Idris Elba and Yoko Ono among artists for Manchester International Festival

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Actor Idris Elba will premiere a musical theatre production about life in South Africa after Nelson Mandela at a festival next year.

Elba, who played the former South African president in film Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, has co-created show Tree with Kwame Kwei-Armah, the artistic director of London’s Young Vic.

The work, which features music, dance and film, will be performed at the Manchester International Festival (MIF) in July, it was announced on Monday.

Performances by Yoko Ono and grime artist Skepta have also been announced for the festival.

Elba, 46, said he and Kwei-Armah, who have known each other since their 20s, used his album Mi Mandela as a starting point for their production.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Playwright and actor Kwame Kwei-Armah (Sean Dempsey/PA)

“For me, an interesting part of the process is looking at the next part of the story; the new universe that sprung up after Mandela.

“To be able to investigate that with Kwame, a writer with such tremendous vision for whom I have great respect and love, and within the artistic community of MIF, is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

Manchester terror attack anniversary
Manchester’s Cathedral Gardens (Peter Byrne/PA)

The festival will be opened by John Lennon’s widow Ono, who will invite people to gather in Manchester’s Cathedral Gardens for event Bells For Peace.

The performance will see thousands of diverse voices and a people’s orchestra of bells ring out for peace.

Ono said: “The beauty of this piece will break the sky and more.

“One of the reasons this is very different is the fact that all of us will be making the sound together.

“More than ever, we must come together to heal each other, and the world.”

A live set by Mercury Prize winner Skepta will be held in a secret location as part of the festival.

The event, Dystopia987, will also include guest appearances from hand-picked performers and DJs.

MIF artistic director and chief executive John McGrath said: “I’m thrilled to be announcing the involvement of such extraordinary artists in Manchester International Festival 2019.

“Yoko Ono will be creating a very special opening event for Mancunians, and the world, in the city centre: a joyful response to our complicated times.

“Idris Elba is one of the most dynamic creative figures working today, and in this new collaboration with the wonderful Kwame Kwei-Armah, he brings his vision and passion to a brand-new piece of musical theatre.

“And Skepta, an artist known for pushing musical boundaries, is going to be surprising everyone with a vision of the future that is immersive, high tech and personal.”

Tickets will go onsale to MIF Members on Monday, with general tickets on sale at 10am on Thursday November 1.

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