Every winter in Manchester there is a wide range of festivals and fairs that highlight every strand of culture and art, promoting the city as one of the UK’s major tourist destinations. Here are five of the finest events taking place across December, January and February.
EventCity, 12 December-3 January
Already a huge hit in London, the magical Winter Wonderland event returns to Manchester this year for its third consecutive edition. Offering festive fun and excitement for all the family, this year’s show is expected to be bigger and better than ever, with the giant exhibition space at EventCity being transformed into a wonderland extravaganza. More than 40 family rides and attractions, including fairground favourites like the Tea Cups Fun Houses and Waltzers, will be hosted under one roof, while there’s also a Christmas Circus and an array of shows and other entertainment. There’ also a wide choice of food and drinks stalls where visitors can enjoy festive treats and refreshments.
Manchester Central, 20-23 January
Cocking a snook at anyone tempted to endure a ‘Dry January’, the hugely popular Manchester Beer & Cider Festival returns in the New Year, with some exciting changes afoot. After two years at Manchester Veledrome, the festival is moving to the historic venue of Manchester Central Station, where it will take place under the famous barrelled roof of the Central Hall. As always, the event will play host to a dazzling array of over 500 of the finest beers, ciders and perries, with the UK’s burgeoning craft beer brewery scene expected to be well represented, along with a traditional range of ciders and perries. Additionally, the show will also feature its own Bière Sans Frontières bars to offer an even larger range of draught and bottled beers from innovative breweries around the globe. What better way to start the year?
Royal Northern College of Music, 23-25 January
Widely regarded as one of Europe’s most important festivals of brass band music, the RNCM Festival of Brass returns this January with a packed two-day programme featuring both contemporary and classics performances. Some of the country’s finest brass bands will be joined by international soloists paying tribute to composers who have made a significant contribution to the brass band medium; two of whom, Elgar Howarth and Edward Gregson, are extensively featured throughout this year’s programme. With a grand total of nine bands, world-renowned soloists and world or UK premières of new works from Andrew Baker, Martin Ellerby, Gavin Higgins and Bramwell Tovey, the festival will be an important opportunity to reflect on the wider impact of the brass band movement and to thank the performers and composers who have shaped it down the years.
02 Ritz, 5 December & 6 February
Perhaps the UK’s greatest alternative shopping experience, the Manchester Alternative and Burlesque Fair descends on the city this winter, offering a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the eye-catching world of counter-cultural fashion and style. Taking place at one of Manchester’s most historic concert venues, the Grade II listed O2 Ritz, this year’s fair is promising to be bigger and better than ever. More than 50 vendors will be showcasing their diverse wares, spanning fetish, goth, Neo-Victorian, steampunk and burlesque styles, with clothing, accessories, jewellery and artwork all up for grabs. Furthermore, a full programme of entertainment an installations will be on offer, including Burlesque, Twisted Cabaret, Aerial Acts & DJ’s. A lounge bar and chill-out areas, plus a private terrace, will offer respite.
Etihad Stadium, 24 January
Taking place in the heart of Manchester at the home of Manchester City Football Club, this vibrant wedding fair is set over three floors and features an impressive 60 exhibitors, all dedicated to providing inspiration for your Big Day. Whether you’re planning to get married or simply fancy reliving your own memorable wedding, this is an event that will be enjoyed by all-comers.
Contact Theatre, 4-13 February
Each February, as part of LGBT History Month, the Contact Theatre in Manchester brings you a festival of events spanning performance genres and including both emerging artists and the best of established UK and international work. Previous festivals have featured Justin Vivian Bond, David McAlmont, The Tiger Lillies, Jackie Kay, Craig Hill, Bourgeois and Maurice, Bryony Kimmings and more. Events take place at Contact and and at various other venues across the city.
Manchester Town Hall, 12-13 December
This pre-Christmas tasting extravaganza offers unlimited tasting samples of hundreds of wines on offer. But far more than just an excuse to get sozzled, it is also the perfect opportunity to learn more about wine, beer and artisan food, as well as make some new discoveries. You can also make Christmas shopping fun by filling up the wine rack or filling a few stockings. It doesn’t matter if you’re expert, enthusiast or just enjoy the occasional slurp, there’s something for all those with a curious palate.