City centre festival hub returns with packed itinerary of over a hundred performers, free family activities and more

Just when you thought the centre of Manchester couldn’t possibly get any better, Manchester International Festival goes and announces the line-up for its Festival Square hub in Cathedral Gardens. So much free entertainment in one place. Anyone else feel dizzy?

It wouldn’t be Festival Square without live music and there’s a lot worth taking your airpods out for

Championing the best in Greater Manchester talent, Festival Square will welcome back its free daily programme with over 100 artists from the city and beyond keeping visitors entertained. Events will include live music - everything from unique multilayered classical concerts to club night DJ sets - as well as talks, performance and participatory activities, all celebrating the city’s impressive creative output. See the full list of announced acts at the bottom of this article (more still TBA) and read on for some highlights.

Festival Square At Manchester International Festival At Its Old Home In Front Of Manchester Town Hall Image 59
Festival Square will move to Cathedral Gardens for the 2021 edition of Manchester International Festival Louis Reynolds

Making the most of Manchester talent

Events at the festival’s central hub will run from Friday 2 July - Sunday 18 July with a new COVID-safe seated format and an eclectic line-up catering to visitors of all ages. Following a public call-out for Manchester-based performers, 30 of the hundred-plus acts chosen to perform throughout the festival will hail from the city.

The highlights, you ask? Where do we begin? Saturday 3 July sees Our City Our Festival - a Manchester residents' takeover event with a free day-long schedule of music, performance and inclusive events celebrating the diversity and talent of Greater Manchester. Local performers include men’s choir Chorus of Others (born from MIF17’s world premiere Fatherland performance), performing arts youth group KYSO and Heritage Radio - Manchester’s only licensed Islamic radio station which promotes interfaith dialogue and popular Islamic content.

Manchester Dj Mr Scruff Who Will Be Playing And Curating Nights At Festival Square At Manchester International Festival Shaun Bloodworth
Mr Scruff will present a night of performers from across the UK Shaun Bloodworth

Live music returns to Festival Square

It wouldn’t be Festival Square without live music and there’s a lot worth taking your airpods out for. There’ll be folk-pop courtesy of Chloe Foy (7 July), R&B artist Akemi Fox (5 July), folk-hop collective Honeyfeet (11 July) and soul singer Pip Millet (5 July). The Untold Orchestra will also be joined by DJ Paulette, poet Shirley May and vocalist Yemi Bolatiwa for a performance of Nina Simone’s Four Women (2 July), a unique musical exploration of the experiences of black women in the creative industry.

Then there are the DJs. So many DJs. Infamous club night Homoelectric returns for one night only (10 July), Mr Scruff presents a night of performers from across the UK including a special B2B set with hip hop pioneer Mikey D.O.N (16 July). Manchester label Swing Ting will also host a takeover (15 July) with a mix of MCs, DJs and live performances.

Something to suit all tastes

Legendary spoken-word night One Mic Stand returns (17 July) with ten spoken word artists and Dave Haslam will present a showcase of Manc record label Griot City Records (4 July) as well as switching to presenting duties for two nights of choice artists from Manchester and beyond (12 & 14 July). Fabaret (17 July) completes our picks of the bunch, returning with a celebratory showcase of Manchester-based LGBTQ+ artists including Manchester drag royalty Cheddar Gorgeous. Slay.

Rivca Burns, Festival Square producer at MIF said:

“Festival Square is back once again as a showcase of what Manchester has to offer the world. Being able to bring such a wide array of incredibly talented and diverse musicians to our three stages in Cathedral Gardens this year is such an honour and a true reflection of this city. We hope that Festival Square will provide a safe and free space where anyone feels welcome to reconnect and celebrate.”

Welcome back Festival Square. We’ve missed you.

Manchester International Festival (MIF) will take place safely in indoor and outdoor locations across Greater Manchester from 1-18 July.

The line up so far:

2 July: Midday Meditation: Earth | Cupid's Bow Cello Duo | Jacob Connor | Records of reflection: Lamb's Lou Rhodes | Living Room Dance Club DJ set | Untold Orchestra presents Nina Simone's Four Women | DJ Paulette

3 July: Manchester United Foundation talent show | Chorus of Others | Shooting Stars Theatre School: Level Up | Rhythmshawe DJs | Heritage Radio Takeover | JD Dance | KYSO || MIF Young People's Forum: Are You Playing Out? | Capturing a Summer 2020 presented by Paradise Works

4 July: The Playhouse Project: Veba & Lil' Fee | Girl Gand Manchester: Angst Aerobics | Sweepy Dee | Kofitolduso | Dave Haslam presents: The Griot City Experience (Reece Williams, Werka, SheBeKeKe, Jardel Rodrigues & Chris Jam | Konny Kon DJ set

5 July: Midday Meditation: Water | Club Clam DJ set and life drawing | Marco Woolf | Records of Reflection: Norman Jay MBE | Akemi Fox | Pip Millett | Dave Haslam DJ set

6 July: Chetham's School of Music | SOFT LAD | Records of Reflection: Ladies Music Pub | Ellen Beth Abdi | TYSON | Kat Brown Sugar DJ set

7 July: Midday Meditation: Fire | George Fell | Records of Reflection: Sprechen | Living Room Dance Club DJ set | Chloe Foy | Jane Weaver DJ set

8 July: Chetham's School of Music | Records of Reflection: Ebor Studio | Creating Patterns DJ set | BBC Introducing: Caoilfhionn Rose, Ellysse Mason | Record of Reflection: Feel Good Club with Hattie Pearson | DamaeDance: IRMÃ-siste | Creating Patterns DJ set | Nonunonu | The Mirror Ball Test | Matthew Halsall DJ set

9 July: Midday Meditation: Air | Reform Radio x Thirty Pound Gentleman present: SUTTY, Inka, KUPI and Joe Roche | SAF-S2E | Records of Reflection: Girl Gang Manchester | Krin | Jamz Supernova presents: Grove and Nia Archives | Jamz Supernova DJ set

10 July: YES presents: Me Gusta, Remake Remodel, The Goa Express and Chips with Everything | BBC Introducing: Porij | Jamaal Monarch | Flex | Homoelectric with Luke Unabomber, Gina Breeze, Jamie Bull, Will Tramp & Lukas Bugatti, House of Ghetto and Jason Andrews

11 July: Henge | DJ Acid Rephlux | NRTHRN takeover: Vzion, Ava & Nyree, Tommy Tickle & David Birch DJ sets, glue70 & ZULA and Yemi Bolatiwa | Girl Gang Manchester: All The Feels DJ set | Elysse Mason | Honeyfeet | RebeccaNeverBecky presents: Queer Latifah

12 July: Midday Meditation: Space | Shunya | Dr Butler's Hatstand Medicine Band | DJ Bobby | At Home with Lilac | Charlotte Davies DJ set | Dave Haslam presents: The Lounge Society and Blanketman

13 July: Reform Radio x Thirty Pound Gentleman present: Sarah Angel, Lashimba and DR MYSTERY DJ set | Emily Lockett | Paige Kennedy | Records of Reflection: All Hands on Deck | Lone Taxidermist | Abigail Ward DJ set | Loose Articles | Billy Nomates | All Hands on Deck DJ set

14 July: Sena Sagna & The Kajamor Family | Hurguf | INTI | Pablo Blaquito DJ set | Records of Reflection: Afrodeutsche | NGUVU | J.Chambers | Mark Rase DJ set | Dave Haslam presents: Lovescene

15 July: BBC Introducing: Femi Tahiru | Daytimers present: Traynor, Taxi Cab Industries, Chandee & Raheel Khan, Gracie T & Qwirk and Vindya | Farah Ahmad & Balraj Samrai | Jade Parker | Swing Ting takeover with Fox, Joey B, Lovescene, Samrai, Tarsza and Thai-Chi Rosè

16 July: Ku'umba Collective | Zeyla DJ set | Modern Day Pirates | DJ Silva | LCN | Records of Reflection: Rowetta | Andy Shake'N'Fingerpop DJ set | Mr Scruff presents: Rebecca Vasmant Ensemble (live), Secret Night Gang, NikNak, Mikey D.O.N

17 July: LayFullStop | Meme Gold DJ set | Once Mic Stand: Faz Barber, Nasima Bee, Isaiah Hull, Billie Meredith, Ella Otomewo, John Bernard, AB Bitz, Salli Katebe, Nine McCartney and Jardell Rodrigues | Thabo | Good Afternoon DJ set | Trees.R.Good | Fabaret!: Cheddar Gorgeous, Taylor Le Fin, TomYumSim, Jason Andrews and Superbia| One Mic Stand | Kath McDermott DJ set| High Hoops: Save Our Scene with aalice, Levi Love, Sarah Bates (live) and Murmurs | Reform Radio x Thirty Pound Gentleman present King

18 July: The Playhouse Project with Disco Mums | Manny Flavahs DJ set | Big People Music presents: Misha B and Abnormal Sleepz performing with the Big People Music Orchestra

Follow Davey Brett on Twitter @dbretteats and Instagram @dbretteats

Main image: Louis Reynolds

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