MIF 21 reveals first event

The Walk - Little Amal and children. Pic: Bevan Ross


Paul Genty

8 Oct 2020

Epic journey portrayed in giant living artwork

Manchester International Festival (MIF) has revealed its first event for the 2021 festival (July 1-18, 2021)

The Walk portrays an epic theatrical journey by a nine-year-old refugee girl, Little Amal, from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester. Amal is represented in a giant living artwork.

The world-famous Handspring Puppet Company, creator of the War Horsepuppetry, has worked with theatre company Good Chance to produce a 3.5 metre-tall puppet – an emblem of the millions of displaced refugee children separated from their families.

The puppet is travelling 8,000km across Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the UK. Little Amal will be welcomed by over 70 cities, towns and villages with art – from major street parades and city-wide performances of music, dance and theatre, to intimate community events, between April and July 2021.

The finale comes on Sunday, July 4 as a highlight of MIF21’s opening weekend – a free, large-scale outdoor event in the heart of Greater Manchester.

A programme of creative engagement activity in the lead up to, and across the Festival’s opening weekend with communities from across Greater Manchester will help to create Little Amal’s welcome.

MIF21 artistic director John McGrath said “We have a proud history of creating large-scale participatory events that bring the city together. As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, a project like this crosses borders, starting important conversations and bringing communities together.”

:: In other news, Manchester City Council, which is building The Factory, a state-of-the-art theatre and concert hall intended to house future editions of the international festival and be a hothouse for international arts development,, has seen the cost of the project leap by £45 million because of the "unprecedented nature" of the building, and delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The council is expected to cover the cost by way of a short-term loan.

The project, which is unfolding on the site of the former Granada TV studios, will now cost £186m – against an original projection of £110 million – and open in December 2022 rather than next year, making it two years late. The project's budget has increased by over 60 per cent since work began.

When open, the massively-expensive project is expected to attract up to 880,000 visitors a year, offer up to 1,500 new jobs and add up to £1.1 billion to the local economy.