Unmissable things to do in Manchester and the North

Discover acclaimed music and stand-out exhibitions, groundbreaking theatre, family, cinema and literary events in Manchester and the North.

Our top picks
perfect at refract 2018
Festivals 19–28 July 2018,

REFRACT:18 at Waterside Arts

Curated by Waterside Arts, Refract:18 is a unique ten-day festival of experiential performance, comedy, live music and family events that challenge you to see things differently.

Exhibitions 14 July–28 October 2018, FREE

Liverpool Biennial 2018 – Beautiful world, where are you?

If there’s one thing you do this summer, we strongly recommend you hop on a train and make your way over to the 10th edition of the ever-popular Liverpool Biennial – ‘Beautiful world, where are you?’ – a city-wide festival of new and exciting contemporary art from around the world.

陈秋林 Chen Qiulin 空的城 The Empty City 数码艺术微喷印刷. Part of Aquatopia at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), Manchester
Exhibitions 6 July–7 October 2018, FREE

Aquatopia at CFCCA

Though water covers 70% of our planet and sea levels are rising, access to clean, fresh supplies is becoming a growing problem around the world. Aquatopia forms the first of a season of new exhibitions and debates at CFCCA designed to encourage discussion around some of the biggest environmental issues facing the world today.

Exhibitions 21 July 2018, FREE

Royal College of Art Taster Workshops at The Bluecoat

Interested in an MA in art or design? You may not have considered the Royal College of Art before, but their taster sessions at The Bluecoat this weekend are here to change that.

Phil Collins: Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong at HOME, Manchester
Cinema 7 July–16 September 2018, FREE

Phil Collins: Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong at HOME

‘Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong’ at HOME brings together three politically charged works by the Turner-Prize nominated artist Phil Collins who returned Engels to Manchester in 2017.

Music 27 July 2018, from £18

Manchester Jazz Festival: Winstone/Gesing/Venier at the RNCM Concert Hall

Jazz vocalist Norma Winstone visits the RNCM as part of Manchester Jazz Festival this July. To mark the recent release of Descansado – Songs For Films, she will perform personal interpretations of soundtrack music by the likes of Michel Legrand and Ennio Morricone, backed by her trio’s pianist and reed player.

Families 5 May–28 October 2018, from £Quarry Bank admission prices apply (free for National Trust members)

Journeys of the Imagination at Quarry Bank

Pack your bags for an adventure as you discover the incredible journeys made by the people of Quarry Bank in an interactive trail.

Theatre guide to Manchester and the North
Theatre 19–28 July 2018, from £10.00

The Fishermen at HOME

Illuminating Nigeria in all of its political, historical and cultural complexity, The Fishermen is a powerful allegory of love, vengeance and fate. Based on the Man Booker-shortlisted novel by Chigozie Obioma.

Much Ado About Nothing at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre
Theatre 6 July–25 August 2018, from £22.50

Much Ado About Nothing at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre

Is it love, or is it hate? Shakespeare’s comedy of merriment, wooing and winning of hearts, returns to Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre this summer.

NHS HOME Manchester
Cinema 28–30 July 2018, from £7.00

Something for Everyone: Celebrating 70 Years of the NHS at HOME

To mark the establishment of a national health service in the UK, HOME present a season of films that champion, poke fun at and critique various aspects of and attitudes to the much loved, and defended institution.

Ockham’s Razor and Contact: Switch and Tipping Point at Upper Campfield Market
Dance 15–18 August 2018, from £10.00

Ockham’s Razor and Contact: Switch and Tipping Point at Upper Campfield Market

Give your summer a lift with this family circus double bill from the award-winning Ockham’s Razor and Manchester’s Contact.

Dan Hays, Spring Snow, 2009. BIBLIOTECH: from bookshelf to big data at The Portico Library, Manchester
Exhibitions 6 July–18 August 2018, FREE

BiblioTECH: from bookshelf to big data at The Portico Library

Do you prefer to hold a Kindle in your hands or a book? ‘BiblioTECH: From bookshelf to big data’ at The Portico Library uses art to examine the opportunities and challenges that arise when we adapt to new technological formats for storing and sharing information.

Music 3–11 November 2018, from £22

Manchester International Festival and The Warehouse Project present ‘Special Edition’ at Mayfield Depot

Featuring five performances in the atmospheric Mayfield Depot, ‘Special Edition’ boasts Swedish experimental pop artist Fever Ray, Bonobo (and friends), Manchester grime artist Bugzy Malone and Northern Irish electronic duo Bicep. Presented by Manchester International Festival and The Warehouse Project, the series is overseen by BBC 6 Music DJ Mary Anne Hobbs, with lighting design by Stuart Bailes.

Cinema 18 July–17 October 2018, from £12.20

Agnès Varda: Pioneer at FACT

Alongside presenting a newly commissioned work for the Biennial, FACT and Picturehouse present weekly screenings of the works of Agnès Varda, and a personally curated set of films to accompany her own.

Mister Finch – Toadstool Postboxes, 2017. Courtesy the artist. The Wish Post at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Exhibitions 23 June–23 September 2018, FREE

Mister Finch: The Wish Post at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Don’t worry, you haven’t OD’ed on contemporary art. The dapperly dressed mole and skittish prickle of hedgehogs playing brass bells are part of YSP’s new exhibition; The Wishing Post by Etsy-celeb, Mister Finch.

Culture Guides

Exhibitions in Manchester and the North


It barely needs stating; absolute top of our list of exhibition highlights this summer has to be Liverpool Biennial 2018, which opens on 14 July. But that’s by no means all there is to look forward to.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


School’s out for summer! And there’s plenty for the family to enjoy in our theatre guide. With the pick of park open-air performances and thrilling circus shows – we’ve got you covered.


Pop-up cinemas, outdoor screenings and movie marathons — we’ve got it all this summer.

Just So fish festivalgoer courtesy Teneigh


The best outdoor and indoor adventures to keep us all busy. Journeys of the Imagination at Quarry Bank, festival fever at bluedot and Just So and astonishing circus capers with Contact in the City.

Helen Mort. Photo by Jonathan Pow


Despite the traditional summer break of many of our favourite nights, there’s still plenty of poetry and prose to catch, from indie publisher fairs and national magazine launches to a brand-new series of relaxed lectures and an exhibition dedicated to banned books. And if you don’t like sitting still for too long, there’s even a literature trail or two to check out…


While this summer’s festivals – including bluedot, The Good Life Experience and Festival No. 6 – provide a welcome distraction, the likes of the RNCM and The Stoller Hall continue to provide adventurous programming.