Live entertainment venues, museum transformations, a poetry library…and that’s just for starters

Needless to say, coronavirus has made 2020 a bit of a damp squib…so it’s unsurprising that new attractions this year have been rarer than usual. 

Some have braved the COVID storm; Electric Playbox opened in the Arndale while Escape to Freight Island took over part of Mayfield and HideOut Youth Zone, Gorton’s £6.6 million leisure venue for young people, welcomed its first members (talking of community hubs, we’re also heartened to see the LGBT+ centre’s rebuild now underway). Creative pop-ups, meanwhile, include Drive Inside Theatre, which will be hosting its first shows in October with Tightrope Productions.

Other recreational venues set for this year include Roxy Ballroom Manchester Arndale and the newly refurbished Contact Theatre, which announced it will open (circumstances permitting) for socially distanced activities this September following its £6.75 million transformation. Bolton's Octagon Theatre, which has undergone a £12 million redevelopment, is also planning to reopen this autumn (4th December), while the People’s Archive Gallery plans to launch this year or next.

2020 07 20 Contact Header
The ‘new’ Contact Theatre hopes to open this year for socially distanced activities

Overall, though, it’s been a pretty miserable year; COVID-19 measures have taken their toll, while much of the arts and entertainment industry remains in dire straits. Fortunately, all being well, there’s a diverse plethora of new openings on the horizon. 

(Please note these are only rough opening dates, as the ongoing pandemic may change plans; indeed, some venues were due to open this year and have already been postponed)


Based at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), this will be the North West’s first public poetry library. Built on the site of a former Singer sewing machine factory, it will hold late 19th, 20th and 21st century poetry in English from around the world - as well as journals, pamphlets, books, collections, anthologies, audio recordings, films, press, poetry for children and poetry in translation. The library will also run events series, reading groups, workshops, performances and more.

2020 08 19 Mmu Poetry Library Cgi
The poetry library is part of MMU’s new £46m Arts and Humanities building

In other literary news, this summer saw the launch of HarperNorth, a new northern office from publishing giant HarperCollins. Other upcoming openings include Stanfords - the world's biggest map and travel bookshop, which plans to open a branch in St Ann’s Arcade - and the £20 million transformation of Crumpsall's library and leisure centre.


It’s an exciting time for Manchester Jewish Museum, which is temporarily residing in Manchester Central Library. As part of a £5 million two-year masterplan, its Grade II-listed synagogue (built in 1874, and the oldest of its kind in Manchester) is being restored and repaired, while a massive two-storey extension will see the museum double in size. Find out more about the Central Library pop-up (temporarily closed due to COVID-19) and transformation here.

2019 07 03 Prop Jewish
How the extended Jewish Museum will look

53TWO | Watson Street | Spring 

After obtaining planning permission late 2019, arts charity 53two (which formerly occupied the old Bauer Millet showrooms) was set to begin development of a new, fully accessible 150-seater theatre, arts bar and venue - spanning two Grade II* listed arches on Watson Street - early this year, however plans were delayed due to COVID-19. The organisation now plans to launch the theatre bar in spring 2021, and the wider theatre space at a later date TBC. 

2019 10 06 53 Two Exterior Cgi
The new 53two site will host a 6000sq ft theatre and bar, promising an array of events: from exhibitions to theatre, live music to writing programmes and even ‘urban weddings’

SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS GALLERY | Museum of Science & Industry | Easter  

Transforming the lower floor of the Grade II-listed New Warehouse, the Science and Industry Museum’s new £5m Special Exhibitions Gallery - by award-winning architectural practice Carmody Groarke - will launch with a Top Secret: From Ciphers to Cyber Security exhibition next Easter. Find out more about the new gallery here (please note the October 2020 opening date has been postponed due to COVID-19). The museum’s Power Hall is also currently undergoing restoration and is now due to reopen in 2022.

2019 12 11 Museum Of Science Industry Special Exhibitions Hall Cgi 2
The striking new gallery will host ‘some of the world’s best science exhibitions’


This spectacular new 154-acre garden will transform the historic grounds of Salford’s Worsley New Hall into a beautiful green place for the local community and visitors to enjoy all year round. One of the most significant events in the 215-year history of the RHS, and its first new garden for nearly 20 years, the garden will bring world-class horticulture and a host of health and wellbeing benefits, within an hour’s journey of 8.2 million people in the Greater Manchester region. It’s one of a series of major green spaces set to open, also including two large city centre parks (Mayfield and Symphony) and the Northern Roots project in Oldham.

2020 08 19 Rhs Bridgewater Walled Garden
RHS Garden Bridgewater features include a walled garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith

BAND ON THE WALL | Northern Quarter | September

Band on the Wall’s long-standing plans to expand the venue and restore its derelict ‘Cocozza’ building are to bear fruit next September following successful funding applications to Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a series of foundation grants. It’s not all good news however; the historic non-for-profit institution recently had to make 26 redundancies and close until the works are completed due to the effects of COVID-19 - statement here.

2018 06 18 Band On The Wall Cocozza Building
A CGI of the extended Band on the Wall, including the planned Cocozza building transformation

FASHION GALLERY | Manchester Art Gallery |November  

Once housed in a separate venue, Platt Hall, Manchester Art Gallery’s costume collection will be joining the museum’s other exhibits next year thanks to a new Fashion Gallery; which will launch in November with an exhibition on the male image and ‘dandy’ style. Platt Hall itself is currently under review, as curators work with local communities to decide on its future use; more here.  

2020 08 19 Manchester Fashion Gallery
MAG’s fashion collection will be relocated from Platt Hall to a new gallery in the museum itself

VARIOUS | TraffordCity | 2021-22  

In what is a slightly convoluted chain of events, the humungous 28-acre site currently occupied by EventCity is to become a wellbeing water resort in 2022/3, after planning was approved this year. EventCity will therefore be relocating into a new purpose-built building on the Soccerdome site, where it’s set to open in April 2021, and Fives Soccer Centre - formerly based in Soccerdome - will meanwhile be getting a brand new £2 million centre that’s also due to open 2021. Did you get that? We told you it was convoluted. 

Update Sept 2020: EventCity announced it is permanently closing in March 2021 so will no longer be relocating; TraffordCity owners Peel L&P are considering other leisure options for the Soccerdome site. 

In other news, the Trafford Centre - based in TraffordCity but no longer owned by Peel - is now up for sale, after owners intu entered administration in June. Shoppers can currently still visit the centre as normal.

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Therme’s tropical-themed, warm water resort is due to open in 2022/3


Another Peel L&P venture, and part of a £26 million development to Quayside MediaCityUK, The Watergardens - ‘Manchester’s only waterfront leisure and dining destination’ - promises a variety of restaurants, bars and coffee shops plus new waterfront terrace and two-storey ‘glasshouse.’ Other features include The Treehouse restaurant, and ITV’s new I’m A Celebrity Jungle Challenge.

2019 07 31 Property Roundup The Watergardens
The Watergardens promises ‘Manchester’s only waterfront leisure and dining destination’


Subject to planning permission, this ‘first-of-its-kind’ lifestyle venue will open in the ongoing Circle Square development on Oxford Road. Spearheaded by music events and entertainment specialists BeSixth, it will feature three distinctive spaces; Canvas Kitchen (a restaurant), Canvas Club (a private members’ club) and Canvas Events (an events space) - find out more in our article. Other public amenities at Circle Square - which also features workspace, homes and hotels - will include 100,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space; including a variety of boutique retailers, restaurants, bars and cafes centred on Symphony Park. Confirmed brands so far include fitness studio TRIB3.

2020 08 05 Cgi Circle Square Canvas Manchester
Canvas Manchester promises to be a ‘first-of-its-kind’ lifestyle venue

PRINTWORKS 2.0 | Printworks | TBA

The Printworks has been granted planning permission for a £9 million redevelopment, which includes the introduction of Europe’s largest indoor digital ceiling. Measuring 1,300m², the ceiling will create a ‘canvas for fully immersive visual and audio experiences’ and will be accompanied by a large interactive screen situated in the central Pump Yard for social gaming and more. Following Treetop Adventure Golf and Escape Reality, Printworks will also be welcoming another activity-led venue in Tenpin Bowling.

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A CGI of Printworks’ digital ceiling

HAT WORKS | Stockport | TBA

Stockport’s iconic Hat Works closed in 2019 for some important redevelopments, which were due to be completed in time for its 20th anniversary this year…the coronavirus pandemic, however, put a spanner in the millinery machine. Plans include the development of the Gallery of Hats, including a new learning space and more of the collection on display, and restoration to the Victorian hatting machines on the factory floor.  

2020 08 19 Hat Works
Housed in a Grade-II listed Victorian mill, the Hat Works’ collection contains over 400 hats


Transforming the former Oldham Library building into a new arts and heritage centre, this £13 million project will offer three new state-of-the-art galleries, a modern archive facility for local and family history and a performance space offering a diverse programme of music, comedy, talks and theatre - plus new shop, café and bar. It forms part of a wider plan to regenerate the town alongside an improved cultural offer.

2020 08 19 Oma Oldham Ellis Williams Architects
OMA will see the former Oldham Library transformed Ellis Williams Architects


THE FACTORY | St John’s | 2022   

Manchester International Festival’s new home was due to open in 2021 but is now forecast for 2022. While construction is now underway at its home of St John’s, the new neighbourhood being developed at the former site of Old Granada Studios, the arts centre has been plagued by delays and price hikes. Meanwhile MIF continues to support young people and creatives via various schemes such as Factory Academy

Update Oct 2020: The Factory costs were increased yet another £45 million, taking its budget to a whopping £186 million. Completion is now due in December 2022. 

The Factory Street View Across The River Copyright Oma
The Factory will be one of the biggest developments of its type in Europe OMA

HELLO FUTURE | Manchester Museum | August 2022

It’s already the UK’s largest university museum but Manchester Museum is set to get even bigger thanks to Hello Future; a £13.5million capital expansion. At its heart will be an ‘architecturally exceptional, two-storey extension,’ which (together with extensive reconfiguration of existing spaces), will create: a major new Exhibition Hall, a South Asia Gallery in partnership with the British Museum, a Chinese Culture Gallery, the world’s first Centre for Age Friendly Culture and more inclusive features. During construction, the museum - which is set to reopen in September after closing due to COVID-19 - will remain open.  

2020 08 19 Manchester Museum Hello Future
Hello future is funded by ACE, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Manchester University and other supporters


This bizarre true story has seen Hollywood writer and performer Hopwood DePree forsake the sunny stardom of Los Angeles…to restore his crumbling ancestral home in Middleton. DePree, who is charting the mammoth task of renovating the dilapidated Grade II* manor house via comedy shows and a YouTube channel, eventually hopes to open the site as a community centre. The Hall already has a lively group of volunteers, and is involving the local community in activities such as restoring its leaded glass windows.  

2020 08 19 Hopwood De Pree
Hopwood DePree is restoring his ancestral home, with the help of the local community

And if all that doesn't make you feel hopeful about the future, read more: Manchester arts and culture - what’s reopening when?