Highlights of IF: Milton Keynes International Festival 2023 announced

    IF: Milton Keynes International Festival returns this July, with major commissions and UK premieres and animates unusual places and spaces in Milton Keynes and beyond, creating new stories and memories for one of the country’s newest cities.

    Ideas of belonging, identity and journeys of many kinds underpin this year’s IF: Milton Keynes International Festival, showing how shared history can both bring us together and point to a different future. 

    The secret life of flowers and plants is revealed in The Place Between, a breathtakingly beautiful large-scale installation created by artist Rebecca Louise Law and sound artist Jason Singh.

    Law is known for creating colossal artworks with natural materials and her work has been seen worldwide. For this brand-new piece, she works with MK residents to find 20,000 examples of local plant life, adding their gatherings to her existing 200,000-strong collection. Together they sew and wire the stems and fronds into multiple trails of flowers and plant material which will transform centre:mk’s Middleton Hall into a contemplative space for visitors that is simultaneously protective, potent and fragile.

    Meanwhile on location in Milton Keynes, sound artist Singh has recorded indoor and outdoor plants and trees to record, using bio feedback technology to capture the electrical activity made deep within their vegetative tissues and converting this data into immersive musical soundscapes that will envelop people as they make their journey through the epic hanging garden.  

    The Place Between is a special commission by centre:mk in collaboration with IF: Milton Keynes International Festival.  As the Festival’s Headline Partner centre:mk will host the artwork from Friday 14 July until the end of the Festival. 

    A major highlight of this year’s Festival is the world premiere of a new commission for voice and chamber ensemble, a contemporary response to the globally renowned hymn Amazing Grace. Forever? is a collaboration between composer Roderick Williams and poet Rommi Smith.

    To create her powerfully moving text, Smith interviewed people, locally and internationally, about their personal response to the hymn, written 250 years ago by the Reverend John Newton, a former slave trader who became vicar of local parish Olney.

    Forever? will be premiered on Saturday 22 July at The Stables, one of the UK’s leading music venues and founder and producer of the Festival.  It will be performed by Chineke! Chamber Ensemble, part of Europe’s first majority-Black and ethnically diverse orchestra with the MK Sweet Sounds choir formed specially for the occasion, along with music by Florence B Price, William Grant Still and Tomaso Albinoni. 

    Forever? is commissioned by the Cowper & Newton Museum with The Stables and the performance is part of Amazing Grace 250, a year-long programme of activity led by the Museum.  

    As dusk turns to night on Tuesday 25 to Thursday 27 July audiences will be collected from a central Milton Keynes location and transported to a secret woodland location where Catalonia-based artist collective Kamchàtka will give the UK premiere of their award-winning show Alter.

    Immersive and site-responsive, Alter is a journey into the heart of the night in search of a shared humanity. Through the darkness, characters appear, each carrying their own suitcase.

    Who are they, what are their stories? They expose our fragility and the fear of being displaced from everything we thought we knew, and remind us of the power of connection and collective experience. Alter is an unforgettable experience that is profound and joyous, immersed in surrealism and the absurd, and heading towards hope.

    Throughout the day on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 July, in city centre locations, the Kamchàtka characters appear, lost. Naïve and curious, their emotions are barely contained. They know nothing of our norms, our rules and our way of life. A chance for interaction opens up, passers-by turn into spectators and become an active part of the exchange and the experiment. 

    At nightfall on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 July there will be a rare opportunity to experience the luminous Place des Anges, only seen twice before in the UK - at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and Hull UK Capital of Culture in 2016 – and the biggest show ever brought to the Festival.

    This aerial spectacle is written and directed by Pierrot Bidon and Stéphane Girard and produced and performed by leading French theatre company Gratte Ciel. A multitude of winged white angels – acrobats, climbers, dancers and circus artists - animate the night sky above central Milton Keynes. Suspended from invisible zip lines, they float and fly, defying gravity. As the angels start to descend to the watching crowds, they release swirling clouds of white feathers, cascading from the sky. 

    Other highlights include:

    French company Les Commandos Percu bring the pyrotechnics of Silence! to Campbell Park on Friday 21 July.  As the drummers and crowds process through the park, the powerful rhythms and low muffled rolling of their drums pull the audience towards a large volcanic sculpture. Gradually the drummers become one with this twisted metal mountain, the sky is set alight and the volcano erupts in a dazzling finale of pyrotechnics, special effects and percussion.

    For three days from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 July, Belgian company De Machienerie give the UK premiere of Carnivale - an ingenious, interactive ‘fairground village’ - at Festival Central in Campbell Park. It is a wondrous fantasy world of ecological wonder, full of extraordinary installations, curiosities, mechanical animals and attractions. By reflecting on the inventions and innovations of the past, Carnivale makes a poetic and powerful environmental statement about how animals are now threatened with extinction. 

    Also from Belgium are artists and scientists Captain Boomer Collective whose Pasture with Cows, inspired by traditional paintings of livestock, sets up in Fred Roche Gardens from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 July. Real-life cows – referencing the concrete cows for which Milton Keynes is famed – graze within an outsized gilt picture frame. Like a real painting, Pasture with Cows pauses time and draws its viewers in. The majestic rhythm of the cows creates a pleasantly pastoral environment that encourages peaceful rumination and camaraderie, punctuated with the occasional surprise turn of events. 

    In residential areas and the city centre, on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 July, audiences can participate in Follow Me, a journey packed full of parkour and street acrobatics. The two urban acrobats of Be Flat from Belgium show them how to discover the city in a very unusual way. Others join the ‘flash mob’, wondering what on earth will happen next. 

    Full programme to be announced in 23 May.

    Sponsored Stories

     

    Local News

    Weather

    • Sun

      22°C

    • Mon

      19°C

    • Tue

      18°C

    • Wed

      18°C

    • Thu

      17°C