It may be heresy to say so, but I still haven’t completely got my head around the Manchester International Festival, which starts this weekend. I know that it is billed as “the world’s first international festival of original, new work and special events”, but I don’t know what that means.

What it appears to be is a variety of things that, to my mind, do not necessarily add up to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts – which means that it is hard to get “festival fever”. There are some claims that the festival is “uniquely Mancunian” or an “original modern” festival but I don’t get that either.

Not that it matters, I suppose. If you like ballet and you like Carlos Acosta then the fact that we have the Manchester International Festival means that you have your chance to see him. If you like music and you like Kraftwerk (ahem!) then you could go and see them too.

procession-500x333I am going to Procession which sounds good, where I am particularly looking forward to the music and “the largest ever gathering of local sporting mascots”. The event itself will be followed by a gallery display at The Cornerhouse in the coming weeks.

I am also going to see De La Soul which is presumably classed as a “special event” because there is nothing “original” or “new” about the celebration of the 20th anniversary of their classic hip-hop album, Three Feet High and Rising. As I said above, not that it matters – I am just glad to get to see them.

The Not Part Of Festival is something else entirely. Running alongside the International Festival it aspires to make full use of Manchester’s cultural landscape, “a celebration of Manchester’s creative community”. The idea is that it is a fresh and edgy festival fringe.

What I like about the programme is that they are putting artistic offerings in unusual places. I am looking forward to seeing a play in a bar such as Taurus on Canal Street, for example. This is not necessarily new, but there is so much of it in the programme that I think that I could “buy-into-it” in a way that doesn’t seem possible with the Festival proper.

I also like the idea of the Manchester Art Crawl on 9th July. You follow a map that directs you to visual art displays or performances across the City Centre – many using disused shops that are empty due to the recession.

Not Part Of looks good and more information is available via the internet brochure or from the box office that is hidden inside the Great Northern Warehouse (opposite where you buy cinema tickets). Another great thing is that for many events you can just turn up, rather than book in advance.

Finally, I wonder what a combination of Manchester International Festival and Not Part Of might have come up with? Perhaps rather than Procession we may have had Demonstration and rather than De La Soul we might have had the Ruthless Rap Assassins (North Hulme’s finest) supported, of course, by Kid British (who are also Forever Manchester). Maybe, that is something to think about for 2011.

Phew! I got to the end of this piece on Manchester International Festival and managed to totally avoid the use of the word “pretentious”. Doh!