With over 50 festivals, it’s our biggest instalment yet...

Surpassing even our last guide, September to December includes 50 festivals - boredom really is banished. From staples like Manchester Food & Drink Festival and Women in Comedy to exciting new debuts, we’ve got every genre you can think of…and much more besides.   

OLDHAM HISTORIES FESTIVAL | Oldham | 9th September - 5th October

Spanning Castleshaw Roman Fort to a Hindu Temple and the banks of the Hollinwood Canal, this annual event explores the area’s hidden history. Elsewhere find a tour of the 1876 Oldham panorama at Gallery Oldham and the chance to explore its extensive natural history collections.

HERITAGE OPEN DAYS | Various | 13th - 22nd September 

Involving over 40,000 volunteers and over 5000 events, this is England’s largest festival of history of culture. Exhibitions, performances, talks, walks, tours…expect all these and more besides, including the chance to explore ‘hidden spaces’ as landmark buildings open their doors to areas normally off limits. Plus it’s all free. For more great nationwide happenings, check out HOD’s handy roundup.

MANCHESTER MOON FESTIVAL | Chinatown | 14th - 15th September

Inspired by the Moon Festival - an autumnal harvest festival celebrated in China and Vietnam under the light of the full moon - this Chinatown debut includes traditional food, lantern displays and activities including making moon cakes.  

Chinatown Manchester
The Moon Festival will debut in Chinatown

WING FEST | First Street South | 14th - 15th September

Launched in London in 2014, Wing Fest has since grown into Europe's largest and most popular chicken wing festival…and now it’s coming to Manchester, serving up a whopping 60,000 wings by over twenty purveyors including local faves Oh My Glaze and Flock. Also making its debut this month is Roisters’ Gin Fever Manchester, which joins a gazillion other events based on the juniper spirit (our favourite is the Gin Society’s annual shindig at Manchester Cathedral).

SICK! FESTIVAL | Citywide | 18th September - 5th October

An arts festival with a difference, Sick! explores the realm of physical and mental health; weaving in perspectives from researchers, clinical practitioners, public health professionals, charities and those with lived experience. Expect everything from The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me - comedian Amy Vreeke’s frank look at endometriosis - to The Director, in which an ex funeral director demystifies death.   

2019 02 25 Amy Vreeke Copyright Andy Hollingworth
Sick! Festival includes comedian Amy Vreeke Andy Hollingworth

ORBIT FESTIVAL | HOME | 18th September - 5th October

Bringing together innovative new work from theatre-makers across the globe, HOME’s Orbit has a different theme each year. 2019 sees ‘Conquer the Divide’ which, in what seems an increasingly divided world, explores what unites us, makes us strong and how we connect with each other. Highlights include Clean Break, by a company founded by women prisoners (still the only one of its kind in the UK) and Queens of Sheba, inspired by a group of friends turned away from a club for being ‘too black.’ 

CHORLTON BOOK FESTIVAL| Chorlton | 20th - 28th September

Chorlton Book Festival returns for its fifteenth year with a bumper programme of events including Karline Smith, Paul Tudor Owen, Caroline England, Flapjack Press, Matt Goodfellow, family fun days, quiz nights, history walks and much more. The same week also sees the Chorlton Arts Festival make its debut, newly reformed after allegations against the former committee brought the event into dispute.  

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Chorlton Book Festival includes a night with leading spoken word label Nymphs & Thugs

OCEAN FILM FESTIVAL | Stockport Plaza | Saturday 21st September

The Ocean Film Festival UK & Ireland Tour is back for 2019, bringing a brand new collection of the world's most mesmerising ocean films to Stockport Plaza: from remote Arctic landscapes to an underwater exploration of Mexico. Other film festivals this season include Bolton, Wilderland wildlife, Stockport’s Talking Pictures TV and Wigan and Leigh; as well as the nationwide UK Green Film Festival.

MANCHESTER FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL | Citywide | 26th September - 7th 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. From a new hub in Cathedral Gardens to events citywide, MFDF19 spans one-off banquets to fizz fests and much more besides. September also sees Stockport Food and Drink Festival make its debut, while the nationwide Free From Festival visits Manchester in October. 

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MFDF’s festival hub will take over Cathedral Gardens

SALFORD MUSIC FESTIVAL I Salford | 27th - 28th September   

Inspired by an exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery on the 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 the non-profit event, alongside everything from queer parties to exhibitions. 

MERCURY CLIMBING | Stockport | 27th September - 4th October

Promising ‘eight days of music, film and comedy in the heart of Stockport,’ Mercury Climbing is a new festival dedicated to showcasing local talent. Highlights include DJ Tim Burgess, spoken word stalwart Argh Kid, a record fair and print fair.  

Stockport Foodie Friday
Mercury Climbing launches with a Foodie Friday ‘derailer’

GOTHIC MANCHESTER FESTIVAL | Citywide | 1st October - 1st November 

MMU’s citywide takeover returns with a whole month of Gothic shenanigans, spanning Halloween horror movie nights to literary mavericks like Rosie Garland and even Gothic gaming. In the opening decades of the 21st century, with Boris in Number 10 and Brexit on the horizon, Angela Carter’s famous assertion of 1974 that ‘we live in Gothic times’ is this year’s (ever so depressing) theme.

INDY MAN BEER CON | Victoria Baths | 3rd - 6th October  

This longstanding beer fest brings together ‘the most progressive, forward thinking breweries from across the UK, Europe and USA for a multisensory, headlong, hop- forward beer extravaganza.’ Held as it is in the Grade II-listed Victoria Baths, an ample fill of period architecture and beer awaits. 

2019 08 30 Indy Man Beer Con Conrad Ohnuki
A few pints in an empty swimming pool? Why not…

GRIMMFEST | Odeon Great Northern| 3rd - 6th October  

Besieging the Odeon for one long wicked weekend, Grimmfest is one of the UK’s leading festivals of horror, sci-fi, extreme fantasy and cult film. For its eleventh edition, the festival will be joined by Pollyanna McIntosh; a Scottish-American director and actor whose repertoire includes The Walking Dead and social issue horror film Darlin'. The latter will be shown at Grimmfest, alongside a limited ticket signing.

WOMEN IN COMEDY I Citywide | 4th - 13th October  

Now in its seventh year, this festival of female-led comedy - run by directors Hazel O’Keefe of Dulcet Sounds and Tribeca and The Frog and Bucket’s Jessica Toomey - will feature around 30 events. Expect some of the local comedy circuit’s leading acts, from Barking Tales to The Delightful Sausage, as well as fresh new work and Edinburgh Fringe hits galore. 

2019 09 02 Kiri Pritchard Mc Lean
Kiri Pritchard-McLean performs at Women in Comedy

HEART OF THE HEATONS |Heatons | 4th - 13th October  

‘An annual local festival of inspiration and connectivity, spreading collective joy through arts, music and culture,’ HOTH takes place across the four Heatons. Echoing some of the festivals above, this year’s theme is 'connection' - inspired by what can feel like an ever divisive society. 

MANCHESTER LITERATURE FESTIVAL | Citywide | 4th - 20th 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 now designated a UNESCO City of Literature, it’s never been more relevant. After lit for littluns? Check out the year-round Manchester Children's Book Festival.

NEIGHBOURHOOD FESTIVAL | Citywide | Saturday 12th October  

Described as a ‘metropolitan music festival,’ Neighbourhood sees over 100 artists hit fifteen venues for one day of metropolitan music. Miles Kane and The Sherlocks headline a line-up including the likes of The Blinders, Pins, The Big Moon and Larkins. 

2019 08 30 Neighbourhood Festival At Albert Hall
Neighbourhood venues include Albert Hall

DASHEHRA DIWALI MELA | Albert Square | Saturday 12th 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. A magical evening guaranteed. 

ROCHDALE LITERATURE & IDEAS FESTIVAL | Rochdale| 14th - 21st 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. There’s plenty for kids too, from a workshop with the illustrator of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to plus an afternoon of science with author Konnie Huq. 

2019 08 30 Rochdale Literature Festival
Rochdale’s bookish bonanza caters for adults and children alike

MANCHESTER FOLK FESTIVAL | Citywide | 15th - 20th October 

Contemporary folk straddles a multitude of genres at Manchester Folk Festival; the successor to Bury’s Homegrown, it’s 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 harp workshops to a night of performance in collaboration with the One Festival of Homeless Arts.

OKTOBERFEST | Mayfield| 16th - 20th October

Get your dirndl and lederhosen ready as Mayfield is transformed into a traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest with live traditional oompah music, German beer served up in giant two-pint glasses and the likes of bratwust and pretzels. One boozy bonanza not enough? Others this month include Didsbury Beer Festival, Salford Beer Fest and Manchester Whiskey Festival.  

HALLOWEEN IN THE CITY | Citywide | 26th - 27th October 

Plenty of tricks. Plenty more treats. Mark the arrival of Halloween with a weekend of terrifyingly good events as Manchester’s ‘halloweekend’ returns with a vengeance. Inflatable monsters will once again take over venues citywide as skeletons stroll through Exchange Square, facades turn green and a spooky happenings besiege the streets. Clubbing it this All Hallows? Annual events at Bowlers include the Sidewinder Oldskool Festival and Festival of the Dead. Fancy something different? This October also sees the launch of Manchester Burlesque Festival, launching with a night of ghoulish glamour at Manchester 235. 

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There’ll be more treats than tricks at Halloween in the City

FOUNDATIONS FESTIVAL | The Peer Hat | 1st - 2nd November

Debuted in 2016 as a joint venture between Manchester record labels AnalogueTrash and Valentine Records, this two day micro-festival is reimagines the conventional music fest as a more collaborative and immersive experience. Other music fests this month include Manchester Reggae, Sophie Fest and RNCM’s New Music Manchester (starts October).

MANCHESTER PODCAST FESTIVAL | Citywide | 1st - 27th November 

With over 2500 attendees, it’s safe to say that last year’s Manchester Podcast Festival was a success....which is why it’s back this November for a second round of stellar shows across the city. Returning favourites like The Guilty Feminist and RHLSTP with Richard Herring will be joined by hits including Science-(ish)Dan Snow’s History Hit and many more. More here

VEGAN WINTER FESTIVAL | Sachas Hotel | Saturday 2nd November

It may not be in the most inspiring of locations but this event is hosted by Northern Vegan Festival - one of the UK’s leading organisations of its kind - and even counts committed carnivores amongst its fans. Expect over 80 stalls, world food caterers, exciting cookery demos, inspirational talks, interactive workshops, yoga and children's activities running throughout the day.

2019 02 04 Vegan
There’ll be no piggies at this market

LOUDER THAN WORDS FESTIVAL | The Principal | 8th - 10th November   

‘The only festival that interrogates that enduring love affair between music and the written word,’ LTW grows louder each year. Thurston Moore, Wayne Hussey and Jo Wood are amongst the personalities for 2019: expect panels, performance and lively Q&As. Music nuts should also check out November’s Off the Record: ‘conference by day, live music by night.’  

DOKI DOKI FESTIVAL | Sugden Sports Centre | 9th - 10th November

A diverse celebration of Japanese customs, 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. Also spotlighting one country's culture, this November sees the launch of Celebrating Syria

2018 01 22 Geisha
Learn more about Japanese culture at Doki Doki


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.   

DESIGN MANCHESTER | Citywide | 14th - 24th November

Established in 2013 with the support of MMU’s School of Art, this non-for-profit design festival is one of the biggest celebrations of Manchester’s creative talent. Last year saw over 75,000 people attend 50+ exhibitions, workshops, screenings, debates, fairs, talks and parties - all culminating at an incredible conference at The Bridgewater Hall. With a ‘SMART’ theme, 2019 promises the biggest and most diverse event yet. 

LIGHTOPIA | Heaton Park | 21st November - 31st December

Europe’s biggest lantern and light festival, Lightopia will debut in Heaton Park with everything from spectacular illuminations to a water-based laser show and 2000 lanterns. Other attractions include live entertainment - including acrobatic performances and local musicians - as well as family rides, food and refreshments.

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Lightwaves will feature six immersive trails

LIGHTWAVES FESTIVAL | Salford Quays | 6th - 15th December

MediaCity will again be scattered with illuminated artworks this year, as Lightwaves beams back into the Quays for another showcase of light-based sculpture from artists across the globe. Highlights span a light orchestra in which you are the conductor to virtual reality and even giant seesaws - bring the family and follow the trail. 

BOLTON WINTER FESTIVAL | Bolton | 8th December 2019 - 6th January 2020

Bolton may be most renowned for its food fest but its annual winter whirl is fast catching up. Expect popular staples like the ice rink, artisan markets, and snow side - as well as Santa’s Grotto, train ride, live music and even a ‘singing symphony tree.’ 

YEAR’S END FESTIVAL | Gorilla & O2 Ritz | Saturday 21st December

Manchester's newest metropolitan music festival returns for a second year, taking over three stages for one huge end of year party.