Activity: Free Events at MIF (Manchester International Festival) 2021

As lockdown eases you might be looking for free events and activities to get you back into the city centre.

Ali Davenport, MIF Neighbourhood Organiser for Wythenshawe, has published a list of free events on her website at

You can find out more about Ali and the other Neighbourhood Organisers at:

Here is the current list of free events:

2-18 July FREE
FESTIVAL SQUARE – Cathedral Gardens
Ticket info to follow
The home of the Festival, with great food and drink, free live music and DJs, tours and more. You can also experience Festival Square online – watch this space!

1 July



Free – ticket required, available from 20 May 

Join the opening night of MIF21 for an extraordinary new dance piece – a huge human flipbook sprung to life on the streets of Manchester. Created by French choreographer Boris Charmatz and featuring more thank 150 residents of Greater Manchester. 

Would you like to take part in this amazing event? Check out this open call for participants. Priority for Wythenshawe residents – closing date Tuesday 1 June. 

1-18 July


Across the city

Free – no ticket required

What do we notice when we walk through a city? And what does it trigger within us – memories, emotions, sensations? Christine Sun Kim is installing captions in Manchester on streets and buildings, vast physical captions you can seek out on purpose or discover by chance.

1-18 July


Manchester Arndale

Free – no ticket required

Conceived and created by Cephas Williams, this major public exhibition at Manchester Arndale will profile a range of Black people living in the UK today, the contributions they make and the roles they play in society. It is a powerful and positive affirmation that Black Lives Matter – every day. You can also experience the exhibition online – more details to follow. 

1-18 July


Piccadilly Gardens

Free – ticket required, available from 20 May 

Explore a monumental new work of art: a colossal 42m replica of Big Ben, created by Argentine artist Marta Minujín. Lying almost horizontal and covered in 20,000 copies of books that have shaped British politics, this temporary landmark will inspire new conversations about what we value – conversations drawing from Manchester’s unique and independent spirit.

1-18 July


Venues to be announced

Free – ticket required

One of the world’s leading visual artists, Rashid Rana, explores new ways of looking at the world in this enthralling new project – an MIF exclusive. 

1-18 July



Free – No ticket required

Commissioned and created at the height of the global lockdown, these five films from leading international artists explore everything from community to communication, patriarchy to power. In very different ways, they consider the question we’ve all been asking ourselves and others: what happens next?

2-18 July



Free – ticket required, available from 20 May (continues until 30 August)

Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist & Lemn Sissay, this is an exploration of poets who work with visual art and visual artists who work with poetry. The streets of Manchester will become the art gallery featuring specially commissioned new work and the heart of the exhibition will be at HOME because home is where the art is.

2-18 July (continues until 17 October)


The Whitworth 

Free – ticket required, available from 3 June

Cloud Studies includes the first phase of a major new Forensic Architecture investigation, commissioned for the Festival by the Whitworth and MIF, on environmental racism along the banks of the Mississippi in Louisiana. You can also experience Cloud Studies online – more details to follow. 

18 July 


Location to be announced


The Walk is centred on Little Amal, a 3.5-metre puppet of a nine-year-old refugee girl who is setting out from the Syria-Turkey border in July on an 8,000-kilometre odyssey to Manchester in search of her mother. It is a travelling festival of art and hope in support of refugees. Mark the start of The Walk with a launch event during MIF21 – a moment of reflection and hope created with refugee communities in the city (details to be announced shortly) – and join its powerful conclusion this autumn in Manchester.

1-18 July



Free – no ticket required

The third digital work in the ongoing Virtual Factory series is a queer gardening simulation shaped by intimacy and politics and designed by videogame developer Robert Yang. Contains content of a sexual nature. 

18 July




Your Progress Will Be Saved is a new online experience created by acclaimed avatar artist LaTurbo Avedon that reimagines The Factory within Fortnite Creative. Age 12+. It’s the first project in Virtual Factory, a new series of online artworks inspired by the possibilities of The Factory – MIF’s future year-round home.

31 March-18 July


Online –

Free – no ticket required

Turner Prize winning-artist Tai Shani takes us beyond the merely mortal and into the mystic with The Neon Hieroglyph, her first online artwork. It’s the latest world premiere in Virtual Factory, an ongoing digital series inviting artists to imagine new virtual worlds in response to the physical architecture and artistic ambition of The Factory, MIF’s future home.

Other highlights

2-10 July 


Central Library

Tickets on sale from 3 June

At the start of 2021, South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere invited more than 100 people from across Manchester, including Wythenshawe, to share their love stories. Through a series of online and in-person meetings, a group of 11 Manchester writers put people’s words on to the page. The result is I Love You Too, a powerful and personal book of love letters rooted in our city. Together with the publication, the Central Library Reading Room will be hosting an exhibition of Wa Lehulere’s new sculpture, created especially for the space.

10-17 July


Manchester Central 

Tickets on sale from 3 June

A year ago under lockdown, a group of Greater Manchester residents aged 16 to 70 came together for the first time to share their hopes, thoughts and ideas about the future. Hosted by Contact and MIF, the group has continued to meet and discuss the important issues of today. Now, they’d like you to join them and their invited guests – artists, activists, key workers, campaigners and others – for conversation and debate about two topics they think are key to our future: equality and the environment.

10-11 July


The Factory

Tickets on sale from 3 June

Be the first to experience new work at MIF’s future year-round home – The Factory –  with a special installation bringing the natural world into the heart of the city – created especially for the site by director Deborah Warner.

See WHAT’S ON for the full #MIF21 programme, including: 

MIF X Salaam Festival; Patti Smith Quartet; 

The Long Waited, Weighted, Gathering at Manchester Jewish Museum; 

Rooted In Rhyme with Unity Radio & Manchester Hip Hop Archive; 

& All of this Unreal Time, 

a new film and immersive installation with Cillian Murphy. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.