As Clean Air week kicks off, there's a green wave of events focused on the environment this summer
A recent survey found that the climate emergency was second most important issue to people (Brexit hits the top spot) and this concern is reflected in many of the events taking place over Manchester this summer.
This is Manchester’s first Clean Air Week, centred around Clean Air Day on the 20th June. Clean air is becoming an increasingly pressing issue in Manchester, with air quality breaching legal limits in several areas. Approximately 1,200 Mancunians die per year because of related respiratory problems, and central Manchester has the highest rate of emergency hospital admissions for asthma in England.
But while the situation is doom and indeed gloom, several events are taking a positive approach with fun, community-based events that should gets us all thinking about the health of our surroundings.
What - Stevenson Square Pop-Up Park
When - Wednesday 19th June 4.30-9.30pm
Where - Stevenson Square, Manchester
The Northern Quarter Residents Forum has a dream to create green spaces throughout the Northern Quarter. They're starting with a pop-up park in Stevenson Square. For five hours, the whole of the square will be closed to traffic and filled instead with greenery and Northern Quarter residents enjoying their back garden. Expect a bandstand, speaker’s corner, a space for dogs and activities for all the family.
The rationale behind the park is the city centre residents breathe some of the worst quality air in the region and the aim is to improve air quality for all the community and highlight the need for permanent change.
Joanne Cross, spokesperson for the Northern Quarter Residents Forum, said,
"We have had offers of help from all quarters and hope that promises are fulfilled to make this a success. We have facilitated the closure of the square (including Lever Street for the first time) now it's down to the public to come and use it. We're not hosting a fair, a market, a concert or a festival, we are providing a large open public space for our community and visitors to use for leisure activities whether that's working out, skateboarding, a spot of gardening, airing their views at Speaker's Corner or just sitting in a deckchair eating an ice-cream.
"We would like musicians, artists and photographers to come along to join the sporty people, the dog walkers, the environmentalists and the curious - anyone who agrees with us that there is nowhere in the Northern Quarter (yet) for such activities. The population of the Northern Quarter is increasing all the time, residents have nowhere to go and just sit and read a book. We're not asking for lawns and fountains just somewhere we can go for leisure and pleasure and be able to breathe clean air.
"What better place than Stevenson Square, the historic home of radicals!"
What - Pollution Pods
When - Monday 17 - Sunday 23 June, 10am-7pm
Where - Media City
Clean Air week is also being celebrated in Media City with an internationally acclaimed artwork, The Pollution Pods, which are free to visit throughout Clean Air Week.
The pods recreate the conditions in five cities to reflect different conditions across the planet, starting with the clean air of Tautra in Norway, through to smog and pollution found in London, New Delhi, Beijing and Sao Paolo, which between them suffer from some of the lowest air quality in the world. The technique used means the conditions are completely harmless, but bring home the reality of a future without clean air.
Artist Michael Pinsky said: “Art should get people thinking and the Pollution Pods do just that. By taking people through a range of different cities and regions and exposing them to the simulated poor air quality their residents have to live with every day, we hope to raise awareness of this serious issue.
“There is so much we can do to improve air quality in our cities and I hope the installation inspires people young and old to think about the difference they could make.”
What - Manchester Festival of Nature
When - Saturday 29th June, 12pm-4pm
Where - Heaton Park, M25 2SW
The joys of nature might not be the first you think of when considering the charms of urban living, but Manchester is home to surprisingly large amount of biodiversity. The Manchester Festival of Nature is a month-long initiative which aims to promote the natural world and culminates in a free, family-friendly festival.
There will be an events centred round the popular nature book ‘The Lost Words’ by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris; The Bogtastic Van, which informs about life on the moors; bushcraft; ecotherapy; forest school skills; den building and more.
The event also aims to break a world record for the most amount of people dressed as bees, so dig out that stripy top and strap on a pair of wings before boarding the special bee tram which will be running all the way to the park.
The event has been organised by Lancashire Wildlife Trust in association with Manchester City Council and will be joined from The RSPB, The National Trust, City of Trees, Manchester Museum and Chester Zoo among many others.
What - Manchester Day
When - Sunday 23rd June
Where - Parade begins at 1pm at Princess Street, via Peter Street and Deansgate, finishing at Manchester Cathedral at approximately 2pm.
Another big free family event, Manchester Day has chosen to celebrate its tenth year by focusing on sustainability. For those who don’t know, Manchester Day is an annual parade that celebrates everything great about the city, featuring floats created by artists and local groups, plus performances from community groups in a carnival atmosphere.
Almost all the floats in previous years have been push, walked, wheeled or cycled without a combustion engine in sight. Many of the structures are also reused and repurposed through the years, and artists are asked to think carefully about how the floats are created to ensure they can be deconstructed and recycled as much as possible.
What - Manchester Food and Drink Festival
When - From Thursday 26th September to Monday 7th October
Where - Cathedral Gardens
Manchester's sustainable summer rounds off with the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, which has pledged to help Manchester become the UK's most 'refillable city'.
The Refill Campaign encourages participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses to sign up to the free Refill app and put a sticker in their window alerting passers-by to the fact they’re welcome to fill up their water bottle for free. There are already 165 stations in Manchester and MFDF is hoping to sign up 500 more businesses by the time the Festival starts.
Alexa Stratton-Powell, Director of MFDF, said, “The Refill scheme in Manchester already has backing and we want to enhance this by recruiting even more businesses to take part and ensure that Manchester is the Refill capital of the UK. More and more people are ditching single use plastic bottles and by launching our very own refillable bottle we’re able to offer a practical solution."