After a lengthy drought, music, comedy and performance returns
with gusto this July courtesy of the IF: Milton Keynes International
Festival. The feast of fabulous was set to explode across the new town in 2020, but the pandemic put paid to that. Twelve months on, and with some clever configuring, IF will roll out between July 10 and 30 and as is traditional, it promises something for everyone within this year’s extended three week window.
Sammy Jones has Pulse’s preview of the fun ahead…
The Amphitheatre Programme – in Campbell Park – opens with Slapstick Picnic’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Just two performers will deliver this decidedly daft reworking, which comes with added culinary capers (July 17, 1.30 & 5pm).
A decidedly fruity show follows a day later when Gandini Juggling presents Smashed2.
You’ll definitely get more than your five a day if you book for this; with 80 oranges and seven watermelons joining the nine performers.
They’ll provide slow-motion comedy performed with meticulous unison and split-second timing.
Think you are entertaining with a trio of satsumas? Think again!
Laughter might be the best medicine, but it has been lacking lately. Stand-up in The Park will bring some much needed funnies to the fore, with Russell Kane, Rich Hall and Angela Barnes at the mic. (July 23, 7.30pm).
Orchestra for the Earth with For the Trees sees young professional musicians combine skills to highlight climate change and the natural world. For this show, they have collaborated with environmental charity Trees of Music to show how the deforestation in Brazil is decimating the population of Pernambuco trees – the wood used to make bows for stringed instruments.
If we don’t wake up to the appalling devastation of the natural world, more than music will be silenced. The thought-provoking programme will include pieces by Beethoven, Elgar, and Frank Bridge (July 24, 8pm).
Something quite different will sizzle in the heart of town, with the large-scale dance spectacle Future Cargo taking over at the The Point car park.
Frauke Requardt & David Rosenberg’s immersive sci-fi dance show is set within a 40ft shipping container (July 23 & 24, 5pm & 9pm).
Take a trip to the Peace Pagoda at North Willen Lake for Black Victorians.
Jeanefer Jean-Charles’ show was inspired by an exhibition of black people in Victorian portraits that had been hidden for a century.
The performance uses choreography and boldly-reimagined Victorian costumes to challenge expectations of what a Victorian person might look like, exploring a complex but often forgotten black presence in pre-Windrush Britain (free, July 24, 3pm & 7pm).
If you want something to tickle the ear, the Music programme has plenty for the taking.
The Stables Sessions: Live On The Bulbfield Stage (July 17 & 18) shines a light on new sounds and unsigned artists including Anna Hester, Manny & The Coloured Sky, Joe Miles and Inlak’esh.
The Stables Sessions: Virtually Live will deliver shows and chat recorded live at The Stables for online broadcast. At the time of writing, dates were to be announced, but participants will include Hannah Scott, Hope in High Water and Roses & Pirates.
Drake Music: Planted Symphony is an immersive music experience in nature, an accessible and interactive outdoor audio trail through Campbell Park’s Canalside green spaces.
Created by collaborations between disabled and non-disabled artists, it includes BSL videos, audio description and resting points (July 14-18,11am-5pm – show lasts 20-30 mins).
Looking for fun family time? IF’s Family Focus Weekend (July 17 & 18) has a cartload of cool pop-up performances and drop-in workshops, and they are all free!
There will be Flag Making Workshops inspired by the Mandalas flag project (keep reading for more about that), and participants get to take home their own creations. Workshops will happen by the MK Rose every 30 minutes between 11am and 4pm.
Theatre of Widdershins returns with a new compendium of enchanting fairy tales; The Princess & The Pea, The Hare & The Hedgehog, The Many Legged Musicians of Bremen, Granny Dumpling, Nanooshka Queen of the Goats and Ug, Bug and Dug will play out over the weekend, and performances last for an average of 40 minutes. An easy way to earn brownie points from the kids!
Dance and Circus is at the fore in Mimbre:Lifted, a series of funny, poetic and surprising moments which explore what it means when one body is carried by another. The all-female acrobatics will play out on the Embankment Stage in Campbell Park at 11.15am and 2.30pm daily.
Take it easy with Gobbledegook Theatre who bring Cloudscapes to the gardens of Campbell Park with an intimate installation. Lie down on cushions in an outdoor cloud-gazing auditorium.
Performer and creator Lorna Rees will oversee the sessions (11.30am, 12,30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 4.30pm) which last for 40 minutes.
Dizzy O’Dare’s The Giant Red Balloon Show channels MK’s iconic red balloon from the 1970s adverts. It adds in a 1980s soundtrack, and with its non-stop balloon sculptures, high-energy comic performance and audience participation it’ll turn even the biggest of frowns upside down. Visit the Labyrinth in Campbell Park (Sat, 12.15pm and 2.15pm and Sun, 12.15pm and 3pm).
Kapow: Grow is a comment on humanity and a comedy gardening show combined – and there aren’t too many of those around!
Smart, skilful and engaging, Kapow’s two dancers transform into weeds, seeds and beautiful sunflowers, leaving the audience feeling blooming marvellous and ready to get gardening. This show (Sat & Sun, 12.20pm & 3.30pm) is presented in association with our very own MOTUS Dance.
2Faced Dance deliver the fearless new dance production, Power (Sat & Sun, 1.30pm & 4.30pm) which explores the uneasy relationship with authority and control, and how power can seduce, shift and shape our behaviour (Sat & Sun, 1.30pm & 4.30pm).
IF comes with the guarantee of some terrific installations, including Anna Berry’s Breathing Room.
MK-based Anna has created an illuminated tunnel lined with thousands of delicate paper-like cones that move and breathe. You are invited to walk through the pulsing interior. As for the movement? That has been created by the clever combination of found objects, cogs, chains and bicycle parts.
Anna’s work is a must-see and you’ve plenty of time to do just that – Breathing Room will be resident in Queen’s Court between July 10 and 30. Entry is free.
The Woodpeckers will be showing up in different places around town during the festival. The robotic birds will be attached by magnets to street signs, lamps and other mobile and wireless technology into a constantly changing composition of rhythmic beats tapped out on our architecture.
Marco Barotti is the brilliant Berlin-based mind behind this delivery, which will delight fans of feathered sorts among us.
Station Square will house the emotive Arrivals + Departures, an interactive artwork rooted in the direct life and death experiences of local people.
Yara + Davina take the iconic arrivals and departures board and invite the public to reflect on births, deaths and memories of lives lived – data will be gathered by you about your loved ones.
We mentioned the MK Mandalas earlier, and the Kinetika Flag Project is working with two MK artists and 10 community groups to make 30 batik silk flags. They will all be inspired by the visual forms and mandala symbols used in designs for the MK Rose (free, July 16-18 and July 23-25).
Luke Jerram will host Gaia in Middleton Hall at centre:mk between July 10 and 30, and Museum of the Moon at the Tree Cathedral in Newlands (July 22-25) – the first chance to see his monumental inflated 3D models of the Earth and the Moon in the same town at the same time. The awe-inspiring internally-lit sculptures measure seven metres in diameter. Atmospheric surround sound compositions are by BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winner Dan Jones.
It’ll take your breath away.
All events (including free sessions) must be pre-booked and have a maximum of six tickets per booking.
IF you don’t want to miss out, click to ifmiltonkeynes.org