. 

A Visitor Takes A Pictures Of Big Ben Lying Down An Art Installation In Piccadilly Gardens In Manchester As Part Of Manchester International Festival
Big Ben Lying Down, one of the highlights of MIF21 Image: Manchester International Festival

Applications open for 2022 Neighbourhood organisers

In other MIF news, the festival is on the lookout for a fresh team of neighbourhood organisers with applications now open for ten new community representatives. The scheme, which aims to bring local communities from across Manchester closer to the festival, will concentrate efforts on getting people involved in future creative opportunities at The Factory.

Following on from the success of last year’s pilot, the number of roles for this year has been increased from six to ten and corresponds with a slight rejig in area coverage. Last year’s organisers included teachers, youth workers, radio presenters and charity workers.

The scheme attracted notable attention nationally, highlighting how arts institutions can democratise their programmes and encourage those who wouldn’t ordinarily engage to get involved.

Akeim Mundell Bem The Whalley Range Community Organiser For Manchester International Festival
Akeim Mundell Bem, MIF21 Neighbourhood Organiser for Whalley Range Image: Manchester International Festival

Akeim Mundell Bem, 2021 Neighbourhood Organiser for Whalley Range, said:

“If you are an individual who is keen on creating opportunities, then the Neighbourhood Organiser role is for you.”

The Neighbourhood Organiser scheme is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the roles are paid. The role of an organiser involves sharing knowledge and insights about their area, highlighting local issues and advising on how The Factory could help to develop programmes and opportunities that are relevant to their respective community.

Previous work experience in the arts is not essential. Instead, communication skills, enthusiasm and knowledge of the local area and the ability to work independently are top of the list of requirements.

For more details on how to apply to be a Neighbourhood Organiser, head over to the MIF recruitment site.

MIF is now looking for Neighbourhood Organisers from the following areas:

Cheetham Hill/Crumpsall



Moss Side/Hulme/Whalley Range

Gorton/Abbey Hey/Clayton


Baguley/Sharston/Woodhouse Park




Read next: Massive new festival coming to Salford Quays this September

Read again: Manchester International Festival highlights: MIF21 reviewed

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