We’ve rounded up 2018’s unmissable events - from food festivals to citywide street art and Pride


Not only is Manchester now home to Europe’s first IMAX virtual reality centre, launched in November, it’s set to get even better as IMAX partner with Google on a super duper VR camera that surpasses even current technology - due to be released in mid 2018. Techies should also keep an eye on FutureEverything, which returns in 2018 after a hiatus.  

CITY OF LITERATURE | Citywide | 2018 

Following its successful bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature, Manchester will be hosting a lively literary programme from 2018, spanning writing projects to library festivals and a celebration of our many mother tongues. Also make sure to book in at Chorlton Book FestivalMCBFLouder than Words, Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival and MLF; which recently announced two winter-spring events before its main event in October. 

VOTING CENTENARY | People’s History Museum | 2018

As the national museum of democracy, PHM will be marking 100 years since all men and some women gained the right to vote, thanks to a grant of £82,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Highlights include the banner changeover, Wonder Women fest and the headline exhibition Represent! Voices 100 Years On. 

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PHM holds the world’s largest collection of political and trade union banners

DESTINATIONS TRAVEL SHOW | EventCity | 18-21 January 

After the jollities of the festive season, January can seem a little flat. Best antidote? Heading to Destinations Travel Show, where you’ll find over 90 exhibitors dedicated to finding you the perfect getaway - alongside events from travel photography classes to demos with some of TV’s best-known travel personalities. Confidential readers can claim two complimentary tickets here.

BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL | Manchester Central | 25-27 January

Alternatively, drown your January sorrows in a pint or few. With most of the action clustered in October - Indy Man Beer Con, Didsbury, Oktoberfest - the Beer & Cider Festival is a unique opportunity to do just that, offering over 700 beers & ciders plus street food, talks and tastings. Six months later sees Manchester’s only citywide beer week. 

CHINESE NEW YEAR | Citywide | 16-18 February

While it would be hard to surpass the spectacle of last year - when 40 lantern warriors illuminated Exchange Square - Chinese New Year in Manchester never fails to be a treat. As ever, 2018’s programme will culminate in a lively dragon parade, with more happenings to be announced soon. 

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Xia Nan’s lantern recreations of the Terracotta Warriors, part of Year of the Rooster celebrations in 2017

CHEESE FEST | Bowlers | Saturday 24 February

There’s no such thing as being too cheesy at this event, which makes its debut with everything from melted raclette to gooey mozzarella and halloumi fries. As if a phalanx of top UK cheesemongers wasn’t enough, you’ll ‘learn’ how to pair this dairy delight with beer and wine too. Other inaugural food fests include Eat & Drink and Manchester Eats. 

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY | Citywide | Thursday 8 March

IWD takes place annually but 2018 - 100 years since women were first allowed to vote - is particularly significant. Alongside the council’s citywide calendar, don’t miss Wonder Women (March) and Women in Comedy (October). 2018 will also see the Pankhurst Garden get away, having been over 120% crowdfunded, and the unveiling of the Pankhurst statue - originally planned for IWD 2019, this has been brought forward to December 2018 thanks to Centenary Cities funding. 

NORTHERN RESTAURANT AND BAR | Manchester Central | 21-22 March

North England’s largest hospitality exhibition returns for another appetising events menu, catering to trade and public alike. NRB stalwarts like the Top Fifty Awards and NRB debate will be joined by hundreds of exhibitors plus live demos and Fringe favourites. 

Cities Of Hope
Cities of Hope

CITIES OF HOPE | Citywide | TBA 

One of 2016’s most successful events, the debut Cities of Hope gained millions of social media hits and raised £20K for charity. But the street art convention is set to make an even greater impression in 2018, with a three-stage region-wide showcase of leading street artists, and a community programme culminating in a Whitworth exhibition. More info here. 

TEN THOUSAND WAVES | The Whitworth | 30 March - 30 August 

Jointly acquired by Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery and the Whitworth as part of Art Fund’s new Moving Image Fund for Museums, Ten Thousand Waves (2010) is a film inspired by the Morecambe Bay cockle-pickers’ tragedy in 2004. Combining scenes of remote Guangxi province with the bustle of Shanghai and the Morecambe rescue mission, the film meditates on contemporary experiences of desire, loss and separation in today’s globalised world. 

FIELD TO FORK | Tatton Park | From April 

A £1.3m Heritage Lottery project telling the story of Tatton Park over the last few centuries, Field to Fork will allow visitors to explore the historic estate as never before: areas that were previously out of bounds will be opened up, while guided tours, virtual reality and a series of interactive experiences promise something for all. 

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Ten Thousand Waves was inspired by the Morecambe Bay tragedy, in which at least 21 Chinese cockle pickers drowned Isaac Julien

EITHER WAY FESTIVAL | Northern Quarter | 28 April  

Such is the Manchester music fest scene that, no sooner has one bitten the proverbial dust (A Carefully Planned Festival) than another springs up in its place (typically the Northern Quarter). Boasting incredible new bands from across the UK, Either Way will be followed by Sounds from the Other City the weekend after. 

GREAT MANCHESTER 10K RUN | Citywide | Sunday 20 May

Manchester turns Mochester in 2018, as Sir Mo Farah joins tens of thousands of runners on the start line. As ever you can run for a charity of your choice, on your own or with a team - and last year’s half marathon option will be returning for those who want a bigger challenge. Think you can go the whole hog? There’s always the Greater Manchester Marathon in April… 


Last June saw everything from Keralan deity Theyyam to a towering blue genie and a fiery Minotaur as over 80 community groups celebrated the theme of ‘Abracadabra,’ touchingly preceded by a 22-balloon tribute to those who lost their lives in the arena attack. Manchester Day’s spectacular parade comes courtesy of Walk the Plank, whose other unmissable outdoors arts projects include Dashehra Diwali Mela in October. 

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Tens of thousands took part in Manchester Day 2017

BABY’S 70th BIRTHDAY | Museum of Science & Industry | TBA 

It’s pretty astounding that Manchester has a leading role in the invention of computers - something that, less face it, now dominate 21st century western life. MSIM houses the world’s only replica of the first-ever stored programme computer, Baby, and will be celebrating its 70th birthday with a season of events; illustrating the mindboggling march of technology over seven decades. More on MSIM’s 2018 programme here. 

PARKLIFE | Heaton Park | 9-10 June  

Last summer saw R&B prodigy Frank Ocean lead a line-up spanning London Grammar to Fatboy Slim and even Chaka Khan, as Parklife continues its tradition of crowd-pulling chart-toppers both past and present. Who will hit the 2018 stage is anyone’s guess, but the team has announced that ‘big plans’ will be revealed in the New Year.

BEE IN THE CITY | Citywide | July - September  

It’s been part of Manchester’s heraldry for over 150 years, but May’s terror attack brought the bee into public consciousness like never before - a symbol of a city united. Building on this community spirit, Bee in the City will celebrate the industrious critter through a trail of 80 supersized bee sculptures, each supported by local organisations. More info here. 

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The Bee in the City trail will be on display throughout the city for nine weeks over summer 2018

MAKING A NEW WORLD | IWM North | 27 July 2018 - March 2019 

IWN North will mark the end of the First World War centenary in 2018, with an ambitious programme spanning Lest We Forget?, an exhibition on ‘controversial’ commemorative symbols, to the iconic Wave of ceramic poppies that turned parts of HM Tower of London blood-red in 2014. Altogether, 888246 poppies were displayed; one for every British or Colonial life lost at the front during WW1. 


Now something of an institution, this inclusive arts festival takes in more than twenty venues and hundreds of performances across the city. Priding itself on showcasing emerging performers, the Fringe traverses comedy, drama and everything in between - some genres admittedly more niche than others. With many past productions moving onto established theatres, it’s a unique preview into some of the region’s most promising future talent. 

BLUEDOT | Jodrell Bank | 20-22 July 

After a stratospheric 2016 debut, Bluedot 2017 followed up with another starry fusion of art and science: cementing its place as an annual calendar staple. Set across several sites, the festival of discovery spans galactic concerts to astronomical banquets and talks with leading scientists. 

Orbital headlining Bluedot

MCM COMIC CON | Manchester Central | 28-29 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 even a chance to claim the Iron Throne (well, sit on a recreation of it anyway). Attending with the family? There’s a kidzone too. 


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. The vibrant occasion sashays back into Alexandra Park next summer - sparkles at the ready.  


Obvious or not, a roundup of the year’s highlights wouldn’t be complete without the Pride Big Weekend. Not only are its fundraising efforts some of the city’s most impressive - raising over £1.3m for local LGBT causes - the flagship event regularly draws tens of thousands of spectators from the UK and beyond with energetic parade and spirit of inclusion. A proud event for a proud city. 

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Rainbow colours at Pride

MATILDA THE MUSICAL | Palace Theatre | 18 September - 24 November 

Winner of over 85 international awards, Matilda The Musical barrels into Manchester as part of its UK tour. With book by Dennis Kelly and original songs by Tim Minchin, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s enchanting adaption of Roald Dahl’s classic will warm the cockles with its tale of an extraordinary little girl who dares to change her destiny.

BUY ART FAIR | Manchester Central | TBA 

The country’s largest and most prestigious art fair outside London, Buy Art Fair/Manchester Contemporary has outgrown its original OGS venue and now takes up residence in Manchester Central: bringing more than 100 exhibiting galleries and artists to the historic railway-turned-exhibition centre along with talks, demos and a citywide fringe. 


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. As the event turns 21 in 2018, we’re expecting one of its juiciest offerings yet.  

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There's grub galore at MFDF

DESIGN MANCHESTER | Citywide | 11-21 October 

Established in 2013 with the support of MMU’s School of Art, this non-for-profit event celebrates Manchester’s creative talent through exhibitions, debates, workshops and more. From fashion symposiums to Buzzcocks exhibitions, Gothic film seasons to NQ walking tours, itineraries never fail to be fresh and original.   


Curated by the Museum of Science and Industry, MSF is the largest festival of its kind in England, spanning giant spider webs to robot cook-offs and even adult ball pools. Headlining 2018 will an electrifying exhibition quite literally as MSIM explores the history of electricity: from the first breaths of Frankenstein’s monster to household lifeblood and the functioning of our brains. 


Another superlative, MAF is now the UK’s biggest celebration of the animated art form: offering a wealth of talks and short film screenings from across the globe. Film fanatics are spoiled for choice now in Manchester, with a cornucopia of cinematic fests including Manchester Film Festival, Kinofilm, Fast Anchor, Grimm up North and Pilot Light TV.

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Manchester Animation Festival

Keep an eye on our Things To Do section for more goings-on this year...