IF: Milton Keynes International Festival 2021 was a cultural highlight
IF: Milton Keynes International Festival 2021, postponed from 2020, was adapted for extraordinary times with a city-wide celebration of creativity from 10 to 30 July. For the first time in the Festival’s eleven-year history, it ran for an extended 21 days to give audiences the time and space to enjoy events in a safe environment.
Artworks and installations, performances large and small, concerts, discussions and online events embraced themes including global climate change, the environment, nature and wildlife, and diversity and inclusion. Encouraging people to re-engage with culture, most of the live work took place outdoors in the city’s parks, public squares and retail spaces.
The Festival’s flagship artwork Gaia, a large-scale replica of Earth by internationally acclaimed installation artist Luke Jerram, was presented in the vast Middleton Hall in centre:mk, the Festival’s headline sponsor.
Kevin Duffy, centre:mk Director said: “Our ongoing partnership with the Festival really helps us to showcase outstanding pieces across Milton Keynes whilst hosting the breathtaking Gaia installation in Middleton Hall and the premiere of Anna Berry’s Breathing Room in Queens Court. At a time when people were searching out enriching and unusual experiences, the Gaia installation alone had footfall in excess of half a million while feedback from customers on social media was incredible.”
Established with the support of Arts Council England in 2010, the Festival is designed to encourage residents to see a different side of Milton Keynes presenting world class events, new commissions, site-specific and community participation projects.
Hazel Edwards, South East Area Director, Arts Council England said: “IF: Milton Keynes International Festival brought a wonderful sense of community and togetherness to Milton Keynes after what had been such a challenging time for all. It was a huge achievement for The Stables’ team and all their Partners, and highlighted what an incredible role arts, culture and creativity has in not just entertaining audiences, but also in making people feel better about themselves and the places that they live – as well as feeling more connected to everyone around them.”
Over the 21 days, the Festival presented 168 performances and exhibition days in six Festival locations. It commissioned 65 new films and live-streamed 31 events. It worked with 204 professional artists, 810 community participants and over 200 volunteers.
Cllr Robin Bradburn, Deputy Leader of MK Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Culture said: “MK Council was proud to once again provide its support to help deliver the hugely successful International Festival in Milton Keynes. We were treated to some truly inspiring pieces of work that really celebrated our city’s unique character and heritage. We’re so pleased that this year’s Festival proved such a success, particularly against the back drop of the challenges of Covid-19, and we’d like to extend our thanks to everybody who helped make it happen and those who turned out to support it.”
There were 30,954 tickets issued and 65,000 attendances. 80% of all Festival events were free to attend. Press and media coverage reached 14.5 million people and the Festival had a gross economic impact of £3.8 million.
Monica Ferguson, Festival Director and Chief Executive of The Stables said: “Planning and delivering this Festival during such a difficult time was one of our biggest challenges to date, but people have told us that the Festival created shared experiences, sparked curiosity and debate – and gave a sense of hope for the future. The team worked tirelessly to ensure everyone had a safe and enjoyable experience. I want to thank the artists, the audiences, the partners and everyone who played a role in making it such a success.”
Image courtesy of Shaun Armstrong @ Mubsta