‘What Is The City But The People?’, the opening event of the 2017 Manchester International Festival, has won Best Event at the inaugural Manchester Culture Awards.
Raised high above the pavements, a unique selection of individuals from across Manchester walked along a runway stretching more than 100 metres through Piccadilly Gardens. All eyes were on the people of Manchester as they become the opening event of the Festival.
The show was created from an idea by the artist Jeremy Deller. Each resident was photographed by local photographer Gavin Parry and interviewed by writer Sonia Hughes, and their walk was accompanied by text and images highlighting their story. The body of walkers was deliberately diverse, including a new-born and 100-year-old, squatters and property developers, cab drivers and drag queens.
The Telegraph called it ‘a beautifully simple idea from Deller… a piece tapping deep into the power of public spaces to generate fleeting human connections between strangers. For many participants, it was more than a parade: it was an act of self-affirmation’
Ian William Galloway of Mesmer worked with Quarantine Theatre to design and deliver the event, conceptualising the visual look of the show and arranging and organising hundreds of individual text and image assets. Mesmer sent a team up to Manchester for the rehearsals and production period, consisting of two animators (Letty Fox & Rafael Vartanaian), a programmer (Mollie Tuttle) and two camera technicians (Chris Jackson and Ben Walden).
The event was live-streamed by the BBC on opening night.
A few months later, the project was re-imagined as an installation piece for the Neo video wall in central Manchester, restructured as an hour-long loop of all the photos, stories and text generated by the original performance.
Later, in September 2018, the event was recreated in Utrecht for the opening of Uitfest 2018, featuring local Utrech residents, photographers and writers.
The award was presented in a reception event at the Emirates stadium and collected by MIF’s director, John McGrath, and the show’s director, Richard Gregory. Manchester International Festival also won the Outstanding Contribution award.