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IT’S beginning to look a lot like Christmas – so we’ve rustled up a few alternative ideas to help you celebrate the season without having to resort to the worst of the würst. Artisan eats and drinks are here for the taking, alongside unique gifts by artists and makers, crafty ideas for creating your own decs, and your chance to grab festive films and free pizza. You’re welcome.

2019 11 22 Makers Market Great Northern

Alternative Christmas markets #1

Every weekend until the one before Christmas, the Great Northern Makers Market will be setting out its stalls on Saturday (11am- 7pm) and Sunday (11am-6pm). Don’t worry – just because the words ‘Christmas’ and ‘market’ have been uttered in the same sentence, it’s not all cheeky hot Vimtos and crap karaoke (see Gordo's report here): the blurb promises you can ‘get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre markets’ at this artisan alternative. Until 22nd December, this first festive version of the popular Makers Market (which also pops up in the Northern Quarter, West Didsbury, Chorlton and plenty more locations) promises carol-singing choirs, crafts from award-winning creatives and independent traders, small batch booze from Ribble Valley Craft Gins, where the gingerbread should help you get in the Christmas spirit, and plant-based baked goods from the likes of Sweet Something Vegan. Mince-free mince pies, anyone? Oh…

2019 11 22 Kampus Phase 1 Dusk

Alternative Christmas markets #2

Kampus Christmas – not to be confused with Krampus Christmas, which is a whole scary other thing – is landing on Friday 29th November with its own ‘alternative’ Christmas market, this one on Aytoun Street. Organised by indie street food festival GRUB, Stall at Kampus will bring together some of the city’s best artists and artisans, so you can browse and booze every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 22nd December. Alongside GRUB’s new bottle shop OFFY in the £250 million garden neighbourhood, currently being developed by Henry Boot Developments and CAPITAL&CENTRIC, you can choose from 12 lines of local craft beer from Squawk Brewing Co, Pomona Island and Runaway Brewery, mulled wine or hot cider. Food wise, think vegan ‘fish’ and chips from The Bootle Oyster, fresh wood-fired pizzas from Pitch Pizza, deep-fried calzone from Fritto and beef sarnies from Shoot The Bull.

2019 11 22 Hotel Indigo Bloom Wreathmaking 2

It’s hangin’

If you fancy getting crafty yourself as the festivities progress, head to Hotel Indigo’s M Cafe near Victoria Station on Sunday 1st December, when Bloom HQ florist Aimee-Jay will be running two seasonal wreath-making workshops, at 11am-12.30pm and 3-4.30pm, £50 each. You’ll get the chance to make a Christmas masterpiece from a variety of materials, including evergreen branches, pick up pro tips, tricks and techniques, and receive sustenance in the form of mince pies and mulled wine. Book in advance here, but if you miss this one, Aimee-Jay is also running workshops at Manchester Art Gallery on Wednesday 4th December and The Refuge on the evening of Thursday 12th and the afternoon of Saturday 14th December. Spread a bit of Christmas cheer via your front door.

2019 11 22 Victoria Baths Village Screen 2

Seasonal splash

Prefer a more prone approach to Christmas? Bagsy a deckchair and enjoy the festooned halls of Manchester’s historic and beautiful Victoria Baths - The Village Screen is putting on some festive classics. Offering a stunning setting for a memorable seasonal treat to enjoy with family or friends, the Gala Pool will be the backdrop to Home Alone on Friday 6th December (8.30pm), Elf (4pm) and The Grinch (8.30pm) on Saturday 7th December, and Love Actually on Sunday 8th December (8.30pm). Ahead of each screening, a DJ will be filling the space with top tunes while eats and drinks will be served by some of the North’s finest street food vendors – grab a bite to eat from Dim Sum SU, Leeds-based Fat Annie’s hotdogs, Mama Sue’s flavours of the Deep South and Drizzle City Bakes, or get busy with one of the special Christmas cocktails or guest beers by Thornbridge Brewery from the VS pop-up bar, also on hot chocolate and mulled wine duties. Prices vary, with standard adult tickets £14.50 or £16.50 here.

2019 11 22 Shoryu Xmas Meat

No sprout about it

If you’re already sick of the sound, let alone the sight, of ‘all the trimmings’ and Christmas pud, we feel your pain. So we thought you might like to hear about Shoryu’s Oriental alternative to the three-course festive menu; serving up a starter, a ramen dish and a dessert, along with a special tipple like Hokkaido Spritz or Gekkeikan Hot Sake, for £24. Instead of pigs in blankets, think BBQ pork buns with char siu pork belly and Japanese mayo; or why not trade your traditional turkey for miso wafu chicken with kikurage mushrooms, nori seaweed, spring onion and ginger? Sweet wise, shun booze-soaked dried fruits in favour of Shoryu’s famous mochi ice cream, available in a range of flavours from salted caramel to green tea, or hit the matcha cheesecake.

2019 11 22 Crazy Pedros Pizza

Pizza the action - for life

Crazy Pedro’s has been celebrating five years on Bridge Street and now the spirit of the season is upon them so the madness continues – they’re giving away free pizza for life, naming the lucky winner of their special prize draw (just bob your name and email address in the online form here) on 25th December for what could only be your Best Christmas Present Ever.  

In other pizza-based news, meanwhile, congrats to the Northern Quarter’s Foundry Project for being named Technical Pizza of the Year at the 2019 National Pizza Awards earlier in the month. Finalists were challenged to use ingredients supplied by Pan Artisan, Tabasco and Salvo to come up with a new pizza, with entries marked on taste, texture, appearance and creativity. Foundry Project chef Ilias Kazantzidis was awarded the ‘coveted accolade’ for his pulled spiced lamb shoulder, harissa roasted aubergine and mint pesto number, and said: “I’m delighted to have received this award and industry recognition. It was a pleasure to attend the finals with so many talented, passionate professionals from across the country.”

17 12 22 Corin Bell

Thought for food

Manchester Central is teaming up with the city’s first not-for-profit waste food catering project Open Kitchen MCR to stop perfectly good ingredients ending up in landfill. Contributing to their sustainability agenda, the exhibition and events venue is donating any unprepped fruit and vegetables to the chefs of Open Kitchen MCR, led by Corin Bell (pictured), to turn into high-quality, nutritious meals for meetings and special occasions, the income from which funds their work with local organisations supporting people having a hard time. Meanwhile, Manchester Central is also giving any leftover pre-packaged sandwiches to the Homeless Project Manchester, an initiative which supports the needs of those without a home across the city. While Manchester Central tries to minimise excess ordering and food production, these initiatives mean that anything that does end up surplus to requirement doesn’t go to waste. Good news indeed.

Hungry for more? Check out 10 new restaurants on our radar.