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2007: First for culture

A scene from Monkey: Journey To The West

Manchester is never a city to be shy, especially when it comes to arts and culture - but even the most robust Mancunian could never have imagined a massive festival dedicated to brand new works by big name artists, until the first Manchester International Festival hit town.

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Performers came from across the globe to be involved and audiences were treated to everything from Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta's sensational dancing to a deeply moving stage adaptation of The Pianist, featuring the music of Chopin.

But for all the fabulous shows on offer, it was the vivid Chinese opera, Monkey: Journey To The West, that got the most heads turning.

Combining circus acrobats, rope dancers and startling Chinese vocalists, it was a feast of colour and sound, produced and created by Blur's Damon Albarn, animator Jamie Hewlitt and director Chen Shi-Zheng.

Of course, where there are big names in Manchester, smaller performers will follow, and one of the Festival's main (though unplanned) achievements was to inspire Not Part Of, which saw local artists, bands and performers creating a fringe to the main festival.

Both the festival and the fringe returned in 2009 for another smorgasbord of culture with, amongst other things, a Rufus Wainwright opera, another dash of Carlos Acosta, Elbow performing with the Hallé Orchestra and the multimedia scare frenzy, It Felt Like A Kiss.




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