The streets of Manchester will be transformed into a showcase of some of the world’s best street theatre and art with a free festival this month.
Platform 4, organised by Manchester-based arts company XTRAX, returns to the city with a considerably-expanded line-up for its third edition, running from Friday to Sunday, August 19-21.
Highlights of the festival include a spectacular nocturnal finale called As The World Tipped by Liverpool-based Wired Aerial Theatre, a visit from Spanish circus company Atempo Circ, and a range of performances spanning dance, music and drama from both local and international acts.
Coming so soon after the rioting in central Manchester, the festival organisers are keen for the festival to portray the city in a more favourable light.
Director Maggie Clarke said: “What has happened makes people feel nervous about going into the city after dark. The event brings people together in a celebratory spirit, in a safe environment.
“I think Wednesday showed people in the city want to help and represent the city as something other than what was being shown on TV.
“We know that people will be cheering and Tweeting all the things they have seen at the festival. Equally, being in Piccadilly, which was the scene of so much sickening behaviour, we will be bringing the best of Manchester’s young people together to create something celebrating the city.
“We are happy that something so positive is happening in the city so soon after something so negative.”
The biennial festival, originally called Platform 4 Piccadilly as the events were based around the station, was first held in 2007, with the previous edition in 2009.
For this year, however, the festival has expanded, with events taking place in St Ann’s Square and the Castlefield Arena.
The festival has quickly built up international renown, with As The World Tipped being directed by Australian-born Nigel Jamieson, the mastermind of the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Manchester talent is also well represented, with local theatre company Contact creating a piece specially for the festival involving young performers.
Contact were also commissioned to create a work for the festival’s opening edition in 2007.
Family-friendly art is very much at the heart of the festival’s ethos, with shows suitable for young children this year including Avanti’s piece Mr Lucky’s Birthday Party.
Maggie said: “It’s a really beautiful, charming work, which, having seen it, I can say is very enjoyable for adults as well as children.”
The festival is supported by Manchester City Council and the Arts Council, who have both remained loyal to Platform 4 despite government cuts to arts budgets and the tough economic conditions.
Festival administration assistant Shaunagh Keys said: “We are very fortunate that the council have seen the value of bringing the festival to the city and have continued to support it.”
Councillor Pat Karney, city centre spokesperson, said: “Manchester has become world- famous for its festivals and outdoor events in and around the city centre.
“With performance, music and family fun, plus a world-class night time spectacle, we hope that thousands will join us for this weekend of free entertainment.”