Record-breaking MIF21 reaches 2.6m people


Little Amal's journey ended in Manchester at MIF21's final event, When the Birds Sing
Refugee puppet Little Amal's 8,000km journey ended in Manchester at MIF21's final event, When the Birds Sing

Total audience figures for this year’s Manchester International Festival – both in-person and online – are put at well over 2.6m.

The official report on MIF21 says despite the pandemic the events delivered record audience numbers and a "significant economic impact", estimated at £19.5m.

There were 68 events across 18 days in July, including 18 original commissions from leading international artists. Social distancing meant restricted numbers of tickets were available compared with previous years, but with free and online events the festival reached record numbers of people around the world.

There were 36 public artworks and events during the festival, offering a much higher audience reach than previous years. Outdoor events were estimated to have been seen in person by almost 1.5m people. Almost 60 per cent of the total programme was free.

The festival also attracted audiences with a larger programme of online live and interactive content, including specially-created films, digital interpretations of exhibitions, broadcasts of music and theatre and a video game. All these contributed an audience of another 1.2m people from 187 countries – putting the total audience this year at 2,662,244.

The festival provided employment for hundreds of freelance performers and artists and also had environmental sustainability at its heart – the ambition is for MIF to be carbon-neutral by 2025. MIF21 was connected to the power grid – so diesel generators were unnecessary; no additional skips were hired for waste management, and the majority of project materials and items were reused, either through community groups, donations, or reuse networks.

Leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese said: "For Manchester International Festival to have not only put on a festival this year but to have grown its audience several times over from what it has been in the past is a testament to everyone involved and to the whole city for getting behind it."

John McGrath, MIF's artistic director and chief executive, added: “MIF21 was certainly one of the most challenging things we have ever taken: collaborating with artists across the world, most of whom couldn’t travel; ensuring Covid safety, and planning everything amid a global emergency – but the results made it all very worthwhile."