We've got nearly 100 things for you to do around Manchester this year... you basically need never go home


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. 

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Smash those fitness goals at the Manchester Marathon

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. 

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Either Way Festival will be held in The Castle and sister venue, Gullivers



Now in its fourth year, Castlefield Food Festival is set once again to fill Castlefield Bowl by the canal with a dazzling array of tastes, smells, sights and sounds for a whole weekend in May. This unique urban food festival has a reputation for serving up a great range of street food alongside stalls manned by some of the best local farmers and producers in the UK.  There’ll be liquid refreshment aplenty too. 


Drawing inspiration from London Open House and Heritage Open Days, this independent fest unlocks hidden spaces across the city for an all-access weekend exploring some of Manchester’s finest buildings. City tours exploring Manchester’s unique blend of classic and contemporary architecture are another key strand, from skyscraper offices to Ancoats, ‘the world’s first industrial suburb,’ and the medieval splendour of Chetham’s Library.

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 SalonDiscuss and Lit & Phil Society

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Castlefield Food Festival returns this summer


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. We’re told this year’s line-up of selectors includes old favourites, cult classics, and some new blood - making for a typically eclectic line-up - while artist and illustrator Stina Puotinen and David Bailey will even be creating an imaginary community including all mod cons and even ‘wacky neighbours.’  

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 great nationwide happenings with events in Manchester events, check out Museums at Night and Heritage Open Days.

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SFTOC again takes over the Chapel Street corridor on May bank holiday weekend

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 span '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 last year’s eleventh edition were Mystery Jets, Augustine and The Temper Trap; supported by more than 130 bands across eighteen stages. 2018 TBA shortly.

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Week 53 includes Dökk, an Icelandic-inspired 'journey through the subconscious mind' Enrico Maria Bertani


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.' 


Launched as a four-day pilot in 2010, the Children’s Book Festival now takes up ten colourful, character-filled days across summer. Centred on the popular Family Fun Day, the event draws same of most popular names in children’s publishing: from Jacqueline Wilson to Michael Rosen and Phillip Pullman. 


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. To take part, visit manchesterday.co.uk.

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This year's Manchester Day theme is 'the word on the street'


Bi-annual community festival MHF returns for its fifth instalment this year with the theme protest, democracy and freedom of speech. Highlights will include electronic music promoters Annex Agency and Project 13, artist Lauren Sagar’s new piece inspired by the March of the Blanketeers 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

EAT & DRINK FESTIVAL | EventCity | 14-17 June 

New food festival Eat & Drink promises ‘a feast of interactive features to feed the soul': including The Larder, a wonderland of take-home delights; a drinks station of tricks and tipples; a foodie stage for live demos; and artisan vendors spanning patisserie to pickles. Other edible events making their debut this year include Manchester Eats and Tom Kerridge's Pub in the Park

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Parklife attracts hundreds of thousands of revellers each year

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.

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Rag 'n' Bone Man will be playing Sounds of the City this year



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. 

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. 

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Festa Italiana will be bringing the Med to Manchester

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 AJ Bell Stadium. 

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. 

Bluedot is a three-day 'festival of discovery' at Jodrell Bank Observatory

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: typically featuring 500+ musicians across over 80 events in twelve venues. 

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. 

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Comic Con returns at the end of July



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 Exhibition Centre | TBA 

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 confirmed acts at the North’s largest SKA festival include Bad Manners and the Manchester SKA Foundation, with more TBA soon. 

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, 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.

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Vibrant costumes at the Caribbean Carnival

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: from beer and pasty tastings with Simon Rimmer to wine tasting with Ainsley Harriot and a pop-up restaurant by Aiden Byrne. We’re expecting another veritable feast for 2018. 

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. A proud event for a proud city. The month prior sees the annual Sparkle Weekend

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Crowds throng Canal Street for Pride Big Weekend


FESTEJAR| Albert Square | TBA 

Now in its fourth year, Festejar is a three-day fiesta from the makers of Festwich and The Instituto Cervantes, inspired by all things Spanish. For three days, the hub in Albert Square hosts wine-tasting, street food stalls, taster classes in Spanish and salsa dancing, a Latin American percussion workshop, flamenco demos and more. ¡Olé!


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. 


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. 

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Paella is a given at Festejar


The city’s only weeklong cocktail festival launched in 2016 and, unsurprisingly, Manchester lapped it up. A magnet for top brands, leading mixologists and discerning drinkers alike, the spirited event (quite literally) boasts tasting masterclasses, parties, exclusive menus, comps and various other shenanigans. Grab a wristband and get quaffing. 

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. 

BUY ART FAIR | Manchester Central | TBA 

The country’s largest and most prestigious art fair outside London, Buy Art Fair/Manchester Contemporary has outgrown its original OGS venue and now takes up residence in Manchester Central: bringing more than 100 exhibiting galleries and artists to the historic railway-turned-exhibition centre along with talks, demos and a citywide fringe. 

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Buy Art Fair has something for every budget


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. As the event turns 21 in 2018, we’re expecting one of its juiciest offerings yet.  

HEAD FOR THE HILLS | Ramsbottom Cricket Ground | 14-16 September

Headliners at the previously-named Ramsbottom Festival include The Boomtown Rats, The Lovely Eggs and The Bluetones. 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 | 27-30 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.

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MFDF celebrates its 21st birthday this year



What with all the negative publicity surrounding immigration, this nationwide festival - celebrating the artwork, music, culture and experiences 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. 

INDY MAN BEER CON | Victoria Baths | TBA 

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? 


The reincarnation of Bury’s popular Light Night, Enlighten is a two-day extravaganza of experimental world music, surprising performances and interactive sound and light installations - hosted by arts producers Curated Place and Bury Art Museum & Sculpture Centre. After a successful debut in 2017, the illuminating weekend will be returning this year. 

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See Bury in a whole new light at Enlighten


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 churchyard club nights, expect the unexpected….     


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. Headlining 2018 will an electrifying exhibition quite literally as MSIM explores the history of electricity: from the first breaths of Frankenstein’s monster to household lifeblood and the functioning of our brains. 


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.

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Gothic Festival, Manchester Met's's 'strange offspring'


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. 

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. October’s main event will be preceded by screenings throughout the year, including a werewolf movie marathon in February and an ‘an evil dead’ binge-watch come April.

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LED drummers at Dashehra Diwali Mela


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. This year is particularly special, as Manchester was recently designated a UNESCO City of Literature: more info here

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. With this year’s Warrington Weekender attracting names such as Kodaline, Jake Bugg, Miles Kane and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - and last year’s event spanning Cabbage to Blossoms - the team clearly have some clout. We’re expecting a similarly strong line-up for this year’s #NHBD18.  

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. 

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GNCCF has over 150 selected designer-makers

DESIGN MANCHESTER | Citywide | 11-21 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.   


‘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. 

OKTOBERFEST | Albert Square | 17-21 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.

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Oktoberfest, a merry affair indeed

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. 

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.  

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The Town Hall turns green for Halloween


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 £90K towards supporting the homeless, so grab your sleeping and get involved - just make sure to bring the thermals. 

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. 


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. 

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Explore Japanese culture at Doki Doki

LOUDER THAN WORDS | The Principal | TBA 

‘The only festival that interrogates that enduring love affair between music and the written word,’ LTW grows louder each year. John Robb, Horace Panter and Jah Wobble were amongst the personalities in 2017, while future voices were celebrated through poetry slams, workshops and the Wilko Johnson Writing Award. Expect no less from 2018. Music nuts should also check out Off the Record, also in November: ‘conference by day, live music by night.’  


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, word-carving storytellers and much more. As ever, there’ll be the annual literary quiz over at The Beech Inn too. 


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.   

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Get a sneak peak into animation at MAF


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.  


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. 

KINOFILM | Citywide | TBA 

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.

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There's plenty brewing at Manchester Coffee Festival



The UK’s largest indoor Christmas wonderland is back, transforming 22,000 sq m of EventCity into a sparking seasonal spectacular with over 50 attractions - from workshops to circuses and traditional rides - all under one roof. Naturally, there's a Santa's grotto too. 

ETSY MADE LOCAL | People's History Museum | TBC

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 year, as Lightwaves beams back into the Quays for another showcase of light-based sculpture. Previous events have included everything from Dr Who daleks - borrowed from Blackpool Illuminations - and light graffiti. It's all free too. 

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Lightwaves transforms Salford Quays each December


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. 


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. 

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Albert Hall hosts the Festive Happening

You missed these... perhaps next year?


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.

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The Beer & Cider Festival offers 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.

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Mother's Ruin at The Coliseum - part of Queer Contact Festival Lee Baxter


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.

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Trees will be decked out in red lanterns for Chinese Year of the Dog celebrations


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


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.

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Cities of Hope will be taking over walls across Greater Manchester again this year Henrik Haven

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


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’…) 

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It's a special year for the Pankhurst Centre

Looking for even more things to do (how much time do you have)? Then take a look at our dedicated Things To Do section