It’s the final countdown… with only a few hours left before the general election, here are our top tips for getting through it.
TV debates, knocks at the door, reminders to vote: there’s no getting away from the fact that there’s an election tomorrow. And it looks set to be the most hotly contested in a generation thanks to coalition government, UKIP, the Greens and the SNP, Europe, global instability, austerity, the crumbling NHS and apparent voter apathy. Phew. So with all that boiling up, here’s our guide to surviving the next 48 hours.
1. Election! Britain Votes
If your knowledge of leaders-to-be focuses largely on playing bullshit bingo or counting the number of MPs willing to don a hard hat/high vis vest in an attempt to convince the electorate they’re down with “ordinary working families” – well, it’s not too late to brush up on your political history. The People’s History Museum has laid on a critically acclaimed exhibition that may well balance references to Russell Brand and the Hunger Games – but which also sets out the unarguable reasons as to why your vote matters. Open daily, 10am-5pm, free
2. Central Library
Open to everyone, which is kinda the point, is Manchester’s glorious Central Library. You know we love it, we know we love it, but it is included here as a very real example as to what your vote can do. While some politicians wonder whether we need libraries at all, here you can find books, musical instruments, archive films, art, computers, free internet access, history and a whole lot more. And it’s free. And it educates and it inspires all who walk through its doors. Open 9am-8pm Mon-Thu, 9am-5pm Fri & Sat, closed Sun.
Ditto. But with added film, music and art. Oh, and there’s the Whitworth, too, which has just been shortlisted for Museum of the Year 2015. And don’t miss Cornelia Parker, whose Cold Dark Matter (the exploded shed) and War Room take a look at war and ask what is it good for. Absolutely nothing, of course. Open daily, 10am-5pm, free
4. Manchester Art Gallery
Double ditto, but this is also a gallery that’s seen its fair share of political protest – it was the focus of a suffragette attack just over 100 years ago. Its historic works also teach us why “society” matters. Take George Frederick Watts’ The Good Samaritan. Painted in 1850, it tells a familiar enough tale, but the painting itself was given to the city in memory of Thomas Wright, a Mancunian who devoted his life to caring for prisoners. Open daily, 10am-5pm, free
5. Black Grape
While researching this article we stumbled across another Mancunian cultural landmark: our Bez. The former Happy Mondays dancer, AKA Mark Berry, is standing for election in Salford. He launched his anti-fracking campaign with, what else, a party fronted by Black Grape at the former Granada Studios (where, incidentally, Ed Miliband launched his party’s manifesto a day later). Wigs, sequins and Shaun Ryder all featured. Not at Ed’s event, obviously, although that would have livened up Westminster politics no end.
6. Digest the Election!
If serious politics is more your style, then head back to the People’s History Museum – the day after the election. Yup, that’s right, you can meet at the museum on the morning of 8 May to congratulate or commiserate over a bacon sarnie and cup of coffee. Watch the live results as they roll in with academics, students and the people who “do” political history for a living. At least they’ll know what to make of it. 8 May, 7am-11am, free (but suggested donation £3)
7. Albert Hall
More history, this time in the form of the Albert Hall, a place where you can spend your election night with the Super Furry Animals (if you managed to get tickets). Or you can remember Maxine Peake here in 2013, giving a mesmerizing rendition of The Masque of Anarchy, Shelley’s poem inspired by one of the Peterloo Massacre. Just around the corner from here, ordinary Mancs gave their lives protesting for something we often take for granted: the right to political representation.
8. National Football Museum
Back in town, one of the city’s newest and most popular museums tells the story of WWI and football through a long running exhibition. Which befits a city where the Trade Union Congress first met – and which founded the Professional Footballers’ Association. Bet they never thought they’d see the day when footballers were paid 100k a week for their troubles, but that’s another story. Open 10am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm Sun, free
9. Phill Hopkins at PAPER
This newly opened exhibition at the diminutive PAPER gallery features work by two artists, Phill Hopkins and James Moore, but it’s the former we’re particularly interested in. Taking a general theme – how we record history – Hopkins’ semi-abstract paintings interpret a war he will never see. This is Syria, a country destroyed, and a conflict that most Brits will only ever witness second hand. Disturbing, vital stuff. Open 11am-5pm Saturdays only, 18-30 May, free
10. Chetham’s Library
The location for our Museums at Night secret gigs, Chet’s is a place that creaks with history and politics – it was, of course, once host to Karl Marx, who later, fired up by his conversations with Friedrich Engels here in Manchester, penned the revolutionary Communist Manifesto. Open 9am-4.30pm, Mon-Fri, free
11. The Innovation Race
The past year or so has given us lots of war-related exhibitions and events; MOSI’s clever contribution looks at how hardship can often lead to invention. Still, after four years of swingeing cuts to just about everything we have ever cared about, we’re kind of done with hardship. Time, perhaps, to rebuild a Britain that has at times looked as if it were being deliberately broken. Open daily, 10am-5pm, free
12. Spirit of ‘45: from warfare to welfare
This new exhibition at the Working Class Movement Library opens on Friday 1 May – and it celebrates the achievements of the post-war government, its radical reforms and what remains of them, some seventy years on. Open 1pm-5pm Wed-Fri, free
13. Russell Brand
And finally, if all else fails, there’s always Russell Brand. His new documentary, The Emperor’s New Clothes, has been produced with Michael Winterbottom and went on limited release this week. It’s a “polemical documentary about the financial crisis and gross inequality we currently face” and also, we suspect, both emotive and highly entertaining. On limited release now – watch the trailer.