Float on: The Canal Festival 2013

Phoebe Hurst

Looking for interesting things to do in Manchester? The Northern Quarter mini-fest celebrates the 200-year old Rochdale Canal.

Manchester doesn’t really do water, not unless you’re talking about the kind that falls from the sky. For most, Manchester’s waterways begin and end at Canal Street. Yet think of its rivers: the Irk, Irwell and Medlock, immortalised in the go-faster stripes of the city’s coat of arms. Picture the grand sweep of the Manchester Ship Canal; the now-ponderous Bridgewater. Or consider that feat of industrial engineering, the 32-mile Rochdale Canal. Impressive isn’t the half of it.

Why should you care? No reason, save that Manchester marks the start of autumn – and the 200 year-old glory of the Rochdale Canal – with a mini-fest in the Northern Quarter (well, in Piccadilly Basin if you’re being pedantic). A weekend of outdoor cinema, street art and music in early September that’s sponsored by Skiddle.com; The Canal Festival 2013 celebrates the veins that quite literally flow through our city.

A weekend of outdoor cinema, street art and live music

And where to stage this cultural aquatic crossover? A Grade II-listed former spinning mill at the edge of the Rochdale Canal, of course. Brownsfield Mill (Port Street) hosts the weekend’s outdoor festivities with street food marquees, a live music stage and a pop-up bar courtesy of 2022NQ. By night, the exterior of the mill transforms into a cinema. Finding Nemo and Life of Pi are shown from a “float in” movie screen, complete with deckchairs and cinema snacks from Northern Quarter eateries. Kosmonaut lays on burgers and hot dogs, and Piri Piri chicken is served from Kaiser UK’s swing grill. Food is served throughout the day, including homemade cakes and Icelandic coffee from TAKK.

Alongside the watching and eating, The Canal Festival offers ample opportunity to get doing and dancing. Children learn how to make model canal boats in a Saturday afternoon workshop, while festival-goers of all ages can witness the live creation of new artwork. Twelve of the city’s best known street artists and illustrators, including Barney Ibbotson, Rose Whittingham and children’s book illustrator Emma Reynolds, work on huge boards as they collaborate to form a spontaneous piece of street art. The event is sound tracked by Deaf Institute DJs, Dance Lady Dance and XFM’s Gareth Brooks, as well as live music from Literature Thieves and Horses on the Move. Indie duo, Songs For Walter also plays as part of Red Deer Club’s record label showcase. On Saturday, as the sun sets over the city’s mighty waterways, 2022NQ invites everyone back to their place for the official Canal Festival after party. Conclude your canal odyssey in a suitably watery fashion with a pint of locally brewed beer at the underground bar’s free club night. Download The Canal Festival flier and map here.

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