Organisers of the Manchester International Festival (MIF) said the 1-18 July event was attended by nearly 3 million people, while the festival’s digital programme saw 1.2m join in online.

More than half of this year’s MIF programme was free, with a range of public artworks by internationally acclaimed artists at prominent locations and in neighbourhoods across Manchester.

Among the ticketed live music events were Damon Albarn and Arlo Parks’ (pictured) first live gigs for 18 months to sold-out audiences, while more than 100 Greater Manchester artists played across three stages on Festival Square.

Other activity included sculpture in Piccadilly Gardens, an installation of Black British portraits in Manchester Arndale, a pop-up grocery shop, Christine Sun Kim’s captions across 36 sites and buildings, and poster displays by artists such as Tracey Emin and Lubaina Himid throughout the city.

It also saw more than 1,000 attend the Arcadia installation by Deborah Warner, the first event on the site of The Factory – a new arts space in the city that is currently under construction and will become the home of the MIF team.

MIF artistic director and CEO John McGrath said, “MIF21 was certainly one of the most challenging things we have ever taken on as an organisation – collaborating with artists all across the world, most of whom couldn’t travel, ensuring Covid safety for audiences and teams, and planning everything amidst a global emergency – but the results have made it all very worthwhile.

“The enthusiasm and gratitude from audiences in Manchester, who told us how much they needed this moment of joy and coming together, the creativity of artists and production teams who worked so hard to make this ambitious programme happen, and the word of mouth internationally have all demonstrated the importance of creativity to our city. We all needed our festival now more than ever, and I’m delighted that we succeeded.”

Read more about the planning for this year’s MIF, and the wider Manchester events community, here