Birds, bees and brutalism all feature in May's what's on round-up for Manchester
With indoor entertainment, bars and restaurants reopening on 17 May (government Covid figures allowing) - for groups of up to six people, Manchester is abuzz with actual things to do for the first time this year. While we've appreciated the many online events that have taken place over the past 12 months (our own fizzogs staring back at us on Zoom not so much), we are so ready to socialise in real life again, no thermals required.
With that in mind, this month's Things To Do is jam-packed. As always, this is far from an exhaustive list, merely a snapshot of what's going on across the region. We've picked some events we think are worth your attention.
FLEDGE: A YEAR OF BIRDS | CONTEMPORARY 6 | 1 - 23 MAY
Also viewable online, Fledge: a year of birds is a multidisciplinary exhibition featuring the artwork of five artists: Mary Griffiths, Susan Platt, Liam Spencer, Clare Bigger, and Ann Lewis. Each of the artists has “responded to the birds in their close environments and in Britain’s changing urban areas". Using various mediums including watercolours, oils, and steel, birds have proved a welcome escape and inspiration for these artists. In our new world of curtailed freedoms, birds are poignantly symbolic and many have discovered (or rediscovered) the simple pleasure of bird watching as we have been forced to slow down. Each of the works in the exhibition will be available for purchase with 10% of proceeds being donated to Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, which aims to tackle homelessness across our city region.
AN ACORN | OLDHAM COLISEUM | 6 MAY
In collaboration with Canadian theatre company Impel Theatre, An Acorn stars Mina Anwar (The Thin Blue Line, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) and Darren Jeffries (Hollyoaks) alongside Canadian actors Blythe Haynes and Ryan G Hinds, An Acorn is performed live over Zoom and promises "an interactive twist”. The two pairs of actors have never met before – Canadians Blythe and Ryan will appear fully rehearsed while Brits Mina and Darren will receive a script with specific instructions just an hour before the performance. The audience will also receive instructions on the day on how to interact with the piece. More info on this and the return of Oldham Coliseum’s live theatre programme here.
CREATIVE MAKERS FAIRS | VICTORIA BATHS | 8,9,15,16 MAY
Tickets are reduced to just £3 for the relaunch of these popular events. On sale at the makers market will be handmade artwork, jewellery, ceramics, crafts and textiles all on the backdrop of the stunning Victoria Baths. The Baths’ gift shop will also be open. Visitors will be the first to see the stunning, newly restored stained glass windows in the Females Pool, which were completed in March 2020. The event is smaller scale than usual due to ongoing Covid-19 guidelines and social distancing, sanitising and facemask rules will be in place with contactless payment encouraged.
BRUTAL | SAUL HAY GALLERY | 15 - 30 MAY
Manchester's skyline is ever-changing and its architecture is some of the most eclectic of any city with loud disagreement about what style is best. A perhaps less-celebrated style is the cold, hard Brutalism that takes its name from the French for raw concrete. The disapproval over Piccadilly Gardens' wall is a case in point. But there is something beautiful in the Brutalist style too. A new much-anticipated (and delayed by COVID) exhibition of painting and sculpture celebrates that. This free exhibition features works from some of the nation’s best artists specialising in Brutalism, including Mandy Payne, Emma Bennett, William Brathwaite, Dan Broughton and Jen Orpin.
MINDSCAPES | ONLINE | UNTIL 16 MAY
This groundbreaking collaborative arts project continues to explore the impact that our environment has on mental wellbeing. From the team behind Sick! Festival, it includes everything from Metrolink art to poetry and music. With five brand new artworks and events, check out the full Mindscapes programme here.
FORM YOGA - UNDER THE MANCUNIAN WAY| HATCH | FROM 17 MAY
Fear of rubbish mornings? Try a FORM yoga class at Hatch under the Mancunian Way, brought to you in collaboration with Bruntwood Works. With a disco soundtrack courtesy of Hattie Pearson (GIRLS ON FILM) and led by yoga teacher India Hewitt, this 60-minute RESET class is suitable for all levels.
Not familiar with FORM? It’s going to be part of Bruntwood Works’ Bloc which includes the hotly anticipated Brewdog Beer Hotel. Hyper-modern workspace Bloc will include “a state-of-the-art wellness suite, a sleep pod, wellness room, and a cascading garden in the foyer” and its RESET Studio by FORM will also be open to the general public.
GRAYSON'S ART CLUB | MANCHESTER ART GALLERY | FROM 19 MAY
Manchester Art Gallery is reopening on 19 May and top of many people's list will be the exhibition from pottery artist and style icon Grayson Perry. During lockdown he hosted the Grayson’s Art Club TV show from his own studio, talking to other artists and creatives about how they were spending their time in isolation and asking members of the public to send him their own artworks which they had been making at home. Although this accompanying show opened back in November, the public didn't get much chance to see it so MAG have extended its run to 31 October this year. Tickets go on sale 5 May.
BANK SHOT SHUFFLEBOARD | ROXY BALLROOM | FROM 17 MAY
With indoor games back on the cards from 17 May you could grab five of your closest friends for some “adult entertainment” (not that kind). The newest Roxy Ball Room at Manchester Arndale has all sorts of fun and games on offer including six full-size bowling lanes, twelve holes of “Crazy Pool”, Bank Shot Shuffleboard (where the shuffleboard loops back on itself so the puck goes around and back into the scoring area), American Pool, Shuffleboard, Olympic standard Ping Pong tables, and Beer Pong battle stations, plus loads of arcade games.
PRIDE IN TRAFFORD | WATERSIDE AND OTHER VENUES AROUND SALE | 17-22 MAY
A veritable rainbow of events makes up this LGBTQ+ festival of arts. From Oh What a Lovely Lockdown’s spoken word, comedy and satire from Manchester queen Cheddar Gorgeous to Pop and Olly’s storytelling which aims to “usualise” different types of people, particularly those who may be LGBTQ+ to Yours Sincerely - a queer coming-of-age comedy about the complications of 21st-century communication (and a whole lot of postage stamps). Tickets for Pride In Trafford events are on sale now at various prices (mostly under £15pp) with plenty of free events too. Trafford Waterside also has a full events calendar worth perusing.
RHS GARDEN BRIDGEWATER | FROM 18 MAY
This hotly anticipated horticulturalist's haven has been delayed by almost a year due to you-know-what. Finally, the 154-acre garden will open in Salford on 18 May. It’s the biggest hands-on gardening project to be undertaken since 2017 and the first ever RHS garden in an urban area. Featuring cutting-edge design by RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal winners alongside numerous dedicated community spaces, RHS Garden Bridgewater aims to inspire and educate. There are over a quarter of a million plants, an 11-acre Weston Walled Garden, a Paradise Garden by Tom Stuart-Smith, showcasing exotic planting inspired by Asiatic and Mediterranean gardens, and most exciting in our book, an edible Kitchen Garden by award-winning Harris Bugg Studio.
C-O-N-T-A-C-T | THE LOWRY (AND SURROUNDING AREAS) | FROM 18 MAY
Not to be confused with Manchester's Contact Theatre, C-O-N-T-A-C-T is a “unique sensory and immersive theatre experience” is coming to Manchester and Salford for six weeks in association with The Lowry. Attendees get the chance to be properly involved in the action of this boundary-pushing, 50-minute theatre show. Delivered via an app created especially for the show, you just have to stick your headphones in and enjoy the “state-of-the-art 3D sound design” as you navigate around the streets following the performance. You'll gain a unique insight into the minds of the characters as the action unfolds before your eyes. It’s being hailed as “a new kind of theatre” and spaces are limited so book now.
MANCHESTER LITERATURE FESTIVAL SPRING PROGRAMME | ONLINE | UNTIL 20 MAY
An enticing taster of its main October festival, MLF’s spring programme continues. 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.
THE CRYSTAL MAZE | CITY CENTRE | FROM 20 MAY
What better way to reacquaint yourself with your six closest pals than by getting together to take the piss out of each other for being rubbish at problem-solving? Fans of the 90s cult show presented by Richard O’Brien will be able to head back to Manchester’s reimagined version that had a spruce up at the end of 2019 with a load of brand new games. Leg it around the Aztec zone (and all the other ones we can’t remember the names of) throwing yourselves into physical and mental challenges to win crystals and have a go in that massive golden ticket machine at the end.
SOCIAL AVENUE | ONGOING | TRAFFORD PARK | 21 MAY - 20 JUNE
Anything described as “social” right now sounds exhilarating, although some social distancing will still be in place at these events. Trafford Park’s Social Avenue is back for a six-week period of parties in May and June. Blasting through its infamous Void Tri Motion sound system, musical highlights include London’s house and techno Fuse founder Enzo Siragusa, local favourite party starters Mvson, and drum and bass from Manchester’s Bou. Tickets are available in 4, 5 or 6 person tables and guests must stay in their seating zones for the event. The full line ups and tickets available are via Skiddle here.
MANCHESTER FLOWER SHOW | CITY CENTRE | 29 MAY - 6 JUNE
Hopefully symbolic of the green shoots of recovery, Manchester Flower Show returns at the end of May. This trail of large-scale floral displays, green installations, urban gardens, outdoor dining and entertainment will take over the city, making everything from landmarks to lampposts blooming lovely. The Manchester Flower Show has been around since 1955 and ran for nearly 50 years before having a 15-year hiatus. It returned as part of the city’s King Street Festival three years ago but this year’s event will be the first standalone Manchester Flower Show since 2003. Organised by CityCo and Manchester Business Improvement District (BID), this year’s event moves away from a traditional flower show to a festival of flowers, welcoming visitors back to the city centre in a Covid-safe way.
INVISIBLE HISTORY TALKS | THE WORKING CLASS MOVEMENT LIBRARY | ONGOING
This series of free, weekly live-streamed talks returns to the WCML in Salford with topics in May spanning conscientious objection during the First World War, 20th Century communism, and the Irish revolution. Gordo will be all over it. The library has also reopened its reading room and you can now book a slot for some quiet time with a good book.
POP UP PAINTING: PAINT THE MANCHESTER BEE | NORTHERN MONK REFECTORY | 27 MAY
Brush up on your painting skills, wine glass in hand, at this laidback art workshop. There’s no experience required, just a desire to have a go at painting your very own Manchester bee. Art supplies - including your own canvas to take home when finished, paints, brushes and an apron - are provided along with guidance from a practising artist and themed tunes. Drinks are available to buy from the bar and COVID-secure restrictions are in place to ensure peace of mind as you paint. Due to social-distancing constraints, bookings are limited to pairs of tickets or small groups from the same household (or support bubble).
KANTINA | ESCAPE TO FREIGHT ISLAND | 28 - 31 MAY
A sure-fire bank holiday foodie bonanza, Kantina is right up our street at Confidentials. With a line up featuring the absolute cream of Manchester’s culinary talent on the backdrop of Escape To Freight Island’s incredibly ambitious megaplex of drinking and dining options. With collabs between Sam Buckley of Where The Light Gets In and Dan Hope of Plant Grill, Spanish stars Tast and Baratxuri, Pippy Eats with Mi and Pho and plenty more besides, the hardest thing will be choosing what to eat.
OT ART TRAIL | OLD TRAFFORD | ONGOING
OT Art Trail is a new project from OT Creative Space that is designed to tie the Old Trafford community together, much needed after months of isolation and distancing. Residents have donated walls and gable ends to six artists - including graphic artist and fine artists as well as street artists such as Qubek - to create a treasure trail of colour around the area, which will be linked together with a poem by Isaiah Hull. With a five-minute walk between each mural and two lovely parks in the vicinity, its perfect for families as well as street art enthusiasts. We first featured OT Art Trail organiser Lynda Sterling on site in 2018 and she has certainly been busy since then.
ALPHABET BREWING COMEDY | ABC | 28 MAY
This new monthly residency promises to bring “big belly laughs, beautiful beers and some blooming brilliant food trucks”. Comedians this month include Nathan Caton who at just 19 has already appeared on the likes of Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo, Christ Stokes who recently supported Milton Jones on his UK tour Milton Jones is Out There, Danny Deegan who will be bringing some Manc swagger and Alex Stringer who ABC is calling their “one to watch”. We all need a good laugh after the year we’ve had.
WHAT HAPPENS AT BRUNCH | IMPOSSIBLE | 30 MAY
A new bottomless brunch series from Impossible kicks off with a disco-house special for bank holiday eve. Expect live sax, fire performers, dancers and disco house, vocal house and house classics soundtracking your brunch social. For £30pp, you’ll get brunch with three side dishes and unlimited drinks for 90 mins or you can book for "just drinks".
VIVALDI BY CANDLELIGHT | MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL | 30 MAY
Regardless of your religious beliefs, there is something otherworldly about the experience of hearing live classical music in the acoustic surroundings of a cathedral. Add candlelight to proceedings and you’ve got something worth a pilgrimage. But it’s not a long road to salvation as our very own Manchester Cathedral is holding a live performance of Mozart’s Divertimento in D, Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Newcomers to the world of classical music are encouraged and according to the press release, the event from London Concertante has its audience “laughing at jokes, gasping at virtuosity, moved by gorgeous playing, and leaving with a smile on their faces”. Prices from £24 plus BF.
Looking for even more arts-based activities in Manchester?
Other museums that reopen this month include Paper Gallery which reopens on 1 May, the People’s History Museum on 19 May. The reopened PHM will also boast its brand new cafe from Open Kitchen - you’ll need to book a timed slot to visit either for now. The Science and Industry Museum’s first exhibition in its swanky new gallery, Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security, opens on 17 May. Elizabeth Gaskell’s House reopens on 19 May with an exhibition “A Love Affair With Cranford” and the completion of the celebrated Victorian novelist’s recreated bedroom on display. Myriad digital activities continue at Imperial War Museum but it will also reopen for visitor on 19 May.