Restaurant pop-ups, buffet exhibitions and drawings of Mr T from May til September

As British Art Show 9 lands in our city this May, Manchester artists respond with A Modest Show, a four-month programme of 43 newly commissioned works and events, serving up new artworks, dinners, interventions, performances and more across Greater Manchester.

As important as it to attract creative events and new exhibitions, our focus is on positioning Manchester's artists alongside the internationally profiled artists on the BAS9 tour

A group of artist-led spaces gathered together in 2021, determined to "get a seat at the table" and to place Manchester artists in the spotlight during the run of BAS9. With funding from Arts Council England and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, A Modest Show suggested artists devise artworks under "satirical themes of food, hospitality, consumption and dining... inviting audiences to EAT MANCHESTER ARTISTS!" Right up our street. 

Across 23 different venues, the programme connects with over 100 artists using food as a vehicle to explore subjects such as identity, politics, social relations, sustainability and the neurodivergent. Food for thought, you might say. 

Exhibiting in spaces indoors and out, from tropical gardens to the inside of a Luton van and museum gallery walls, the venues include Kampus, SEESAW Space, the Whitworth, ParadiseWorks and Rogue Studios. All of our faves are about to get artsy. 

Read on for some of the highlights from A Modest Show's itinerary and some events that you should bookmark for the months ahead. 

Superposition Removals And Functions Exhbition At See Saw A Modest Show 2022
A donut sculpture in SEESAW's basement courtesy of Robin Broadley and Luke Routledge Image: A Modest Show

Map it out for me

As well as a programme full of foodie-themed art and immersive exhibitions, A Modest Show's offerings include a map that "marks out a new legacy for Manchester"

Designed as an accessible resource to help people find Manchester's artist-led spaces, it's basically Google Maps for gallery spaces. As A Modest Show highlights: "Manchester plays host to some of the North's most pivotal art venues", and Julie Hesmondhalgh agrees too, so an A-Z guide is essential and long overdue. 

The map is also available all year round, so it's a great way to find new venues, studios and exhibition spots if you fancy a cultured day out. One map shows the indoor venues featured in A Modest Show and the other shows the outdoor spaces that are scattered in and around the city centre.

A Modest Show @amodestshow Chris Alton And Emily Simpson Rogue Studios Show Words To Grieve Show1 Jpg
This creative pair hosted a dinner about grief and creativity Image: A Modest Show

Stuff that's on as we speak

If you're already chomping at the bit for a slice of the Modest Show action, there's some stuff running currently in different spaces around town.

Paper Gallery in Cheetham Hill specialises in work created on, you guessed it, paper. Artist Leslie Thompson has also started a residency there selling drawings of his personal heroes. The pieces feature subjects "ranging from Donna Summer to his brothers, from Brown Bear to Mr T" and, influenced by many trips to the model shop at Afflecks, the installation displays his drawings as if featured in a shop front. The piece is called My New Favourite Shop.

A slightly-deeper-than-usual dinner party is the main inspiration behind Chris Alton and Emily Simpson's zine that's available to purchase at Rogue Studios and the Fayre Share Fayre. The pair hosted a dinner party and invited six people to each bring a dish that reminded them of someone they grieved for. Food with feeling etc. The recipes, conversations and reflections from the meal have then been turned into a publication which features as part of A Modest Show - it's called Words to Grieve.  

A Modest Show 2022 Eat Sht Clubnight At Soup
Eat Sh*t won't be shit, we promise Image: A Modest Show

Eat Sh*t, Nibble Island, and Cardboard Dinnerware

If A Modest Show is one thing, it's eclectic. It's got sculptures, insect nesting boxes, and networking opportunities.  

Starting in a week or so, Claire Dorsett's Nibble Island asks eight artists to exhibit on a studio table and interrogate what an exhibition could be, as well as what kind of spaces people can use to show their work. According to the programme "the exhibition functions like a buffet table at a family function", so you best believe we'll be first in the queue. The piece runs from Sunday 15 May to Saturday 3 September at Rogue Studios. 

Short Supply (a Manc-based artist-led affair) is bringing a queer performance night to SOUP with a follow-up club night in collaboration with Bollox. Sounding like the opposite of a load of old Bollox, the night is called EAT SH*T! and it strives to celebrate "the incredibly diverse queer creative community of Manchester's arts ecology". It's on from 7pm 'til late on Friday 8 July. 

Maisie Pritchard Cardboard Dinnerware Workshop And Exhibition A Modest Show Manchester 2022
Make some cardboard cutlery etc. with Maisie Pritchard Image: A Modest Show

One last cool and creative recommendation from Confidentials comes in the form of Maisie Pritchard's Cardboard Dinnerware. In a two-part workshop that allows participants to create something together, guests can create an item for a "cardboard dinnerware set". All pieces are formed from Maisie's unique blend of paper pulp and cardboard, which turns into a kind of clay - the idea being that cheap materials are given "a new lease of life by transforming them into sculptural design objects". Cardboard salt pig, yes please. 

A full programme of events, exhibitions, chats, and cool opportunities is now available online with dates, times, venues etc. Everything is in chronological order too, which makes your creative calendar a lot easier to organise. 

A Modest Show 2022 Are You Hungry By Shannon Tran At Seesaw Space
SEESAW is a space "where creatives work", and Shannon is just that Image: SEESAW Space

Are you hungry? 

If you don't already know this by now, we're always looking for opportunities to stuff our faces, even at art festivals. This means that Shannon Tran's Are You Hungry? is on the top of our Modest Show to-do list. 

Hosted at SEESAW space, one of Manchester's most exciting creative venues, this piece is described as "a gastronomic exploration of cultural identity". As artist Shannon Tran explores her mixed heritage through food and culture, a zine sits as the exhibition catalogue which features family recipes, illustrations and an instruction list on exploring your own heritage through food, culture and artistic expression. 

This exhibition will serve as a restaurant pop-up and it runs from Monday 6 June to Saturday 18 June. The idea is to "encourage people to embrace their 'in-betweenness" and we're here for it, in a big way. 

Alex Zawadski Creative Producer Of A Modest Show 2022
Alex is the wonderful lady behind a load of creative initiatives Image: The Super Slow Way

Some words from the Creative Producer

Alex Zawadski is the Creative Producer behind this year's A Modest Show. Talking about Northern visibility and the intentions behind the show as a whole, Alex explains that: 

"A Modest Show was devised as a response to the British Art Show 9 programme; and as important as it to attract creative events and new exhibitions, our focus is on positioning Manchester's artists alongside the internationally profiled artists on the BAS9 tour". 

Making the show as visible as possible, and giving Northern artists the clout they deserve, Alex feels passionate that "artists residing in the North still have to work that bit harder to get visibility so we’re capitalising on the profile of BAS 9 to highlight the work being produced here. We’re creating events to draw in collectors and curators, taking A Modest Show to art fairs, building a website platform for artist-led spaces,  and developing mentoring opportunities to extend the programme from one-off events into legacy.”

Alex is also the director of The Second Act gallery and Uncultured Creatives which are also worth a follow on socials. 

A Modest Show Programme 2022 The Whitworth Gallery
The Whitworth are in on the Modest Show action with group show Fayre Share Fayre Image: A Modest Show

Some final details

A Modest Show's events run from Thursday 12 May until Friday 30 September with artists and their work popping in and out all over the place throughout the four-month period. You can keep up with announcements and scheduling over on the show's Instagram page too. 

Each event has its own unique webpage with all the venue details, times, and a little intro about the pieces themselves - so have a scroll and jot down some bits that get you excited. Event spaces are scattered all around the city too so you can have a proper cultured tour of town. 

As the show's curatorial statement from Nat Pitt stresses, the show is "simple in its design" and with "a menu instead of a map, a main course instead of an exhibition, and a seating plan as interpretation", we're starvin' already. 

Header Image: Artists' Collective Foreign Investment (The Incredible Re-birth Dinner taken by Alex Forsey)

Follow Ellie-Jo on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with the cultural stuff.  

Read next: Tower blocks, Rebel Dykes and a menopause bus - SICK! festival returns

Read again: Julie Hesmondhalgh: 'We're finally realising that there's a rich pool of talent that exists here'

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