The biennial Manchester International Festival has quickly become a highlight of the cultural calendar since its inception in 2007. Damon Albarn premiered his Monkey: Journey To The West production there in the Festival's opening year, while 2009 saw Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna opera receive its world debut, as well as performances from Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson, Antony & The Johnsons, De La Soul, Elbow performing with the Halle Orchestra, and an art installation by the acclaimed documentary maker Adam Curtis.
This year's Festival has just been announced, and it looks as mouth-watering as ever. The main highlight is the return to these shores of Björk, who will host the world premiere of her new Biophila stage show at the city's Campfield Market Hall.
Biophilia promises to be more than just a live show. It's billed as "a multimedia project encompassing music, apps, internet, installations and live shows" and over six shows the Icelandic pixie will perform new material and highlights from her considerable back catalogue with a group of musical collaborators. While the majority of these are as yet unannounced, there will be an Icelandic female choir, a pipe organ that accepts digital information and - get this - a 30 foot pendulum which harnesses the Earth's gravitational pull to create musical patterns.
It promises to be a unique experience, and with Campbell Market Hall's capacity being only 1,800, it's likely that this will be the hottest ticket in Manchester this summer.
Other highlights include Damon Albarn's new work Doctor Dee - a stage show at the Palace Theatre about the famous Elizabethan scientist, alchemist and astrologer. Although some period instrumentation will be featured, Albarn's collaborator Rufus Norris has promised that this won't be "pastiche Elizabethan".
Elsewhere, in a fine example of the diverse range of attractions on show at the Festival, Snoop Dogg will perform the whole of his seminal Doggystyle album in full at the Apollo, Hollywood star Willem Defoe stars in The Life and Death of Marina Abramović (with a soundtrack from Antony Hegarty) while comics Victoria Wood and Johnny Vegas will both have new works showcased.
The Manchester International Festival will be held between 30 June and 17 July at a variety of venues all over Manchester. Further details can be found at http://mif.co.uk/