Despite lockdown, we’ve got festivals and fun galore...


As the UK continues life under yet another lockdown in a bid to contain the pandemic, it’s not yet the Happy New Year we’d hoped for. Fortunately, amidst all the closures and clampdowns, there’s always nature - and the new Nature Greater Manchester website, launched as part of the Green Summit 2020, has lots of fresh inspiration for exploring near you. For more inspiration on exercising both at home and outdoors, see our guide on coping with lockdowns (first published for #1, republished for #2 and still relevant as we undergo lockdown 3...they really are all blending into one aren't they?) 

REIMAGINE - RESET - RECONNECT | Online | 26th November - 1st April 2021  

In the lead-up to its reopening this spring, Manchester Jewish Museum has programmed a season of trailblazing performance treats and sneaky peeks - inspired by stories from its vast and eclectic collection. Proceedings kicked off in November with a rollicking digital drag night with Chanukah Lewinsky; further planned events, both online and hopefully in-person, include creative activism for Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January, also being commemorated by Greater Manchester councils) and a tour of Manchester’s ‘Jewish Quarter.’   

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Manchester Jewish Museum is reopening this spring following a £5m transformation

BONGO’S GOT TALENT | Online | From Saturday 9th January

Their bonkers new streaming service launched last year, bringing Bongo’s cult rave bingo nights to millions of homes nationwide. Now Jonny Bongo and the team are back, with a brand new and completely free show on Twitch - fully live and brimming with escapist fun. The search is on for the UK’s most talented dancers, singers, magicians, stand-ups, gymnasts, onion eaters…no talent is too weird or crazy. The public will pick their favourite alongside Jonny, Rich Furness and a ‘Special Guest Judge,’ with prizes spanning fluffy unicorns to £500. Want to watch - or even enter? You’ll find all the info here.  

FESTIVAL OF CONNECTION | Online | Monday 18th January

Designed to provide some cheer on ‘Blue Monday,’ often considered the saddest day of the year, this festival has been organised by virtual venue SocialEyes as part of the Jo Cox Foundation’s Great Winter Get Together; offering a jam-packed programme of free online events from a DJ set with actress Patsy Palmer to award-winning comedy with Josie Long and a lunchtime bake-a-long with Great British Bake Off alumnus Ugne Bubnaityte.

MUSIC FEEDS | Online | 28th - 29th January

Sam Smith, Blossoms, Fontaines D.C., Newton Faulkner and Flogging Molly will join more than 40 international artists for this online festival - uniting to raise vital funds to fight food poverty via Fareshare, alongside helping struggling music acts and entertainment industry workers through charities Help Musicians and Stagehand. Two great nights, three great causes? Sounds well worth the £15 ticket.

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Music Feeds includes Stockport band Blossoms

MACFEST | Online | From 30th January  

Macfest showcases Muslim culture across art, film, photography, literature, architecture, history, music and performance. Last year saw 16 days of events across Greater Manchester, many of them free; while virtual, 2021’s shindig nevertheless packs a punch, with over 70 events spanning Muslim cuisine along the Silk Road to Islamophobia and more besides.

THE NORTH WILL RISE AGAIN | Online | 30th - 31st January

Manchester and Liverpool are uniting for this aptly named music fest; conceived in response to the catastrophic damage caused by COVID-19 to the North’s live music scene and eco-system, with all proceeds going towards its recovery. Streaming worldwide, the fundraiser will feature The Charlatans, Lightning Seeds, Red Rum Club, Ist Ist, Zuzu and LIINES; more info here. In the same vein, keep an eye on Independent Venue Week; unable to host its usual event but plotting an alternative format from 25th - 31st. 

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The Charlatans and Lightning Seeds (pictured) headline The North Will Rise Again

Lots more entertainment from home

While 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 museums and galleries offering digital content include National Football Museum, Imperial War Museum North, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Science & Industry Museum, Manchester Art Gallery, People's History Museum, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Arts, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester Museum, The Whitworth, Holden Gallery, HOME and The Lowry (the last two also offering performances, along with fellow theatres Hope Mill and Waterside).

Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery is amongst several venues offering home-based content

Elsewhere, libraries offering online amusements include The Portico, Working Class Movement Library and Chetham’s while Archives + is offering a fascinating glimpse into local neighbourhoods over the decades. Manchester Libraries has loads of resources and some branches will remain open for certain services and click-and-collect. 

As for music, there are socially distanced gigs aplenty in the pipeline for when restrictions lift. Meanwhile, enjoy streamed winter seasons from Stoller Hall and the Halle and keep an eye on platforms like United We Stream.  

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