Manchester is one of the UK’s most vibrant cultural heartlands, with a diverse range of festivals and fairs taking place all year round. We give you the low-down on the best of the best taking place this Spring.
Northern Vegan Festival
Sachas Hotel, 23 April
Veganism has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years in concurrence with a rise in public awareness around issues of environmentalism and animal cruelty. For the uninitiated, vegans do not eat meat, fish or poultry and it is a dietary choice adopted by an estimated 150,000 people in the UK alone. This April, the Sachas Hotel in Manchester (along with the Methodist Church across the road) plays host to a celebration of all things vegan at the Northern Vegan Festival. Featuring almost 200 stalls serving a diverse selection of vegan fare – including an impressive range of raw food – the event is a friendly, fun-filled and inclusive way to share in what is an important lifestyle choice for many people. As well as food on offer, there’s also live music. And in case you needed any more persuasion, the festival is fully volunteer run and all proceeds will go to animal welfare charities. Get stuck in!
Manchester Histories Festival
Venues across Greater Manchester, 3 – 12 June
For anyone of the opinion that too much attention is foisted on London and the southeast, this 10-day celebration of Manchester’s rich heritage serves as the perfect antidote. Held every other year, the festival returns this June and promises to deliver another exciting programme of music, film, debates, talks by local and national historians, performances, walking tours and much more. The organisers of the festival are Manchester Histories, a charity whose aim is to provide learning and education about the city. In this modern techo-age, where there have never been more frivolous distractions and excuses for ignoring our past, Manchester Histories Festival is a noble and important event on the UK’s cultural calendar and a must-visit for history buffs everywhere.
Great British Bear Bash
Manchester’s Gay Village, 28 April – 2 May
Widely considered one of the friendliest and fun-filled gay events in Europe, The Great British Bear Bash returns for its 19th year this April and promises to be bigger and better than ever. Taking place in and around Manchester’s Gay Village, this year’s event is themed around The Viking Invasion – a look that should require little effort for many attendees! As usual, the programme will include an exciting roster of clubnights, karaoke, sauna, a ‘masquebearade’ party and much more. As with all events hosted by the Manbears Team, a significant portion of proceeds from Bear Bash will go to charity.
Manchester Irish Festival
South Manchester, 4 – 18 March
By some estimates up to 20 per cent of Manchester’s current day population has Irish roots. Statistics aside, there is no question that the city has a deep-rooted relationship with the Emerald Isle. It is therefore fitting that this March, Manchester will host a two-week festival to mark Ireland’s Centenary. Taking place at three main locations in the south of the city, the event will involve Irish art, comedy, film screenings, book launches, music and dance. Highlights will include an Irish Comedy Night featuring Father Ted star Kevin Gildea, a photographic exhibition about the Manchester Irish in 1990 by Anslem Gallagher, plus concerts by BBC songwriter Claire Moone. Visitors can expect to be greeted by a sea of green as people flock to celebrate Ireland’s past, present and future at this unique festival.
Venues across Manchester, 19 June
Mancunians are hardly known as wall flowers and their extrovert streak certainly comes to the fore during Manchester Day, an annual event that celebrates everything great about the city. Locals and visitors alike are welcomed to join in the festivities, which include a parade through the heart of the city, a dazzling array of live performances, vivid decorations and mouth-watering food and drink. The theme for the 2016 edition is ‘Eureka!’, playing tribute to Manchester’s role as a pioneering city at the forefront of modern discovery in a diverse range of fields, such as industrialisation, vegetarianism, atom theory, dance music and football. Intrigued? There’s only one way to find out more! (Image courtesy of Mark Waugh)
Victoria Warehouse, 12 March
Manchester’s relationship with music is perhaps the most powerful of any city in the UK and it is little surprise that it plays host to so many world class music festivals each year. One such event is Cosmosis, which returns this March to showcase some of the best alternative, psychedelic rock & roll bands anywhere in the world. Taking place in the Victoria Warehouse – a venue that played a key role in Manchester’s post-war expansion – the festival will host over 40 top quality acts, including a mix of established and emerging performers.
Manchester Film Festival
Venues across Manchester, 3 – 6 March
The best of British and international indie filmmaking will be showcased at the second Manchester Film Festival in March, with more than 20 feature-length films and 20 shorts to be screened at venues across the city. The programme features a number of UK and world premieres, with both home-grown and overseas talent having their cinematic work on show. Kicking off the 2016 edition will be the international premiere of sports documentary Dennis Viollet – A United Man, an intimate portrait of the career and legacy of the late Busby-babe, directed by his daughter, Rachel Viollet. Another notable feature will be a selection of international films directed by and/or featuring inspiring women, to coincide with Manchester’s 2016 ‘Wonder Woman’ event. Running alongside the film programme, there will also be a series of talks and workshops at the neighbouring Manchester235 casino.
Victoria Baths, 25 – 27 March
Four months after the London Gin Festival comes the Manchester edition, which shows no sign of slowing down as it enters its third year. Held over the Easter weekend – allowing additional time for hangover recovery – at the city’s beautiful Victoria Baths, the event is expected to be another sell-out success, showcasing over 100 different gins as well as live entertainment, talks by industry experts and food offerings. Whether you’re a dedicated gin lover or dipping your toes into the berry-infused beverage for the first time, there’ll be plenty for you to enjoy.
The Parklife Weekender
Heaton Park, 11 – 12 June
Taking place in June each year, Manchester’s Parklife Festival has become a staple of the UK dance music calendar. This year sees the Parklife return to Heaton Park for their biggest festival to date, with another impressive line-up of artists. Previous editions have included high profile guests such as Snoop Dog, Duke Domont and Carl Cox and visitors can expect a similarly impressive roster of acts. Beyond the music, Parklife also offers an array of alternative entertainment, including a ferris wheel, a log flume, wandering performers and musicians and much more.