We've got nearly 100 things for you to do around Manchester this year... you basically need never go home
INDY MAN BEER CON | Victoria Baths | 4-7 October
Independent Manchester Beer Convention (known as Indy Man Beer Con or IMBC) will again bring ‘the most progressive, forward thinking breweries from across the UK, Europe and USA’ to the Grade II-listed Victoria Baths this year - so you can get your fill of period architecture and booze simultaneously, how about that?
GRIMMFEST | Vue Cinema | 4-7 October
Besieging the Printworks for one long wicked weekend, Grimmfest is bold, bloody…and not for the faint-hearted. Sponsored by the Horror Channel, this year’s frightful episode marks its tenth anniversary - so you can expect the ‘Grimm Reapers’ to be pulling out all the stops.
JOURNEYS FESTIVAL| Citywide | 4-14 October
What with all the negative publicity surrounding immigration, this nationwide festival - celebrating the arts and culture that refugee artists bring to the UK - offers a refreshing alternative perspective. While 2018’s programme is yet TBA, 2017 spanned outdoor exhibitions on a 20ft shipping container to a theatrical takeover of Manchester Museum. And most of it’s free.
NEIGHBOURHOOD FESTIVAL | Citywide | Saturday 6 October
Described as a ‘metropolitan music festival,’ Neighbourhood sees 100 artists hit ten venues for one day of metropolitan music. Everything Everything headlines a line-up including the likes Sundara Karma, Swim Deep and Clean Cut Kid.
MANCHESTER LITERATURE FESTIVAL | Citywide | 6-21 October
Founded in 2006, as a successor to the Manchester Poetry Festival, MLF is now one of the UK’s foremost literary festivals: Booker prize-winners jostle with rising stars, while world literature shares the stage with new commissions and walking tours. With Manchester designated a UNESCO City of Literature, this year is particularly special. After lit for littluns? Check out the year-round Manchester Children's Book Festival.
OKTOBERFEST | Albert Square | 10-14 October
Get your dirndl and lederhosen ready, Albert Square will again be transformed into a traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest with live traditional oompah music and German beer served up in giant two-pint glasses. Alongside a 2000-seater party, there’ll be an open-air beer garden and pop-up village selling the likes of twisted-knot bread, bratwurst, schnitzel and German-style roast pork. One boozy bonanza not enough? Others this month include Didsbury Beer Festival and Hanging Ditch Wine Fair.
DESIGN MANCHESTER | Citywide | 10-21 October
Established in 2013 with the support of MMU’s School of Art, this non-for-profit event celebrates Manchester’s creative talent through exhibitions, debates, workshops and more. From fashion symposiums to Buzzcocks exhibitions, Gothic film seasons to the Manchester Print Fair, itineraries never fail to be fresh and original.
GREAT NORTHERN CONTEMPORARY CRAFT FAIR | Upper Campfield Market Hall | 11-14 October
With over 150 selected designer-makers, GNCCF has a piece for everyone; from fine jewellery to functional homeware, statement accessories to unique prints. Mediums include ceramics, glass, jewellery, interior and fashion textiles, wood, paper, silver, metal, product design, print-making and more and - when all that browsing starts to make you feel peckish - there’s an onsite café too.
MANCHESTER ART FAIR | Manchester Central | 12-14 October
The country’s largest and most prestigious art fair outside London, Manchester Art Fair (formerly Buy Art Fair) has outgrown its original OGS venue and now takes up residence in Manchester Central: bringing more than 120 exhibiting galleries and artists to the historic railway-turned-exhibition centre along with talks, demos, a citywide fringe and the Manchester Contemporary.
ROCHDALE LITERATURE & IDEAS FESTIVAL | Rochdale| 15-22 October
‘Far more than just your average literature festival,’ Rochdale’s erudite event also promises ‘hundreds of ideas:’ with seven days of mind-expanding inspiration covering literature, drama, music, comedy, current affairs, creative writing and spoken word. Previous guests have included Alastair Campbell, Joanne Harris and Bonnie Greer.
MANCHESTER FOLK FESTIVAL | Citywide | 18-21 October
With over sixteen concerts featuring more than 30 artists, Manchester Folk Festival - the successor of Bury’s Homegrown - is the only festival dedicated to promoting and supporting new English folk and acoustic music. Alongside the English Folk Expo, expect an eclectic range of events - from clog dancing to spoon whittling and pub sing-alongs.
MANCHESTER SCIENCE FESTIVAL | Citywide | 18-28 October
Curated by the Museum of Science and Industry, MSF is the largest festival of its kind in England, spanning giant spider webs to robot cook-offs and even adult ball pools. Headliners include an electrifying exhibition (quite literally) - spanning the first breaths of Frankenstein’s monster to the functioning of our brains - and a black hole experience from audiovisual pioneers Marshmallow Laser Feast.
DASHEHRA DIWALI MELA | Albert Square | Saturday 20 October
Coupling the Hindu festivals of Dashehra - which commemorates the killing of the ten-headed demon King Ravan by Lord Ram - and Diwali ‘Festival of Lights’, this colourful celebration gives Albert Square the Bollywood treatment for one night only: from Bhangra dance to fireworks, lantern processions and a spectacular finale from arts organisation Walk the Plank - whose portfolio also includes Manchester Day and Pride. A magical evening guaranteed.
WOMEN IN COMEDY I Citywide | 22-28 October
In a largely male-dominated industry, Women in Comedy is all about the funny females; with over 50 events across the region. Europe’s only comedy festival dedicated to gender equality, it’s been described by patron Maxine Peake as ‘a festival filled with laughter, combined with feminist principles, taking place in the North ... what’s not to support!’ Girl power indeed.
HALLOWEEKEND | Citywide | 27-28 October
After two successful happenings in 2016 and 2017, it seems Manchester BID’s citywide celebration of All Hallows’ Eve is now a fixture. Last year’s frights and delights included a Bongo’s Bingo special with Fatman Scoop, a Stranger Things eighties party and a Day of the Dead carnival - while, come nightfall, pumpkins lined the streets, buildings turned ghastly green and a tectacled monster besieged House of Fraser.
COCKTAILS IN THE CITY | New Century Hall | 2-3 November
When this nationwide cocktail carousal arrived in Manchester, unsurprisingly we lapped it up. The spirited event pairs some of the city’s leading bartenders with top brands to create limited edition tipples - and lucky visitors decide who is crowned winner. Tickets cost £12 per person, including a cocktail on arrival, and all additional drinks are £6.50 each. More info here.
MANCHESTER COFFEE FESTIVAL | Victoria Warehouse | 3-4 November
It sure is great cup north, as this beany bonanza returns for its fifth innings this winter with everything from coffee championships to brewing demos and the ‘Ted Talks of coffee.’ There’s even a cupping lab (which happily revolves around tastings rather than any dubious skin treatment) and a range of innovative sustainability workshops.
MANCHESTER SLEEP OUT | Manchester Cathedral | Friday 9 November
As far removed as it may be from the nightmare of genuine homelessness (complete with added security and biscuits) the Booth Centre's annual outdoor sleepover in the surrounds of Manchester Cathedral allows participants to at least get the gist of what it’s like to sleep rough. Last year the fundraising event raised an astonishing £120K towards supporting the homeless, so grab your sleeping and get involved - just make sure to bring the thermals.
LOUDER THAN WORDS | The Principal | 9-11 November
‘The only festival that interrogates that enduring love affair between music and the written word,’ LTW grows louder each year. Zoë Howe, Dave Haslam and Gemma Cairney are amongst the personalities this year: expect panels and performance, alongside a music quiz and the Wilko Award. Music nuts should also check out Off the Record, also in November: ‘conference by day, live music by night.’
CHRISTMAS MARKETS | Citywide | 9 November - 22 December
Regardless of whether you love or hate them (we know which Gordo is), an annual roundup wouldn’t be complete without our festive outbreak of wooden huts filled with Chinese tat and dubious sausages. Now worth an estimated £90m to the economy, according to council figures, they may be as divisive as Santa’s naughty/nice list but one thing’s for sure: they ain’t going away anytime soon.
DOKI DOKI | Sugden Sports Centre | Saturday 10 November
A diverse celebration of Japanese culture, Doki Doki spans calligraphy demos to kimono styling, martial arts to anime and spades of sushi. Elsewhere find traditional board games, language lessons and expert panels; all culminating in a cosplay after-party. Anime aficionado? There’s the Anime and Gaming Con in April too.
MANCHESTER ANIMATION FESTIVAL | HOME | 13-15 November
Now the UK’s biggest celebration of the animated art form, MAF offers a wealth of talks and short film screenings from across the globe. Spanning stop motion to illustration, CGI and even hand-painted, the visual spectacle has something for all; not to mention guest panels and a sneak peak into some of the UK’s leading animation studios.
CHORLTON BOOK FESTIVAL | Chorlton | 16-24 November
The literary love-in continues over in Chorlton, back for its fourteenth event in 2018. Taking over Chorlton Library and surrounds for nine days, anticipate theatrical trailblazers, ambitious new poetry, fantasy fun days and much more. As ever, there’ll be the annual literary quiz over at The Beech Inn too.
SOPHIE FESTIVAL | 23-24 November
Conceived in aid of the Sophie Lancaster foundation - founded after the teenager was murdered in 2007 for her ‘Goth’ dress sense - Sophie Festival is now an annual fixture on the charity calendar, hosting a wealth of rock and metal acts over two days. Stalls, circus-themed entertainment and themed raffles also feature.
KINOFILM | Citywide | 26 November - 2 December
Manchester is now awash with film fests, but Kinofilm has been going longer than most: over two decades in fact. Showcasing some of the world’s best short films and debut features, Kino is renowned for seeking out diverse, challenging and ground-breaking new content: from low budget to high, emerging to established and those that have made the transition to feature-length platforms.
ETSY MADE LOCAL | People's History Museum | TBA
The popular online marketplace is no longer just online, with a national initiative that brings local makers and artisans to a town near you over Chrimbo. Manchester’s fair fills PHM’s Edwardian Engine Hall with over 40 traders spanning homeware to jewellery and unique art. Also check out the Makers Markets, which take place throughout the year, and the Little Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in Altrincham.
LIGHTWAVES | MediaCity | 8-17 December
MediaCity will again be scattered with glowing artworks this winter, as Lightwaves beams back into the Quays for another showcase of light-based sculpture. This year, organisers Quays Culture - alongside Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles - are co-commissioning an interactive installation called Spectrum, which will trigger illumination across large hoops of light: one of many free pieces to enjoy.
BOLTON WINTER FESTIVAL | Bolton | TBA
Bolton may be most renowned for its food fest but its annual winter whirl is fast catching up. Much like Manchester, ingredients include ice rink and markets - plus a massive snow slide for good measure.
THE MANCHESTER FESTIVE HAPPENING | Albert Hall | TBA
There are few places with more sense of occasion than Albert Hall. The spectacular converted Wesleyan chapel hosts Manchester Camerata’s annual concert, which usually culminates in a feel-good sing-along and involves plenty of mince pies and mulled wine. Like your music for a good cause? You’ll find a wealth of charitable concerts this time of year, with venues including Bridgewater Hall and Manchester Cathedral.
You've missed this lot... next year perhaps?
PUSH FESTIVAL | HOME | 12 - 27 January
Focusing on film, theatre and visual art from the North West, PUSH offers a fortnight of miscellaneous goodies - from dark comedies to Iranian dance and nineteen micro-plays about Manchester. Workshops are another strand - with everything from Haitian folklore to film production.
DESTINATIONS TRAVEL SHOW | EventCity | 18-21 January
After the jollities of the festive season, January can seem a little flat. Best antidote? Heading to Destinations Travel Show, where you’ll find over 90 exhibitors dedicated to finding you the perfect getaway - alongside events from travel photography classes to demos with some of TV’s best-known travel personalities. Confidential readers can claim two complimentary tickets here.
BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL | Manchester Central | 25-27 January
Alternatively, drown your January sorrows in a pint or few. With most of the action clustered in October - Indy Man Beer Con, Didsbury, Oktoberfest - the Beer & Cider Festival is a unique opportunity to do just that, offering over 700 beers & ciders plus street food, talks and tastings.
QUEER CONTACT FESTIVAL | Citywide | 27 January - 24 February
It may be closed for a major development until 2019, but that won’t stop Contact Theatre’s major LGBT+ festival celebrate its tenth anniversary in style - with the biggest line-up yet. Anticipate theatre, music, cabaret, film, clubbing, dance, spoken word and visual art at venues citywide.
INDEPENDENT VENUE WEEK | Northern Quarter | 29 January - 4 February
A seven-day celebration of small music venues around the UK - ‘and a nod to the people that own, run and work in them week in, week out’ - this nationwide initiative celebrates its fifth birthday with another series of live shows; curated by promoters, labels, media, bloggers and tastemakers who have their pulse on the indie music scene. Manchester venues for 2018 include stalwarts like Gullivers plus new music venue Night People.
LIFE IN COLOUR | Victoria Warehouse | Saturday 4 February
Sick of grey weather? What better antidote than some multihued madness. The world’s largest paint party hits the 5000-capacity Victoria Warehouse again this February; featuring soaring aerial acts, stilt walkers, contortionists fire shows and the famous paint blast finale. Founded in Florida, the event is also known for pulling in some pretty big DJs, this year including Knife Party and Sigma.
TED X MANCHESTER | Bridgewater Hall | Sunday 11 February
Such is the popularity of TED X Manchester, it often sells out weeks in advance (as is the case this year). Those who’ve missed out on a live ticket, however, can now buy a ticket to Livecast lounge: an additional viewing space with a direct video feed of everything happening onstage in the main auditorium. This year’s Manchester event will be the largest TEDx in Europe, with speakers and performers spanning harpists to storytellers and economists.
CHINESE NEW YEAR | Citywide | 17-18 February
While it would be hard to surpass the spectacle of last year - when 40 lantern warriors illuminated Exchange Square - Chinese New Year in Manchester never fails to be a treat. This February sees Year of the Dog kick off with martial arts, thousands of red lanterns, performances citywide, food market in St Ann’s Square and the exuberant dragon parade finale.
CITIES OF HOPE | Citywide | TBA
One of 2016’s most successful events, the debut Cities of Hope gained millions of social media hits and raised £20K for charity. But the street art convention is set to make an even greater impression in 2018, with a three-stage region-wide showcase of leading street artists, and a community programme culminating in a Whitworth exhibition. More info here.
MANCHESTER FILM FESTIVAL | Odeon | 1-4 March
After a successful debut in 2015, MANIFF has grown exponentially ever since. This year, expect over 100 films - from world premieres to local filmmakers' and experimental shorts at Saul Hay Gallery - plus Q&As, themed panels and special guests such as Shia LaBeouf. Bookending the impressive line-up will be the Western Painted Women - starring MANIFF alumni Steff Dawson - and NONA, whose protagonist Kate Bosworth will be one of this year’s festival guests.
WONDER WOMEN | Citywide| 1-24 March
Celebrating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, this radical feminist fest will be stampeding into Manchester for its liveliest edition yet this year. Highlights include Contact’s She Bangs the Drum, wine tasting and Suffragette screening at The Whitworth, guided tour at PHM, Lost Voices exhibition at Quarry Bank Mill and the annual Women in Media conference.
MANCHESTER IRISH FESTIVAL | Citywide | 2-18 March
Manchester Irish Festival will be upping the craic again this March, as it returns for another jig around venues citywide. Confirmed events include the St Patrick’s Parade, back for its 28th year, and the market; with full programme TBA soon.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY | Citywide | Thursday 8 March
IWD takes place annually but 2018 - 100 years since women were first allowed to vote - is particularly significant. Check out our guide here.
RAMSBOTTOM CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL | Ramsbottom | 24-25 March
Rammy’s famous choc fest turns double figures this year, celebrating a decade of artisanal cocoa goodness with…well, more of the same. Sounds good to us.
MANCHESTER DUCK RACE| Spinningfields | Good Friday
Oh for duck's sake, it's back again...the quackers bank holiday event sees thousands of visitors try their luck on a £1 rubber duck, as they race down River Irwell towards the finish line. All proceeds go to Brainwaves, a local charity that helps children with brain injuries, and there’ll also be a raft of family activities too. Businesses can also get involved by sponsoring and decorating a large duck (although we challenge you to do a better job than Confidential’s ‘Stranger Wings’…)
NORTHERN VEGAN FESTIVAL | Manchester Central | Saturday 7 April
Voted as one of the UK’s top two vegan festivals, Northern Vegan Fest even counts carnivores amongst its regulars such is the variety of its offering: talks, demos, children's activities, yoga, free samples and huge seated cafe area - not to mention ten world food caterers and 200 stalls.
GREATER MANCHESTER MARATHON | Trafford Arch | Sunday 8 April
‘The flattest, fastest and friendliest UK marathon’ sprints back into calendars next year, offering the ideal opportunity to get fit and raise money for a great cause while you’re at it. The route, at Emirates Old Trafford, also boasts an increased probability of scoring a seasonal or personal best. Several options are available, from the whole hog to relays and even a workplace challenge.
WHEN IN MANCHESTER | Northern Quarter | Saturday 14 April
Taking place across NQ stalwarts like Castle Hotel and Gullivers, When in Manchester successfully launched as an all-dayer back in 2015. It may not be on the scale of Sounds from the Other City but the premise is the same: a showcase of exciting new music from up-and-coming talent.
MANCHESTER PUNK FESTIVAL | Citywide | 19-21 April
‘MPF is what happens when you sit three different promoters in a pub to discuss starting something where the bands we know and love can play to new people who would appreciate them.’ So goes the DIY punk festival blurb, and it obviously works: 2016 and 2017 both pretty much sold out. MPF is unleashing over 90 bands across Manchester for 2018…it’s gonna be a loud one.
MANCHESTER MIDNIGHT WALK | Manchester Cathedral | Friday 27 April
St Ann’s Hospice’s flagship fundraising event is back for its twelfth year with a brand new venue for the pre-walk warm up: get those muscles moving at Manchester Cathedral from 9pm ahead of the 10km moonlit stroll, which has raised over £2m with its unusual late-night party atmosphere. Early bird tickets are available for £15 until 28 February.
EITHER WAY FESTIVAL | Northern Quarter | 28 April
Such is the local music fest scene that, no sooner has one bitten the proverbial dust (A Carefully Planned Festival) than another springs up in its place (typically the Northern Quarter). Boasting ‘incredible new bands’ from across the country, Either Way eventually plans to launch throughout the UK ‘and maybe even further’ - first stop, though, it’s Manchester.
4 X 4 MANCHESTER | Anthony Burgess Foundation | 2-23 May
Like Ted Talks’ smaller sibling, 4 x 4 is series of talks held for four consecutive Wednesdays in May. Four speakers talk for fifteen minutes each (this year's theme is 'city of change'), then it’s time for audience debate and networking. Other Manchester discussion events include Manchester Salon, Discuss and Lit & Phil Society.
PILOT LIGHT TV FESTIVAL | HOME | 3-6 May
Another novel idea that’s taken off, Pilot Light brings together all kinds of TV series - new, old, never-before-seen - and a sneak peek into what goes on behind the scenes. Panels feature writers, producers, directors, actors and commissioners and more; while additional events have included everything from communal binge watches to quizzes.
GREEN WALK ARTS & CRAFTS WEEKEND | Whalley Range | 5-6 May
This quirky event sees the residents of Green Walk, Whalley Range, let local artists and designers use their own houses as temporary exhibition spaces. From paintings to ceramics, glass to photography and jewellery, there’s a diverse range of artisanal goods - and usually some fine local nosh too. Think Tibetan Kitchen, I Knead Pizza, Ginger’s Emporium and even ‘cream teas on the green.’
SOUNDS FROM THE OTHER CITY | Salford | Sunday 6 May
Continuing to stand the test of time amidst a flurry of newcomers, SFTOC enters its fourteenth year with the same winning combination of indie promoters, upcoming talent and the fabled ‘Sounds’ atmosphere. Full line-up here.
PINT OF SCIENCE | Citywide | 14-16 May
If thoughts off scientific discussion conjure up dry lectures and stuffy lecture halls, think again - Pint of Science takes place in the pub. Unsurprisingly, it’s an international success; now bringing some of the world’s leading researchers to boozers in eighteen countries. Last year saw over 450 events across 26 cities involving over 1000 scientists - and 2018 promises more of same. For more nationwide initiatives with local happenings, check out Manchester After Hours (part of Museums at Night) and Heritage Open Days.
WEEK 53 | The Lowry | 17-28 May
The Lowry’s premier arts festival brings together over 100 artists from Europe and America, with innovative and provocative performances designed to reward the ‘compulsively curious’. Highlights this year include an aerial performance featuring Japanese knot-tying, a dance featuring both children and robots, and the first ever stage adaption of Nigel Slater’s Toast.
GREAT CITY GAMES | Deansgate | Friday 18 May
When you launch your first event with ‘the fastest man on earth,’ aka Usain Bolt, safe to say you’re off to a good start. Ever since 2009, the annual Great City Games have blazed a trail down Deansgate, bringing Olympic champions up close and personal. With an additional athletics arena in Albert Hall, the event is free to view and forms part of the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run, Europe’s biggest 10k, this year featuring Sir Mo Farah.
CHORLTON ARTS FESTIVAL | Chorlton | 18 May - 3 June
This longstanding arts festival created ‘for and by the people of Chorlton’ spans ten days of music, comedy, art and performance - proving that variety really is the spice of life. Events for 2018 include 'the art of food' with Simon Rimmer, a comedic Hound of the Baskervilles and a series of gigs at Wilbraham St Ninians.
DOT TO DOT | Citywide | Friday 25 May
D2D has established itself of one of the UK’s foremost celebrations of fresh talent and has previously unearthed the likes of Ed Sheeran, James Bay and Years & Years. Headlining this year is rock band The Horrors; joined by the likes of Dermot Kennedy, Pale Waves and Marika Hackman.
KING STREET FESTIVAL | King Street | 2-3 June
Described as a ‘fun yet fashionable weekend offering al fresco dining, exclusive in-store events, complimentary gifts alongside free fizz and tastings,’ the King Street Festival promises a royally good line-up each year: from lawn games and vintage window displays to mini talks and 'pocket parks.'
MANCHESTER HISTORIES FESTIVAL| Citywide | 7-11 June
Bi-annual community festival MHF returns for its fifth instalment this year with the theme protest, democracy and freedom of speech. Highlights include the history of electronic music with Annex Agency, a 'soapbox corner' in All Saint's Park and events to mark the 150th Anniversary of the formation of the TUC (Trades Union Congress) in Manchester and Salford in 1868.
PARKLIFE | Heaton Park | 9-10 June
Parklife continues its tradition of crowd-pulling chart-toppers both past and present, with a lineup spanning Liam Gallagher to The xx and Pharrell. Other acts include Lorde, Skepta, A$AP Rocky and Everything Everything, with organisers calling this the most musically-diverse Parklife to date: full line-up here.
MANCHESTER DAY | Citywide | Sunday 17 June
Last June saw everything from Keralan deity Theyyam to a towering blue genie and a fiery Minotaur as over 80 community groups celebrated the theme of ‘Abracadabra,’ touchingly preceded by a 22-balloon tribute to those who lost their lives in the arena attack. Manchester Day returns in 2018 with the theme ‘the Word on the street,’ again featuring events citywide and Walk the Plank’s spectacular parade.
GÓBÉFEST| Albert Square | 22-24 June
There’s more to Transylvania than towering castles and bloodsucking nocturnal creatures, and Góbéfest is out to prove it. Following a successful debut last year, the UK’s first official Transylvanian Hungarian festival of Arts and Culture is back filling Albert Square with the sights, sounds and flavours of central and south-eastern Europe. Highlights include live music from Hungarian and Romanian musicians, folk dance and an artisanal market boasting traditional crafts and cuisine.
MANCHESTER BEER WEEK | Citywide | 23 June - 2 July
Manchester Beer Week’s 2016 debut saw over 10,000 hopheads attend 94 events; proving, beyond a doubt, that we love a pint. After a similarly stonking success in 2017, Manchester’s only citywide beer fest is brewing up another boozathon for 2018.
SOUNDS OF THE CITY | Castlefield Bowl | 29 June - 6 July
Despite sounding confusingly similar to Salford’s Sounds from the Other City, this summer concert series is a different beast altogether; featuring household names like Arcade Fire, Stereophonics and James Bay. This year’s acts include Shed Seven, Hacienda Classical, A Beautiful Day Out, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbot plus several special guests.
GREATER MANCHESTER FRINGE | Citywide | 1-31 July
Now something of an institution, this inclusive arts festival takes in more than twenty venues and hundreds of performances across the city. Priding itself on showcasing emerging performers, the Fringe traverses comedy, drama and everything in between - some genres admittedly more niche than others. With many past productions moving onto established theatres, it’s a unique preview into some of the region’s most promising future talent.
NORTHERN GRIP | Ramsbottom | Saturday 7 July
As one of the UK’s sunniest months (well, theoretically), there’s never a better time to hit the countryside. Northern Grip mountain bike festival has plenty of inspiration, from chats with extraordinary riders to major brand showcases and rides out into the ‘weird and wonderful’ landscape of Lee Quarry and Stubbylee Park. As ever, it’ll be a social affair too: expect live music, dancing and even some impromptu picnics.
MANCHESTER EATS | Heaton Park | 7-8 July
With appearances from the likes of Marco Pierre White and Adam Reid, this debut event is entering the foodie fray in full throttle. As well as gourmet goodies from local traders, the two-day gastravaganza includes masterclasses spanning vegan to chocolate and activities aplenty for all the family. Still hungry? Another edible event making its debut this year is Tom Kerridge's Pub in the Park.
FESTA ITALIANA | Cathedral Gardens | 13-15 July
Manchester’s Italian community will once again transform Cathedral Gardens into ‘Little Italy’ this summer, creating a city centre oasis of ‘la dolce vita’ in a weekend-long celebration of all things Italian: masterclasses, producers, ‘bambini cucina’ children’s area, one-off banquets and live music. More info here.
BLUEDOT | Jodrell Bank | 20-22 July
Spanning astronomical banquets to talks with leading scientists and galactic concerts, Bluedot beams back into Jodrell Bank for another starry fusion of art and science this year; headlined by The Chemical Brothers, The Flaming Lips, Future Islands and Blue Planet in concert with The Hallé. The same weekend sees Stampede makes its debut at the Ritz.
BLACKTHORN MUSIC FESTIVAL | Etherow Country Park | 20-22 July
Originally conceived as a going-away party for university student Laura Hancock, Blackthorn is an unlikely success. Nestled amongst the hills, on the other side of Stockport, it’s since doubled its attendance year on year; promising the usual blend of multi-genre music, art installations, local nosh, camping and glamping.
MANCHESTER JAZZ FESTIVAL | Citywide | 20-28 July
Jazzing up Manchester for the 23rd year running, MJF is Manchester’s longest-standing festival. Starting in 1996 with one day, one venue and ten bands, nowadays it’s the UK’s leading showcase for contemporary jazz - this year featuring a whopping 96 gigs. More info here.
MCM COMIC CON | Manchester Central | 28-29 July
Whether a cosplay aficionado or not, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Comic Con - but there’s more to the UK’s biggest modern pop culture events than wacky outfits: theatre panels, comic village, steampunk emporium and even a chance to claim the Iron Throne (well, sit on a recreation of it anyway). Attending with the family? There’s a kidzone too.
GOTHIC MANCHESTER FESTIVAL | Citywide | 1-5 August
From the quirkily dark animations of Tim Burton to the penny dreadfuls of Victorian Britain and some of Manchester’s most iconic architecture, nothing has permeated centuries of culture quite like the Gothic. Which is why MMU’s eerie fest - ‘the strange offspring of The Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies’ - continues to be stitched up and reanimated year on year. From steampunk fashion shows to churchyard club nights, expect the unexpected….
CARIBBEAN CARNIVAL | Alexandra Park | 11-12 August
When, in 1972, a group of Caribbean immigrants decided to throw an impromptu carnival procession through the streets of their Manchester neighbourhood, little did they know it would become one of the city’s most popular celebrations. The vibrant occasion sashays back into Alexandra Park next summer - sparkles at the ready.
GREAT NORTHERN SKA FESTIVAL | Bowlers | Saturday 18 August
Combining reggae with jazz and R&B, Ska has borne some of the UK’s most prominent bands; from Madness to The Specials and UB40 - who headline GNSKA this year. Other acts at the North’s largest SKA festival include Bad Manners, Manchester SKA Foundation and Esperanza.
ROCHDALE FEEL GOOD FESTIVAL | Rochdale | Saturday 18 August
It’s not often you get to see the likes of Razorlight for free, but last year’s Feel Good Fest saw just that. As well as music - this year headlined by Feeder - the uplifting annual weekend promises a pop-up food court, theatre, kid’s entertainment and a smattering of surprises, such as 2017’s thrilling charity abseil from the Town Hall tower. And it’s all completely gratis.
BOLTON FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL | Bolton | August Bank Holiday
While many Greater Manchester towns have annual food fests, Bolton is by far the biggest. One of the UK’s leading culinary events, it’s become known for its sprawling citywide market, lively events programme and celebrity chef appearances: this year including spanning Saturday brunch with Nadiya Hussain to comedy and cooking with Aiden Byrne and Andrew Nutter.
PRIDE BIG WEEKEND | Citywide | August Bank Holiday
Not only are its fundraising efforts some of the city’s most impressive - raising over £1.3m for local LGBT causes - Pride’s flagship event regularly draws tens of thousands of spectators from the UK and beyond with energetic parade and spirit of inclusion. Rita Ora headlines 2018: full line-up here. The month prior sees the annual Sparkle Weekend.
FOOTBALL WRITING FESTIVAL | Citywide | 30 August - 6 September
Better at writing about footie than playing it? Or perhaps fancy yourself as a bit of a sports commentator? Then this one may be for you. A partnership between the National Football Museum, Waterstones and Hotel Football, Football Writing Festival promises a top league programme of workshops and panels with leading writers from Michael Calvin and Sid Lowe.
SALFORD 10K | Media City | Sunday 9 September
Thousands of runners will descend on MediaCity this autumn, as they raise money for charity, attempt to beat their personal best or undertake their first 10K challenge. All finishers get a medal, t-shirt and - perhaps most importantly - a pick-me-up snack, while the Athletes Village promises to keep all the family entertained.
HEAD FOR THE HILLS | Ramsbottom Cricket Ground | 14-16 September
Headliners at the previously-named Ramsbottom Festival include The Boomtown Rats, The Lovely Eggs, The Bluetones and The Slow Readers Club. Geared towards family too, the Rammy stalwart also has a strong arts programme; expect the likes of acrobatic storytelling, retro cinema and children’s theatre.
SONDER FESTIVAL | Northern Quarter | 26-30 September
Yep, another Northern Quarter festival - this time with an altruistic side, as the SONDER teamwork with charities and food banks across the region. Music, art and comedy are the three staples here; typically fresh new acts, affordably-priced, at venues across the NQ.
SALFORD MUSIC FESTIVAL I Salford | 27-29 September
Inspired by an exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery on history of popular music - amusingly entitled Quiffs Riffs and Tiffs - this largely free festival plays out everywhere from churches to pubs. Founded in 2010, it attracted some pretty big names from the off, with headliners including Mark E Smith and The Fall. Yet you’re equally likely to find emerging talent at this non-profit event, alongside everything from queer parties to exhibitions.
MANCHESTER FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL | Citywide | 27 September - 8 October
First conceived in 1998 to ‘show the rest of the nation there was more to Manchester dining than the stereotypes that existed at the time’, MFDF has morphed into a culinary showcase of much worldlier proportions over the last two decades - much like the city’s hospitality scene itself. MFDF celebrates its 21st birthday with everything from Battle Royale supper clubs to an exclusive evening with Rabbit head chef John Granaghan.