What is the city? - The role of an international arts festival in the life and identity of a city

John McGrath
Wednesday, 26 February 2020 - 7:00pm


In June 2017, a few weeks after the Manchester Arena attack, Manchester International Festival opened with a very public event – What Is the City but the People?, created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller and director Richard Gregory. It was the first show presented by John McGrath, MIF’s incoming Artistic Director, and it implicitly posed a question about the relationship of an international arts festival and, by extension, arts programmes in general, to the life and identity of a city.

Almost three years later, in the context of ongoing tensions between urban centres and smaller towns throughout Europe and beyond, and with Manchester continuing to blaze a trail in placing arts and culture at the centre of its plans for growth, McGrath asks in this lecture what the truly innovative and successful models for arts activity in our cities look like today. How do we address that rift between cities and towns, what does healthy international collaboration look like in the era of climate change, and how does a physical space like The Factory interact with our ever-more-digital ways of living?



About the speaker

John E. McGrath is Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Manchester International Festival. His first Festival in 2017 featured world premieres from leading international artists; a new digital direction for MIF; a series of participatory commissions in public spaces, and My Festival a yearround programme forging closer connections with Manchester communities. John was previously Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales, where he achieved a reputation for large-scale site-specific work, digital innovation and extraordinary community involvement. As Chief Executive of MIF John will also be responsible for The Factory, a flagship cultural space for the creation of ambitious new work, opening in 2021.