Sir Kenneth Branagh and The xx unveiled for world’s biggest original arts and theatre festival return to Manchester

By Dean Wilkins

The biggest staging of world-class artists and one-off events is returning to Manchester next year and drags Sir Kenneth Branagh out of Shakespeare retirement.

The biennial Manchester International Festival are teasing audiences with the announcement of Sir Kenneth’s 17-show stint of Macbeth for the first time in his career.

Mercury Prize 2010 winners The xx will also be playing a series of intimate gigs to less than 100 people during the festival that has gained a strong reputation for a pioneering arts and theatre festival.

Festival director Alex Poots said: “We continue to make ambitious and engaged work with some of the world’s greatest artists and thinkers, while taking the festival – and our audiences – in new, unexpected and challenging directions.”

The last festival hosted Victoria Wood, Bjork and Damon Albarn and the full programmes for next year’s events will be unveiled in December.

Councillor Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council’s executive member for culture and leisure, said: “Manchester International Festival has now established itself on the world’s cultural stage and as the first details of the fourth festival are revealed it’s clear that the festival has lost none of its appeal, creativity or edge. 

“There’s no other festival in the world which on the one hand could attract a star of the calibre of Sir Kenneth Branagh while on the other transform an old warehouse into a community food project.

But MIF is so much more than just a festival – it generates millions of pounds for the local economy, attracts visitors from across the world, builds the city’s global reputation as an powerhouse for the arts. And we can now say with confidence that it leaves a lasting legacy.” 

Tickets for Macbeth and The xx go on sale in January –for further information and ticket alerts at

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