Monday, July 20, 2009

After Things

So Manchester International Festival has officially finished. Comparisons with two years ago are highly positive, it clearly taking on board some of that debut event's failings. Much of the best work this year came out of genuine collaborations with Manchester based cultural institutions, or gained from making the most of the cities venues, whether regular ones or unusual ones (like the Velodrome or the office block for "It Felt Like a Kiss.") It still remains a selective festival - in that its hard to imagine anyone finding the desire, the time, or indeed, the funds to go to its ten signature events. I managed Kraftwerk and "Procession", as I was away for much of the fortnight; but really wished I'd been able to stay around for "It Felt Like a Kiss", Elbow/Halle and the performance art at the Whitworth. Didn't hear anyone say much about Acosta or the Royal Exchange or Durutti Column, and I'm sure that Rufus Wainwright was ok if you like that kind of thing; but all in all, there seemed a definite buzz about the place - helped by there being a buzz on the social media channels - that means that next time, all being well, I'll take two weeks out of my diary to enjoy the whole thing. Of course, other things were going on at the same time, so whether it was an underwhelming Fall gig on Saturday, a fun Social Media Cafe at the BBC, or regular events like the degree show, sideshows like Iain Sinclair at Urbis or the Independent Publishers market in St. Ann's square the city seemed full to bursting with cultural activities. I'm not so convinced that we need the big bang of the Royal Opera House, as the cost - in particular the running costs - seem out of proportion to the benefits, particularly when the city has such a vibrant cultural life as is; yet we do need some more and better, and more diverse public spaces, indoor and outdoor. For perhaps the first time in a long time, I felt Manchester was living up to, and surpassing its ambitions culturally, rather than being a somewhat reluctant advocate. Life of course goes on, and it would be a shame as the summer holidays dawn, if everything dries up in the post-festival mud. There's plenty of art still showing in the city, but probably precious little in the way of music or literature - at least until September comes along. My cultural diary has an empty look for the next few weeks, though there's the August Other Room in a couple of weeks, and Cornershop at Moho next Monday...

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