Manchester sets out to explore television and art

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The Independent Online
YET another arts festival was launched yesterday, and its organisers claimed it would become the largest in England.

The Boddington's Manchester Festival of Arts and Television, launched in Edinburgh yesterday, will take place in Greater Manchester in September and October this year and will include local and international theatre, music events and public screenings of Coronation Street.

Phil Jones, the festival's director, called it 'a unique collaboration between the televisual and performing arts' and 'the largest arts festival in England'.

Ellie Gray, arts development manager at Granada Television, co-sponsors of the festival, said: 'The live and recorded arts do not need to work in competition. We want to use television as it has not been used before.'

Granada is programming to complement live arts. The first festival television programme, a documentary on football, was broadcast last Thursday. 'It brought the festival into people's homes,' Phil Jones said. 'And, hopefully, it will bring people out of their homes into the festival.'

The festival is a joint venture by Manchester City Council, Granada, Boddington's brewery and local arts organisations. Rob Caird, head of features, arts and documentaries at Granada, said: 'There is a limitless market for a festival like this provided you can find it. We are exploring the relationships between . . . television and performing art. This is an arts festival which is not exclusively channelled through the arts pages of broadsheet newspapers. People can take part in their own living rooms.

'It's a unique partnership between television and the performing arts which is specifically designed to broaden audiences for the performing arts.'

Christopher Barron, director of Manchester City of Drama 1994, said: 'There is an extraordinary cultural renaissance in Manchester. The city is on a roll. The Olympic Games bid and the festival are part of the same process. Manchester is rapidly becoming a European cultural centre.'

The festival will also collaborate with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 'Already, many events transfer between the festivals,' Mark Borkowski, its publicity agent, said. 'The success of the Manchester Festival will enable Manchester and Edinburgh to share the costs of a high-calibre international programme.'

But success may depend on the support of sponsors Boddington's, which is committed to investing pounds 2m in the festival over the next four years. The brewery's marketing director, Patrick Langan, said it hoped to improve the image of bitter. 'We want to get away from the cloth- cap image into something a bit more sophisticated.'