An updated list of theatres, comedy and music venues

We stopped updating this article on 31st October due to the announcement of the second lockdown; all non-essential retail stores and entertainment venues will close - as well as leisure and personal care facilities - while hospitality can only open on a takeaway basis. The closures will be accompanied by new rules on gatherings and the advice to stay at home unless for purposes such as work that cannot be done remotely or exercise. See the full guidelines here. 

Check out our Things to do section for further updates.

It remains a challenging time for performing arts, which nationally reached stage four (socially distanced indoor performances) of the reopening ‘roadmap’ outlined by culture secretary Oliver Dowden on 15th August; in Greater Manchester, this was even later due to local lockdown restrictions. You can see the reopening tale up to stage four in our Octagon article (please note its reopening has since been postponed to early 2021) and the ongoing story at the bottom of this article. 

Social distancing regulations unfortunately mean reopening unfeasible for many venues, making that elusive stage five (full reopening) the one that really counts; some such as The Dancehouse, RNCM and Waterside have already announced they won't be reopening to the public until 2021 while leading venues such as Royal Exchange have already been forced to make redundancies.  

2019 07 17 Rncm Nico Joseph Lynn
RNCM won’t be reopening to public audiences this year

Despite the devastating hit to profit margins that social distancing entails (something HOME highlights in its quirky empty seat campaign), several Manchester performance venues have nevertheless announced live performances this autumn/winter. See their websites for what’s on and show them some support…

Please note some of these venues opened earlier in other capacities; the dates below reflect the return of theatre, comedy and music with a live audience…


Frog & Bucket - September

Contact - October

The King's Arms - October 

Z Arts - October

HOME - October

Hope Mill Theatre - October

The Lowry - November

Salford Arts Theatre - November

Opera House - December 

170628 Home
HOME's phased reopening started in September; theatre and visual art resumed in October


The Whiskey Jar - September

Manchester Academy - October

Albert Hall - October

YES - October

Stoller Hall - November

Matt & Phred's - November 

For more festivals and happenings putting live performance back on the map, see our Events & Listings section.

170201 Albert Hall 13
Music is making a comeback at Albert Hall


With social distancing regulations preventing many venues reopening, and severely affecting those that do, the challenge continues for live performance - which has adapted via everything from online streaming to fundraising compilations and even hosting court cases. Despite increased funding from bodies like Arts Council England, there are fears that chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn/winter economy plan will leave many in the sector behind (you can find further analysis in some of the articles below). 

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The Lowry is hosting court cases in a bid to survive

Needless to say, it isn’t going down without a fight. Here are some milestones for performing arts and the wider live events industry so far…

29th September: Academy award-winning actor Vanessa Redgrave CBE came to Manchester as part of her campaign to save the arts. The event also included Mayor Andy Burnham, theatre director Marianne Elliott OBE and renowned violinist Jennifer Pike. 

30th September: Another Light it in Red campaign took place, featuring several Manchester venues. Also in September, hospitality businesses united in a campaign against the 10pm curfew; whose impact extends to late-night entertainment venues.

3rd October: Five industry stalwarts (plus one driving the bus) embarked on a fundraising bike ride from Newcastle to London - via cities including Manchester - as part of the #WeMakeEvents campaign, which also includes the aforementioned Light it in Red.   

5th October: The deadline for entering Passport: Back to Our Roots - a prize draw to win tickets to a series of special gigs, raising money for grassroots venues and MVT’s crisis fund - was extended to 26th October. 

5th October: This date additionally saw the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) announce a six-month cultural recovery plan for the region; also highlighting the key role our arts organisations play in inspiring communities and promoting wellbeing.  

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Elbow is amongst the big bands playing small venues for Passport: Back to our Roots

6th October: Rishi Sunak appeared to suggest that those in the arts industry should retrain, prompting outrage across the country. The same day saw hundreds of musicians host a poignant protest outside Parliament; followed, three weeks later, by six days of creative protests from dancers to comedians and technicians. 

9th October: The first major tranche of the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund was announced, £103 million for 445 heritage organisations including Manchester venues like Elizabeth Gaskell's House.

10th October: A mural of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis - who sadly took his life at 23 - was unveiled on World Mental Health Day in the Northern Quarter. Created by local artist Akse P19, it was commissioned to launch Headstock Festival, which this year took place online; raising money for Manchester Mind and Help Musicians.

12th October: The second major tranche of the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund was announced after being delayed from 5th October. Recipients of the £257 million fund include theatres, music venues and other art organisations; more here.

17th October: Saturday saw a further round of support, with 588 candidates receiving a share of £76 million nationwide. But the week didn't bring good tidings for everyone, with venues including Waterside and Frog and Bucket seeing their bids rejected. 

24th October: Another weekend, another funding announcement; this time £75 million for culture recovery fund applicants of £1-3 million grants, including over £2.85 million to Manchester’s Royal Exchange - unfortunately too late to prevent a recent round of redundancies but vital support in the months to come - and £620K for Bolton Octagon, not the £1 million-plus applied for but much welcomed nevertheless; this was followed by a £54,768 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund in November. 

The same day saw Hope Mill criticised for its COVID-19 reopening measures; can’t do right for doing wrong?

28th October: As the Nightingale Hospital North West prepared to reopen, part of the fight against COVID-19, we investigated how event venues like its host Manchester Central are struggling; already, fellow conference and exhibition centre EventCity has announced it will close in March.  

Main image: Neil Winward