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MIF performance of The Anvil, a major musical production co-written by Professor Michael Symmons Roberts

MIF performance of The Anvil, a major musical production co-written by Professor Michael Symmons Roberts (image: Joel Fildes)

University staff and students at heart of Manchester International Festival 2019

12 July 2019

Manchester Metropolitan's influence is seen in design, writing and performance

Manchester International Festival 2019 is underway – and University staff and students are once again taking a starring role in the city’s premier cultural attraction.  

Manchester Metropolitan has played a central role in the biannual celebration of performance, visual arts and popular culture since its inception in 2007.

The University’s wealth of creative talent is on display to thousands of Manchester International Festival (MIF) visitors, from shaping the physical design of festival venues to writing and performing throughout the packed schedule of impressive shows.

Student involvement

A long-running collaboration between MIF and Manchester School of Art gives BA Interior Design, Textiles in Practice and Three Dimensional Design students the opportunity to design furniture and wall panel and interior decorations for Festival Square.

At MIF 2019, this includes tables, chairs and chair covers, wall hangings and ceiling decorations in the bar and Glass House areas.

Penny Macbeth, Dean of Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Our students get the opportunity to design and pitch their ideas to the festival, followed by working with our industry partners, many of who are our alumni, to produce the final pieces. It’s an excellent and useful experience for them to work as they will have to when they graduate.

“This is an amazing opportunity for our students and the enthusiasm and support from the festival is hugely appreciated. I love seeing our students work in the heart of Manchester during the festival.”

Abi Thomas, a Three Dimensional Design student, said: “At the start of this academic year I never thought I'd be doing anything like this and it's really helped me to realise what I want to do career-wise and where I'm headed in the future. I've loved every minute of it.”

Felix Bell from multidisciplinary design studio YOU&i, himself a School of Art graduate, has worked closely with 3D Design students to produce their furniture designs. He said: “We’ve really appreciated having students coming in for their unbridled creativity and being able to inject that back into our company. So we've actually learned a lot from them while teaching them.”

Chair cover designs from Manchester School of Art students and alumni (image: YOU&i)

Acting students are also playing their part in MIF, with a total of 19 performers supporting the production of Rimini Protokoll’s Utopolis Manchester, a “visionary site-specific work that uses intricate tapestries of sound and voices to transform our view of the city”, and Skepta’s DYSTOPIA987, supporting the main actors in the event that also features a live DJ set from the grime artist.

The Anvil

Manchester Metropolitan’s internationally renowned writers and researchers have also played a key role in MIF 2019.

Michael Symmons Roberts, Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan and renowned librettist, collaborated with composer Emily Howard for The Anvil, a major new musical production to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre.

The introduction to The Anvil programme that outlined the history of Peterloo was written by Dr Shirin Hirsch, Lecturer in History at Manchester Met.

Glass House decorations from Manchester School of Art students and alumni (image: YOU&i)

The new work was performed on July 7 at The Bridgewater Hall by the BBC Philharmonic and a huge massed chorus featuring the BBC singers and three Halle choirs.

Professor Symmons Roberts said: “The Anvil is a multi-collaborative project involving great orchestras, choirs, soloists and theatre-makers. It’s been a privilege to be part of it.”

Elsewhere, Dr Adam O'Riordan, poet and Academic Director of the Manchester Writing School, has been working with artist Marcus Coates at the Whitworth on the Animals of Manchester (Including HUMANZ) show, a "Live Art experience that explores what life might be like if dogs, cows, pigeons, squirrels and other creatures lived alongside us as our peers – our companions."

Dr O'Riordan said: "I am so pleased to be part of this exciting multidisciplinary event for children and families as the Animals of Manchester take over the city for the closing weekend of MIF 2019.’’

Glass House event

As a proud Gold sponsor of MIF, the University hosts its own special event in MIF’s Glass House venue for a selected audience of key figures from the creative and cultural sector, University staff and students and other invited guests.

Taking place on July 15, this year’s event theme is Manchester Voices, and will exhibit the creative work of the University’s many world-class artists, curators, performers, writers and creative thinkers.