Manchester International Festival

The management at MIF must have allowed themselves a small sigh of relief last March that coronavirus year fell between two of its biennial events, but there must be some biting of fingernails and frantic contingency planning in the MIF office now.

The year wasn't without its disruptions for Manchester's flagship arts festival though. A planned world première of Riz Ahmed's The Long Goodbye at Mayfield as one of its 'pre-Factory' events before the opening of MIF's own venue should have taken place at the end of March, the week after lockdown, but instead it became a one-off live-streamed performance in December.

In August, MIF announced a series of artist 'drop-in' sessions on Zoom, where artists could attend free afternoon sessions online with both Manchester-based and International artists. In September, it appointed three new people to its artistic team, Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, Hannah Azieb Pool and Cerys Matthews, and also launched Factory Futures to train unemployed young people living in Greater Manchester.

The first announcement for the upcoming festival was that Little Amal, the giant outdoor puppet from theatre company Good Chance, would end its journey from Turkey in Manchester in July in an event called The Walk. In December, MIF confirmed its plans for a July festival to go ahead and launched Virtual Factory, which will feature online commissions from international artists inspired by the architecture of the new Factory venue from February.

Greater Manchester Fringe Festival

GM Fringe has grown enormously over the last few years in terms of the number of productions in its programme, but it is still small-scale enough to be able to react to fast-changing circumstances, as it showed during 2020 as it persisted in its attempts to hold some kind of live theatre event.

The first announcement came in April when the festival was officially postponed from July to October and November, although some acts instead deferred to the following year or cancelled completely.

There was an event in autumn as planned and our reviewer David Cunningham did his best to see as many as he could of the live shows (some shows were online) before the second lockdown closed the festival for the year.