Four months, 30 festivals…time to clear the diary
If our January to April guide wasn’t packed enough, the coming four months include no less than 30 festivals. From heavyweights like MIF and Manchester Pride to a brand new fest in the Quays, there really is something for all…
GREATER MANCHESTER WALKING FESTIVAL| Region-wide | 1-31 May
They say a brisk 25-minute walk daily can add up to seven years to your life - just one reason why walking is so important. GM Walking Festival is back for its fifth year with over 400 free walks across all ten districts, and there’s plenty for every age and ability. Time to get a move on…
SOUNDS FROM THE OTHER CITY | Chapel Street | Sunday 5 May
Continuing to stand the test of time amidst a flurry of newcomers, SFTOC promises the same winning combination of indie promoters, upcoming talent and the fabled ‘Sounds’ atmosphere for its quindecennial (fifteenth anniversary). Expect more new music, performance and art in some of Chapel Street’s most unlikely spaces.
PILOT LIGHT TV FESTIVAL | HOME | 16-19 May
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; as well as events like masterclasses, panels and quizzes. Season 4 promises a line-up as diverse as ever, with everything from RuPaul’s Drag Race to Random Acts of Flyness and Henry Normal.
PINT OF SCIENCE | Citywide | 20-22 May
If thoughts of 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 24 countries. Manchester is one of 40 UK cities to take part, with events spanning galaxies to VR and robots. For more nationwide initiatives with local happenings, check out Manchester After Hours (part of Museums at Night) and Heritage Open Days.
MANCHESTER JAZZ FESTIVAL | Citywide | 23-27 May
Jazzing up Manchester for the 24th year running, MJF is the city’s longest-standing festival and the UK’s leading showcase for contemporary jazz; with a diverse range of musicians at venues citywide. Courtesy of a partnership with Manchester Food Festival, visitors can also enjoy some top nosh in the new festival hub (St Ann’s Square and Exchange Street) while enjoying gigs from some of the genre’s most exciting talent.
DOT TO DOT | Citywide | Friday 24 May
D2D has previously unearthed the likes of The xx, Ed Sheeran, Mumford and Sons, The 1975, Frank Turner, Caribou, Wolf Alice, Jake Bugg, SBTKRT and Florence + The Machine…some going. Headlined by Crystal Fighters and Jordan Rakei, the metropolitan music fest is back this May with one of the UK’s foremost celebrations of fresh talent.
GÓBÉFEST | Albert Square | 24-26 May
According to Góbéfest’s colourful blurb, we can expect ‘craft beer, high octane fruit spirits, killer barbecues, suspicious-looking sausages…and a cacophony of swirling skirts, stamping feet and lutes, zithers and accordions’ when this free Hungarian-Transylvanian festival returns. The free event - which attracted 17000 revellers last year - also serves up a craft market, family entertainment and regional delicacies like chimney cake.
QUAYS FESTIVAL | MediaCityUK | 30 May - 2 June
Hosted by Quays Culture - who have a track record of mesmerising events, from the annual winter Lightwaves to spectacular dance performances in the Plaza - this debut festival is free for all the family. It kicks off with the launch of Arboria, a sensory inflatable multi-domed sculpture, and culminates in a spectacular 200 metre high-wire walk by world famous performer Chris Bulzini; who’ll also be delivering circus workshops throughout.
PETERLOO | Citywide | Until August
Led by Manchester Histories Festival, this citywide event programme marks 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre; which saw eighteen killed and hundreds injured when cavalry charged 60,000 to 80,000 peaceful protestors campaigning for reform. From walks to talks, theatre to exhibitions - and the unveiling of a permanent memorial in St Peter’s Square - there’s a myriad of events across Greater Manchester.
KING STREET FESTIVAL | King Street | 1-2 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.'
IRLAM LIVE | Prince’s Park | 1-2 June
Founded in 2016, Irlam Live has since become a festival fixture; attracting thousands with local legends like the Lancashire Hotpots, and headliners spanning Billy Ocean to Toyah. This year is headed by eighties icon Marc Almond and Bruce Foxton From the Jam.
PARKLIFE | Heaton Park | 8-9 June
Parklife continues its tradition of crowd-pulling chart-toppers both past and present, with a line-up including: Cardi B, George Ezra, Solange, The Streets, Migos, Khalid, Disclosure, Major Lazer, Eric Prydz, Nas, Blossoms and many more besides.
DIDSBURY ARTS FESTIVAL | Didsbury | 22-30 June
Since 2009, DAF has been animating Didsbury with two weekends of visual art, music, theatre and special events every other summer - with a focus on inspiring and promoting the work of local artists, and many free events. The theme for 2019 will be ‘curiosity’. Talking of which, the same week sees HOME's Incoming Festival; which invites audiences to try something new for just a fiver.
MANCHESTER DAY | Citywide | Sunday 23 June
Last June saw everything from polar bears to samba and suffragettes as over 80 community groups celebrated the theme of ‘Word on the Street.’ Manchester Day returns in 2019 with the theme of 10/10; commending Manchester’s successes in industry, science, music, fashion, education and sporting achievements. Expect another spectacular parade from Walk the Plank, and widespread events as this free fest takes over the city.
GREATER MANCHESTER FRINGE | Citywide | 1-31 July
Now something of an institution, this inclusive fringe festival traverses comedy, drama and everything in between. With many past productions moving onto established theatres, it’s a unique preview into some of the region’s most promising future talent. Performance fans should also check out the more recently established Levy Fringe.
MANCHESTER INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL | Citywide | 4-21 July
A mass call for peace with Yoko Ono, an immersive South African production from Idris Elba and an opening concert with singer-songwriter Janelle Monae are just some of the events programmed for MIF19: reflecting its focus on global talent and a diverse programme of new commissions. Find out what creative director Mark Ball had to say about this year’s programme here.
SOUNDS OF THE CITY | Castlefield Bowl | 5-13 July
Despite sounding confusingly similar to Salford’s Sounds from the Other City, this summer concert series - with its focus on household names - is a different beast altogether. This year’s acts include Bloc Party, The Wombats, Elbow, The National, Kylie, The Kooks and Hacienda Classical.
MANIFEST ARTS FESTIVAL | Citywide | 12-21 July
Designed to celebrate ‘the wide-ranging contemporary art being produced in the North West region,’ this artist-curated biennial spans two weekends of exhibitions, open studios, workshops artist panels and parties. An inspiring showcase of regional talent, Manifest is also largely free.
NORTHERN GRIP | Ramsbottom | Saturday 13 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 biker chats to 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.
BLUEDOT FESTIVAL | Jodrell Bank | 18-21 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 Hot Chip, Kraftwerk and New Order. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, it'll even be bouncing messages off the moon.
REFRACT | Sale Waterside Arts Centre | 18-27 July
Expect the unexpected at Waterside’s unconventional theatrical fest: ‘ten days of experiential performance music and events that challenge you to see things differently and sense things differently,’ from Japanese rope art to an afternoon of short stories with some of Manchester's leading literary talent.
BLACKTHORN MUSIC FESTIVAL | Etherow Country Park | 19-21 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.
FESTA ITALIANA | Cathedral Gardens | 26-28 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. Expect masterclasses, producers, children’s area, live music and special banquets with leading restaurants like Salvi’s and Tre Ciccio.
MCM COMIC CON | Manchester Central | 27-28 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 special guests like Michael Rooker to name but a few. Attending with the family? There’s a kidzone too.
ROCHDALE FEEL GOOD FESTIVAL | Rochdale | Saturday 10 August
Concerts don’t often come free, but Feel Good Festival - this year headlined by The Coral and The Hoosiers - is an exception. The uplifting annual weekend also promises a pop-up food court, theatre, kid’s entertainment and an ‘after-show party’.
CARIBBEAN CARNIVAL | Alexandra Park | 11-12 August
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. Despite management concerns earlier this year, the vibrant occasion appears to be returning as usual - sparkles at the ready.
GREAT NORTHERN SKA FESTIVAL | Bowlers | Saturday 17 August
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 headlined GNSKA last year. Back for its biggest instalment yet, the genre’s leading festival is headlined by The Neville Staple Band, The Dualers and The Statuesques.
MANCHESTER PRIDE FESTIVAL | Citywide | 23-26 August
Pride makes its Mayfield debut with perhaps its highest profile line-up yet; headlined by Ariana Grande and featuring the likes of Years & Years. As ever, staples at the LGBT weekender include a lively parade - this year themed on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots - as well Village celebrations and the candlelit vigil. The month prior sees the annual Sparkle Weekend, while Pride's Superbia runs events throughout the year.
BOLTON FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL| Bolton | 23-26 August
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.
FLIXTON FESTIVAL | Flixton Cricket & Sports Club | Sunday 25 August
Started seven years as a fundraiser for the struggling sports club, Flixton Festival has since become a calendar staple. Ramping up the nineties nostalgia, acts this year include Artful Dodger and Phats and Small. As ever, there’ll also be street nosh, bars and family entertainment including a fairground.