Manchester International Festival reveal first event for MIF21 - a giant walking puppet!

The Walk is an epic theatrical journey from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester

By Manchester's Finest | 9 October 2020

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Manchester International Festival (MIF) announces its first event for the 2021 edition of the Festival (1-18 July 2021), with The Walk, the culmination of the extraordinary journey from Gaziantep in Turkey to Manchester of nine-year-old refugee girl, Little Amal in the form of a giant living artwork.

Working together with renowned theatre company Good Chance – creators of critically-acclaimed The Jungle – and world-famous creators of War Horse, Handspring Puppet Company, The Walk will see Little Amal – a 3.5 metre tall puppet and an emblem of the millions of displaced refugee children separated from their families – travel 8,000km across Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the UK in search of her mother.

Embodying the urgent message ‘Don’t forget about us’ Little Amal will be welcomed by over 70 cities, towns and villages with art – from major street parades and city-wide performances of music, dance and theatre, to intimate community events, between April and July 2021.

The poignant finale moment on Sunday 4th July – forming a highlight of MIF21’s opening weekend – will be marked with a free large-scale outdoor event in the heart of Greater Manchester, a place that has long welcomed its diverse and dynamic population of refugee and migrant communities, and has the highest concentration of dispersed asylum seekers in the UK outside of London.

A programme of creative engagement activity in the lead up to, and across the Festival’s opening weekend with communities from across Greater Manchester will help to create Little Amal’s welcome.

The Walk will shine a light on the region and its people, as a home and refuge for those who need it. It will build on the legacy of MIF projects such as the Beating Wing Orchestra, ToGather (MIF17), The Welcoming Party (MIF17) and most recently School of Integration (MIF19) which saw over 100 people from over 50 countries take over Manchester Art Gallery to deliver unique classes, from food and customs, to ethics and politics.

John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Manchester International Festival said “We’re delighted to be a major partner on The Walk, our first event to be unveiled as we plan for MIF21, and to welcome Little Amal to Manchester for the conclusion of her extraordinary journey. At MIF, we have a proud history of creating large-scale participatory events that bring the city together. As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, a project like this feels more important than ever – encapsulating everything that the arts can do; crossing borders, starting important conversations, and bringing communities together.”

“We hope that families, communities, schools, friends and neighbours – everyone who calls Greater Manchester their home, will help us welcome Little Amal.”

Amir Nizar Zuabi, Artistic Director of The Walk stated “It is because the attention of the world is elsewhere right now that it is more important than ever to reignite the conversation about the refugee crisis and change the narrative around it. Yes, refugees need food and blankets, but they also need dignity and a voice. The purpose of The Walk is to highlight the potential of the refugee, not just their dire circumstances. Little Amal is 3.5 metres tall because we want her to inspire us to think big and to act bigger.”

At this time of unprecedented global change, The Walk is an extraordinary artistic response: a cultural odyssey transcending borders, politics and language, to tell a new story of shared humanity – and to ensure the world doesn’t forget the millions of displaced children, each with their own story, who are more vulnerable than ever during the global pandemic.

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