Huge arts festival will promote games

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The Independent Online

Plans for one of Britain's biggest arts festivals will be unveiled today. More than 200 events will be staged across the North-west during the four months leading to the Commonwealth Games being held in Manchester.

Organisers claim the Cultureshock festival will rival the Edinburgh Festival. They aim to attract world-famous names ­ Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the saxophonist Courtney Pine have already been booked ­ and to showcase emerging talent from 72 Commonwealth nations.

The first International Commonwealth Film Festival, whose patron is Shekar Kapur, the director of Elizabeth, will stage a series of world premières. The International Pulse Festival will include orchestral, jazz and world music, with performances by Dame Kiri, the BBC Philharmonic and Halle orchestras, the percussionist Evelyn Glennie and Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of sitar player Ravi Shankar.

Theatrical offerings will include The Cherry Pickers, the first Aboriginal play staged outside Australia, and The Island, set on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. Germaine Greer and Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, will be among those taking part in literary events.

Organisers believe the festival will boost to the games, which appears to have overcome a funding crisis after a £105m Government hand-out.

Manchester and Liverpool will be the festival's main two centres but events will be staged from Cheshire to Cumbria. A festival spokesman said: "This is the biggest arts festival the country has ever seen and we hope it will give the North-west a massive cultural rejuvenation."