Drive-in festivals, the return of Queer Contact and a ‘Last Big Night In’

PUSH FESTIVAL | Various | From Friday 5 March

Focusing on film, theatre and visual art from the North West, Push offers an array of miscellaneous goodies. Usually lasting a fortnight, it will be reimagined for 2021 to offer a year-round programme of online and in-person events. Push is one of several local fests offering ongoing lockdown entertainment, from MIF’s Manchester International Festival to the musical likes of Góbéfest and Glaston-Bury.


From languishing in a MediaCity warehouse to ‘losing’ 25 Wind in the Willows puppets for over three decades, it’s been a rocky ride for the Cosgrove Hall archive - home to beloved characters spanning Danger Mouse to Count Duckula - but fortunately its luck has changed. Safely housed at Sale’s Waterside arts centre since 2017, the archive has now been awarded funding for outreach and digitisation; a great excuse for a gander at the beloved collection online.    

120617 Cosgrove Hall 1
BAFTA-winning Chorlton studio Cosgrove Hall produced many animated classics, including Danger Mouse


Raising money for children's charity Brainwave, the Manchester Duck Race has been cancelled for the second time due to COVID-19. Instead, the team will be hosting one of its staples - the best dressed duck competition - online. After a creative Easter activity for all the family? This is the ticket.      

LAST BIG NIGHT IN | Online | Saturday 10 April

Manchester media agency 1214 Media has teamed up with five iconic local venues - Frog & Bucket, Matt & Phred’s, 42's, Tribeca and Bar Pop - for a night of live music, comedy and poetry. Raising money for the city’s struggling hospitality industry, it promises fundraising fun for all generations; with a line-up including poet Tony Walsh, comedian Justin Moorhouse, music mavens Rowetta and Clint Boon plus many more.

Bluedot 2017 Friday Tony Walsh Lovell Stage
Poet Tony Walsh is on the Last Big Night In line-up

DIGITAL CITY FESTIVAL | Online | 12 -23 April

Celebrating the booming digital economy in the North and beyond, this (largely free) festival comprises two weeks of inspiring keynotes, masterclasses, networking events and more. Featuring an impressive array of industry leaders, it promises valuable insights into the worlds of creative, marketing and technology.

THE PARKING LOT SOCIAL | AJ Bell Stadium | 16-18 April

Shifting Easter entertainment up a gear, The Parking Lot Social is back with a springtime drive-in festival featuring an array of shows spanning Ru Paul to panto and Parking LOL Comedy. Movies are another staple - from Harry Potter to The Greatest Showman - while quizzes, car-a-oke, games and even a silent disco promise interactive fun for all the family. 


In this exclusive and honest discussion, hosted by Lorraine Kelly, TV’s ‘Supervet’ Noel Fitzpatrick will reflect on his latest book How Animals Saved My Life and how his relationship with animals has taught him how to be a better version of himself. Audiences will also be able to share their own experiences, and put their questions to the ground-breaking veterinary surgeon.

2019 05 31 Dog Fest
‘Supervet’ Noel Fitzpatrick, pictured at Dogfest, has pioneered many treatments for animals

MINDSCAPES | Online | 19 April - 16 May

This ground-breaking arts project - a collaboration between Manchester and the Netherlands - will explore the impact that our environment has on mental wellbeing, with everything from Metrolink art to poetry and music. With five brand new artworks and events, check out the full programme here.  


Manchester Pride’s annual conference, held virtually again this year, returns for another inspiring day-long event this April - designed to highlight important LGBTQ+ topics via some of the UK’s most successful figures in culture, business and activism. Hosting the conference will be BBC weatherman Owain Wyn Evans, with presentations from It’s A Sin star Nathaniel J Hall and 2021 Drag Race UK’s Ginny Lemon.

Pride Hands
The Manchester Pride conference shines a spotlight on LGBTQ+ topics

AMANI CREATIVES SHOWCASE | Online | 20 & 27 April

Manchester-based, African-led organisation Amani Creatives - which was recently awarded post-COVID culture heritage funding - will be hosting two vibrant showcases at 6.30pm via its YouTube channel this month, featuring four local African artists responding to the theme of change. These include Sierra Leonean musician Papa Sam Alafia, Congolese pianist and composer Tshepe Tshepela, Ghanaian dance and visual artist Christian Asare and Somalian international actress and theatre practitioner Yusra Warsama. 

IN MANCHESTER | Saul Hay Gallery | 24 April - 3 May

The debut exhibition from art platform Cotton on MCR, held at Castlefield’s Saul Hay Gallery, will showcase over 30 Greater Manchester artists both emerging and established; including paintings, photography, sculptures, textiles, drawings and more. A ‘best piece’ competition - judged by a panel including Saul Hay director Ian Hay and Cotton On MCR founder Domino Panton-Oakley plus local artists Ian Rayer-Smith and Liam Hopkins (aka Lazerian) - will see one artist win a prize package, including their own exhibition.  

Saul Hay Exteriors 5 Low Res
Commercial galleries like Saul Hay can reopen from Monday 12 April

QUEER CONTACT FESTIVAL | Online | 28 April - 1 May

Back after a hiatus and rescheduled from February, Contact theatre’s popular LGBTQ+ festival is finally making a return. With four lively days of virtual events planned, expect everything from cabaret with drag star Cheddar Gorgeous (main image) to film streaming premieres, talks, performances and an afterparty beamed into your living room.     

CAR PARK PARTY: BILLIONAIRE BOY | AJ Bell Stadium | Friday 30 April

Another drive-in event revving into Manchester this spring, Car Park Party is taking Billionaire Boy on the nation’s biggest COVID-secure theatre tour. Based on David Walliams’ children’s book, the show promises comedy entertainment for all the family and is followed by Horrible Histories on Saturday 1 May.


An enticing taster of its main October festival, MLF’s spring programme always packs a punch. This year expect the likes of Jackie Kay in conversation with Kazuo Ishiguro about his new novel Klara and The Sun plus new writing commissions by poets Roger Robinson and Caleb Femi. Also this month on the literary front, check out what’s on for World Book Night.

BREAKOUT UNBOXED | Online | Now available

Created by Breakout, one of the UK’s leading escape room companies, this brand new game brings the breakout experience to your door. After a new lockdown activity to keep the boredom at bay? This should be the ticket. Talking of cool new stuff to buy this month, check out People History Museum’s new online shop - promising everything from games to gifts and homeware - and, for some lockdown listening that helps UK music venues, Tim Burgess’ limited-edition charity earphones.

DAVID LLOYD CLUBS @ HOME | Online | Various

With ongoing restrictions taking their toll on physical and mental health, David Lloyd Clubs is making its app free for the first time ever. App users have access to over 600 classes ranging from yoga and Pilates to HIIT plus events spanning virtual coffee mornings to quizzes, clubs and workshops; perfect inspiration until gyms reopen on Monday 12 April. For more inspiration on the exercise (and nature) front, check out MCR Active and Nature Greater Manchester

Lots more entertainment from home

While most recreation venues remain closed due to lockdown restrictions, that isn’t stopping many keeping us entertained at home with a diverse variety of online content; from exhibitions to talks, performances and online activities.  

Manchester performance venues, museums and galleries offering digital content include National Football MuseumImperial War Museum NorthElizabeth Gaskell’s HouseScience & Industry MuseumManchester Art GalleryPeople's History MuseumCentre for Chinese Contemporary ArtInternational Anthony Burgess FoundationCastlefield GalleryManchester MuseumThe WhitworthHolden GalleryHOMEThe LowryWatersideFrog and Bucket, Z-arts and Hope Mill (which is also soon to launch its own theatre school).

2017 09 07 Peoples History Museum
The People’s History Museum website has a wealth of digital content for all ages

Elsewhere, libraries offering online amusements include The PorticoWorking Class Movement Library and Chetham’s while Manchester City of Literature has literary event inspiration aplenty. Manchester Libraries has loads of resources and is increasing many branch services this month as per the reopening roadmap. 

As for music, Stoller Hall and Matt & Phred’s are amongst the music venues streaming shows online.  

And the above is just Manchester city centre. With many venues across the region hosting their own range of home-based entertainment, check your local council website for performance venues, museums and galleries near you. 

After yet more to do? Why not revisit some of our previous lockdown roundups: from must-read Manchester novels to Manchester-based podcasts and video games