​What is the City but the People? review

This was the provocative opening event of the Manchester International Festival 2017.

​What is the City but the People? review

The combined arts biennial festival taking place throughout the heart of the city. Previous MIF's have been criticised being as detached from the people of the city, with greater focus on giant international artists instead of the audiences. The sentiment from the festival organisers this year clearly is to support community and to use arts as a catalyst for social cohesion. A well-coordinated and curated selection of important everyday people of the city.

As we gathered there was a soundscape of found sounds of Manchester mixing waterways with industry. With thousands of residents and visitors gathering on the grass of Piccadilly Gardens, the gigantic screens provided into the first images of Stephan: he walks down the 100 metre catwalk to rapturous applause. The screens provided us with captions of who these people are and provocations about the city and the crowd stood and applauded the people. To whistles, applause and whooping from all, Stephan enjoyed the focus. He sells The Big Issue at Victoria Station and sees hundreds of people pass him by. Manchester applauded him, giving pride and support.

This event is the epitome of community cohesion and a heightened way of providing the comment that everyone in society has their story and these are some of the hidden stories of grief, sadness, strength and love. How proud Manchester is of its people, especially with recent events putting questions on how people feel together in a public crowd. The overwhelming sentiment is that of strong community. I'm not a resident of Manchester, but last week I attended the Manchester Day celebrations and saw how this city has a community that compares to a small village. Standing watching diverse stories: a Syrian refugee, a HIV positive person, a 100-year-old lady who drove trucks in the war, the designer of the city centre after the IRA bombs, a taxi driver who drove people home after the attack on the MEN Arena, and Frankie and Bill, who met for the first time on stage as a blind date.

What I must say was a confusing aspect of the event was that - either a mistake or difficult to interpret - after the first third of people had paraded, there started to build a mixture of people walking together. Therefore, descriptions of people and their defining stories got mixed up. Who is the person we are clapping? To counter, the notion that perhaps everyday people who pass you on the street have a deep, emotional, or uplifting tale to tell – I just felt that to provide respect and applause to some of the people, I wanted them to be individual to give them each respect. With that respect, I cried, I applauded, and felt part of this community.


Matthew Harrison-Lord

Matthew Harrison-Lord Local Reporter

Leeds/Chester. Performance artist and Lecturer. University of Chester. Brighouse Festival

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 6 July 2017, 10:47 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    We've been through so much as a country. It's so great that events like these unite the people in love.

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