The 2023 edition of the Manchester International Festival (MIF), presented by Factory International, has begun this week with a host of world premieres and special events by artists from around the world unveiled in venues and spaces across the city.

For the first time, the festival will take place at Manchester’s landmark new cultural venue, Aviva Studios offering audiences an opportunity to preview the building ahead of its official opening in October.

A major exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s inflatable sculptures forms a centrepiece of the Festival and is the first work to be presented at Factory International’s new home. You, Me and the Balloons takes over the vast warehouse space of the building, inviting audiences to take an exhilarating journey through Kusama’s psychedelic creations, most of which have not been seen before in the UK.

Other events include a collaboration exploring art and the beautiful game by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and footballer Juan Mata, new work by Tino Sehgal, a mixed reality concert by the late Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, a live photographic performance by Benji Reid and a musical adaptation of a cult queer classic by Philip Venables and Ted Huffman. The expansive programme of new work premiering at the Festival sees art forms merge, breaking new creative ground and challenging perceptions.

A diverse programme of music acts will take to the stage in the Hall of Aviva Studios, including Angélique Kidjo, Alison Goldfrapp and revered Sufi singer Sanam Marvi. While the ever-popular Festival Square will relocate to the outdoor spaces of Aviva Studios with free live music from over 190 performers, and a wide variety of food and drink, creating a new riverside destination for the city.

Events are also taking place in spaces and places across the city – including a quest for collectable coin artworks by Ryan Gander, a celebration of our connection to water on the banks of the River Medlock by Risham Syed and Angie Bual, and a chilling adaptation of a lost dystopian masterpiece in the depths of the John Rylands library by Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight.

Greater Manchester residents are once again at the heart of MIF23, from performing on Festival Square to volunteering in an array of roles across the Festival. Many of the works reflect on the personal experiences of the city’s diverse communities, from youth-led performances, and exhibitions surrounding mental health as part of Balmy Army to a futuristic and interactive journey through Manchester by Blast Theory and Manchester Street Poem led by those most marginalised in the city.

John McGrath, artistic director and chief executive of Factory International said: “Asking big questions about the world and our future, while also providing many moments of joy and celebration, MIF23 brings artists from a huge range of backgrounds to Manchester to create a thrilling range of work: from a ritual on the banks of a newly uncovered river to a mixed reality concert from one of Japan’s greatest composers, from a hunt for artworks across the city to a collaboration exploring art and football.

“As always, MIF is rooted in the spaces and places of Greater Manchester. So whilst we welcome the first visitors to our new home, Aviva Studios, to experience Yayoi Kusama’s incredible inflatable sculptures and an array of music inside and outside the venue, the Festival continues to extend its reach throughout the city in a true celebration of Manchester and its cultural offerings.

“This Festival is a genuine melting pot of creativity, designed to take the temperature of our times and imagine possibilities for the future. From homegrown talent to trailblazers from the far reaches of the globe, each of this year’s artists brings unique work and ideas to the programme which I’m thrilled to see shared with the world.”

MIF23 also provides the first opportunity for audiences to experience Aviva Studios, ahead of its official opening in October.

Designed by Ellen van Loon, OMA Partner and lead architect, the ultra-flexible building is based around vast, adaptable spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling artists to develop and create large-scale work of invention and ambition of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world. It is the largest new national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000 and is made possible thanks to initial HM Government investment and backing from Manchester City Council and Arts Council England.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer added:I am delighted to see events at this year’s Manchester International Festival taking place in its new home, Aviva Studios, which has been made possible by £100 million of Government investment.

“The venue will provide a showcase for the city’s magnificent artists and act as a centre for creativity, collaboration and innovation helping to maximise Manchester’s creative potential – both growing the economy and supporting opportunities for developing talent.”

As one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations, Factory International has been generously supported by public funding.

For the full – extensive – MIF23 programme and to purchase tickets please visit Factory International.