From new attractions to virtual festivals - there's no need to let lockdown spoil the fun

STREAMED SHOWS | Online | Various  

It’s been a bumpy ride for the performing arts industry, culminating with last week’s postponement of indoor socially distanced performances until at least 15th August - but that won’t stop a medley of GM venues and fests bringing the show to audiences at home: newly announced series include The Met’s gigs and workshops, HOME’s Fane Online and MAF’s HERE & NOW Contemporary British Animation Showcase

NETWORK ON AIR | Online | Ongoing  

The swinging sixties are back with this nostalgic new streaming service; offering ‘nights in’ packages and series from ABC Weekend TV, which broadcast in the Midlands and northern England between 1956 and 1968. Titles include Dial 999Big Night OutArmchair Theatre and The Bruce Forsyth Show - while ‘nights in’ feature a mixture of content, clips and modern-day ads for the ultimate time travel experience.

SOUTH ASIAN HERITAGE MONTH | Online | Until Monday 17th August

Launching in the UK for the first time this summer, this lively calendar of events highlights British-South Asian history through education, arts, culture and commemoration. Happenings span fashion panels to classical dance, cookery to cinema and much more besides.

GIANT SANDPIT | Great Northern | Until Monday 31st August

Looking to get the kids out of the house and to engage in some creative play now that home schooling is out of the way? Luckily Great Northern’s popular Giant Sandpit is back, vibrantly redesigned by local street artist Moze and with COVID measures in place. For more family-friendly activities in Manchester this summer, check out the council’s All Sorts To Do. 

ELECTRIC PLAYBOX | Arndale | From Monday 3rd August

In this new experience at Halle Place, participants enter ‘playboxes’ - interactive digital rooms with projection mapping, touch screens, motion tracking and surround sound - to enjoy a choice of hyper-realistic adventures, from being graded by aliens to saving the queen’s corgis. Ideal for household units or for social bubbles (two to six per box), it’s also COVID-safe; with all boxes sanitised after each group.

2020 08 03 Electric Playbox
Electric Playbox has opened at Halle Place

PUBLICATE FEST | Online | 5th - 9th August

Love books? Interested in the publishing industry? Then this new fest, featuring local gems like Comma Press, should be one for you. Spanning diversity to translation, design and more, it promises a fascinating look at the changing face of book publishing - and a chance to discover some of its most exciting regional talent.    

CARIBBEAN CARNIVAL | Online | 8th - 9th August  

Founded in 1972, when a group of Caribbean immigrants decided to throw an impromptu carnival procession through the streets of their Manchester neighbourhood, this Alexandra Park event is an annual staple. Its new management team, originally due to make their debut this year, will instead host a mini virtual carnival on the website. 

WE LOVE MANCHESTER ACTIVE CHALLENGE | Various | 10th August - 6th September

Starting this month, and finishing the day the cancelled Great Manchester Run was scheduled to take place, this new challenge encourages participants to complete a minimum of 15 activities (walk, jog or run) of any distance over 28 days; there’s also a junior challenge available. Completers receive a special-edition medal and all profits from the £10 entry fee will go to the We Love Manchester charity.   

2020 08 01 Active Challenge Medal
Completers receive a special-edition medal

SUMMER PROM | Online | Wednesday 12th August

Uniting thousands of young people across the UK ahead of A-Level and GCSE results after an unprecedented and challenging school year, this ‘virtual prom’ will be headlined by James Bay and will also feature Sam Fischer, Becky Hill and Joel Corry. Curated by Headstock and Hits Radio to highlight mental health support available to young people via One Space, it will be broadcast on United We Stream from 8pm.

MEDUSA | Online | Friday 14th August

Theatres may have gone dark for now, but Manchester Musical Youth theatre company aren’t letting that get the better of them. They’ve collaborated online to create a new musical adaption of classic Medusa, exploring the untold story of the iconic myth. It’s free to watch but any donations will go towards the group’s usual home, Z Arts in Hulme.  

PILOT LIGHT TV FESTIVAL | Online | 15th - 16th August  

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. Due to COVID-19, its fifth season will be hosted digitally.  

RECORD STORE DAY | Various | Saturday 29th August

Involving thousands of people and small businesses, Record Store Day sees vinyl shops host special events across the world. While cancelled in its normal format, it will now take place via three RSD 'drop' dates: Saturday 29th August, Saturday 26th September and Saturday 24th October. 

2019 08 10 Vinyl Records
Support indie record stores this month


One of Europe’s biggest annual celebrations of LGBTQ+ life, Manchester Pride also raises hundreds of thousands for related causes. As this year’s event is cancelled, organisers are instead hosting three days of streamed content spanning live music to arts, culture and the traditional candlelit vigil. They are currently calling for LGBTQ+ people to get involved in the parade, which this year will be filmed in advance. Prefer your celebrations IRL? Venues like Escape to Freight Island will be hosting their own Pride shenanigans over the bank holiday weekend. 

YOUR PROGRESS WILL BE SAVED | Online | Until autumn 

This world premiere sees avatar artist LaTurbo Avedon reimagine Manchester’s new Factory arts centre and ‘build’ it on an island in the global gaming platform Fortnite Creative. It’s part of Virtual Factory, a series of commissions exploring the new home of Manchester International Festival; upcoming events span a Fortnite masterclass to CGI talks.


Prescribing contemporary poems as a tool for healing and connection, PHS is a charming new ‘service’ from HOME and Oldham Coliseum. Users are prescribed a poem from an apothecary contributed to by writers from across the world following the completion of a colour-based flowchart exploring how they are feeling. They are then invited to respond to their poem with a haiku of their own.

Read more: Manchester arts and culture - What’s reopening when?

Also: COVID-19 - Manchester events cancelled or postponed