Students and an apprentice from the University are helping festival-goers search for Utopia on the streets of our city as part of the Manchester International Festival (MIF).
The University’s partnership with the MIF has provided festival volunteers, student placements through our Arts Management MA and graduate employees to the city’s biennial international arts celebration.
This year, undergraduate and postgraduate students are helping to deliver Utopolis Manchester, which will send festival-goers on a journey across the city, taking in intricate tapestries of sound and voices at a variety of secret venues. They’ll explore the people and places that shape Manchester’s daily life – and discover the many ways in which citizens build communities, society and democracy.
The question that emerges during this journey is: 'Can a group of disparate individuals come together to forge a utopian state?'
A city-wide celebration
MIF has a focus on original work, bringing artists from Snoop Dogg to Victoria Wood and, this year, David Lynch to Manchester. For Utopolis Manchester, citizens are at the heart of the performance. And our students, as well as apprentice Kerris Boulton, will be there in spirit every step of the way, having helped German theatre company Rimini Protokoll to create the event.
Manchester-born Drama student Grainne Flynn helped interview people at the locations and observe the development of scripts. “We met everyone everywhere, so many personalities – a microcosm of Manchester,” she says.
“We're working with established artists, not just being directed by them. You have a voice; your ideas are contributing to an international show.”
“Rimini Protokoll are determined that the work comes from the city,” continues Kwame Owusu, studying Drama and English Literature and fresh from five-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“We can all say ‘this is my voice’ – not people coming in and imposing something on us. And collaborating with MIF, it’s not something from London – it’s cultivated here in Manchester.”
Engineering student Ollie Church, who helped build the audio system for the event, adds: “The artists are eclectic, curious and creative. Being part of a festival, to meet people working so hard to put this together, is inspirational.”
Nurturing the nation’s talent pipeline and arts economy is a focus of the University’s £3.3 million Creative Manchester investment. Of this event, Professor Jenny Hughes, Manchester’s Head of Drama, says: “Our students, who gained this remarkable opportunity through a competitive process, have said that this is one of the best things that has happened to them while they’ve been at the University.
The placements from the University are of a consistently high standard bringing new ideas and ways of thinking.
“Rimini Protokoll have a unique working method and aesthetic and we're very excited to see how our students learn from being able to participate in this professional practice and how they find ways of mapping their learning back onto their own degree work and in their future careers.”
MIF has been true to its promise of investing in future talent by inviting bright, young people into the heart of the creative process.
“The placements from the University are of a consistently high standard bringing new ideas and ways of thinking into our organisation,” comments Julia Turpin, Creative Engagement Director at MIF.
“The combination of an industry placement at MIF with the University’s robust academic framework is helping to set up the next generation of arts sector leaders.”
Earlier this year, MIF initiated the Greater Manchester Cultural Skills Consortium, part of a longer-term vision to put opportunities for local people at the heart of The Factory, the landmark cultural arts space that MIF will operate when it opens in 2021. “Our long-term partnership with the University has informed its development,” says Jocelyne Underwood, MIF’s Cultural Skills and Training Director. “We're delighted to have their backing as we continue our work together.”
So, do these students believe in Utopia? “My main takeaway has been that nothing worthwhile or permanent can be accomplished on your own,” says Kwame.
“Community can be an amazing force that can be harnessed to make change.
“We’re encouraged to accept the status quo, but a community of a thousand voices can say that it can be different – and change things for the better.”
Other MIF 2019 events involving the University
Explore the other MIF events involving the University's venues and people:
- Parliament of Ghosts and Animals of Manchester at the Whitworth
- Studio Créole at Academy 1
- The Nico Project, co-created by and starring honorary Professor of Literature and Performance Maxine Peake, at the Stoller Hall.