Twice a year, ISPA Congresses bring together performing arts leaders from across the globe to discover the next great idea and strengthen relationships, fostering connection and exchange.

In June 2023, Manchester was chosen as the host city for the annual mid-year conference on behalf of the UK, allowing over 350 delegates to experience the city’s passion for arts and culture in person.

About the ISPA Congress

Over the years ISPA has served as a fantastic opportunity and meeting place for industry professionals - providing a place to learn about performing arts in different regions and to keep up to date on issues, challenges, and solutions from others working in the sector globally. 

Host cities are chosen through a competitive bidding process during which they have to demonstrate their commitment to culture and the performing arts and show what their city has to offer delegates. With so many new cultural offerings opening in Manchester in 2023, including global arts venue Aviva Studios, home of Factory International, it seems fitting that the city was selected to host the prestigious international convention.

A partnership of Manchester stakeholders including cultural institutions and The Manchester Convention Bureau part of Marketing Manchester, collaborated on the bidding process, highlighting the significance of culture to the region in both its heritage and its future. 

Funding through VisitBritain's Event Support Programme was successfully applied for and was used to support activity to promote Manchester hosting the June Congress at the previous New York Congress in January 2023. The activity carried out aimed to boost the number of international delegates at the Manchester edition of the Congress.

ISPA Congress Manchester 2023

ISPA saw over 350 performing arts professionals come to Manchester for a four-day congress which took place across various arts venues across the city.

Events took place at HOMEBridgewater HallAviva Studios (home of Factory International) and New Century Hall while optional venue tours gave delegates the chance to view further arts venues in the city, exploring its rich cultural heritage and offering.

The event attracted international speakers representing the global arts community from members of Arts Councils and organisations to Directors, Poets, Singer Songwriters, play writes and more. There were keynote speaking sessions, panel discussions and opportunities for conversation and exchange.

The theme for ISPA 2023 was Co-creating the future, discussing what it means for performing arts leaders, how the sector can move forward and reflecting on the future resilience of the creative industry.

Dave Moutrey, Director of Culture for Manchester City Council, and Director of HOME said: "We're delighted to be welcoming the ISPA mid-year congress to Manchester in June 2023. At a critical time for the sector, bringing together performing arts professionals from across the globe to collaborate and exchange ideas feels more important than ever, and we're proud to be providing a space for this to happen. It has been a pleasure working with the British Council and Arts Council England, whose support was integral to our successful bid, and we look forward to working with colleagues from across the sector and other partners to showcase the wealth of talent, innovation and culture that Manchester, and the UK, has to offer." 

Sheona Southern, Managing Director of Marketing Manchester said: “This year is a monumental year for Manchester’s cultural scene with new openings across the city like Factory International paving the way for cultural firsts that will reposition Manchester as a global arts hub. Hosting the ISPA mid-year congress helps us to cement that status and celebrate what is a really exciting time for the city. 

“The Manchester Convention Bureau and Marketing Manchester have worked closely with key stakeholders from across the city in the bidding process to show the strength of our cultural narrative and why Manchester is the ideal space for global creatives to come together. Manchester has a strong heritage in music, literature, arts and theatre. Now we’re entering a new era for culture which is incredibly exciting for our residents, arts professionals and visitors. We look forward to showcasing Manchester’s cultural scene to the world and confirming to the global creative community that this city is a must-visit destination.” 

Support from the Manchester Convention Bureau

The Manchester Convention Bureau supported ISPA 2023 in Manchester by working on the bespoke bidding process with Arts Council England, Visit Britain and Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

It also supported delegates with a bespoke delegate welcome, featuring guides and facts about the city, inspiration on how to spend free time, exclusive offers, and useful tips on navigating the city and transport links. This service helps delegates to make the most of their time in the city and showcases the best Manchester has to offer, from restaurants and bars to world-famous sporting venues, museums, and nightlife.