Event Radar: What January Blues?

Stevie Mackenzie-Smith
Beyond Clueless Summer Camp

Don’t stay in: we round-up the reasons to leave the house and soak up some culture in Manchester this month.

A return to normality was inevitable, but that doesn’t make early January transitioning any easier. Now unloved Christmas trees slump across pavements and the deadline for the end of heartily greeting each other “Happy New Year!” is nigh. There’s a strong temptation to batten down the hatches and stay indoors with that stack of new Christmas hardbacks – but there are also plenty of things to do in Manchester this month to bring some warmth to the dark nights.

January has some big-hitters in year’s Cultural Calendar, but there are other, smaller happenings around Manchester to coax you out into the cold. These are goings-on that buoy that early year optimism, soothe the ears and work the mind. And, handily, if you find yourself cutting down on the units, don’t require the lubrication of alcohol. From lunchtime concerts and mindfulness art tours to live-scored film screenings, poetry readings and good old-fashioned brass bands, here are fifteen (yes, fifteen!) reasons to sack off the blues and get out more this month.

Tim Crouch and Andy Smith at Contact

Contact theatre‘s consistently exciting programme continues with this two-man performance from award-winning theatre makers Tim Crouch and Andy Smith. The pair ask “what happens to hope at the end of the evening?” and explore friendship in middle-age, finding yourself, finding togetherness – whilst knocking back wine late into the night. (What Happens To The Hope At The End Of The Evening?, Contact, 29 Jan).

Take Notice at Manchester Art Gallery

The gallery’s popular monthly lunchtime tour returns for this post-work special. Wander the galleries after dark, de-stress after a long day at the office and explore the art work using mindfulness-based techniques. Ommm. (Take Notice (After Hours), Manchester Art Gallery, 6 & 15 Jan)

The Upsetter: The Life & Music of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at Band on the Wall

The Band on The Wall Film Club kicks off the New Year with a screening of acclaimed documentary The Upsetter, about the life of dub legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Fill your belly with a feast of curried goat, jerk chicken and callaloo – it’s included in the cost of a ticket. (Band on the Wall Film Club – The Upsetter: The Life & Music of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Band on the Wall, 13 Jan).

Get into the spirit of celebration at the Festival of Brass

There’s nothing quite like the joyful honks of full brass band to lift the spirits. The annual Festival of Brass returns to the newly renovated Royal Northern College of Music. Shows come from some of the world’s oldest local town bands, as well as those from across the welsh valleys and Yorkshire dales. Look out too for Composing For The Silents, a performance set to 1927 naval epic The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands. (The Festival of Brass, RNCM, 23-25 Jan)

The Dumb Waiter at Number One, First Street

Re:play Festival aims to celebrate the finest emerging theatre talent that Manchester has to offer. Performances this year are hosted by Number One, First Street, a proud office block that stands next to the new site of HOME. Ransack Theatre’s production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter follows two hit-men waiting on a job; this performance claimed the ‘Best Revival’ award at last year’s Greater Manchester Fringe Festival. (The Dumb Waiter, Number One, First Street, 15-16 Jan)

Social-media laden angst at The University of Salford

Social media-themed dark comedy Handles explores the gap between the way we portray our lives online, and in real life. “Handles” is a fictitious social network with over 650 million global users (sound familiar?) and it’s at the heart of our daily lives. But what are the implications for our notions of privacy, intimacy and trust? Perhaps you’ll find out from first-hand experience at this play; the audience are encouraged to participate online throughout. Following a sold-out run at The Lowry, this play is one to catch. (Handles- A Social Media Play, Robert Powell Theatre, University of Salford, 23 Jan)

Listen. Think. Decide, with Discuss at Manchester Central Library

‘Private Schools Should Be Abolished’ is the motion on the table this month at debating programme, Discuss. Participate, chin-stroke and take inspiration from the wonderful inscription in the dome of Manchester Central Library’s reading room: ‘Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all they getting, get understanding’. (Discuss: Private Schools Should Be Abolished, Manchester Central Library, 14 Jan)

Carol Ann Duffy and friends at The Royal Exchange

Join Carol Ann Duffy for an evening of poetry, jazz and conversation. Duffy invites writers Ann Gray, Justine Chamberlain, Michael Conley and Robert Harper to read, with musical accompaniment from jazz musicians. (Carol Ann Duffy and friends, Royal Exchange Theatre, 12 & 19 Jan)

The State vs. John Hayes at The Lowry

This one-woman show delves into the mind of Elyese Dukie, an inmate who’s on Death Row for the murder of two people. Taking place the day before her final court date, this intimate production is a intense psychological thriller. Written and performed by Lucy Roslyn, it’s also the culmination of research into female killers. (The State vs. John Hayes, The Lowry, 22 Jan)

A night with Norwegian novelists

Fans of brooding Norwegian writing, gather round. Manchester Literature Festival host an evening with acclaimed novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard and author Tore Renberg (or, ‘Scandinavia’s best kept secret’ as he’s known to, erm, those in the know). The writers will discuss their shared love of literature (naturally) in the cosy, book-lined Waterstone’s Deansgate. (Karl Ove Knausgaard and Tore Renberg in conversation, Waterstone’s Deansgate, 22 Jan)

Candy-hued nostalgia at The Dancehouse

Paying homage to the golden era of teen movies and coming-of-age classics made in the 1980s and 90s, Beyond Clueless is the directorial debut of journalist and film blogger, Charlie Lyne. Swim in nostalgia and declare that ‘they don’t make them like they used to!’ The film screens at The Dancehouse with the dreamy original soundtrack from pop band Summer Camp live-scored. (Beyond Clueless scored live by Summer Camp, The Dancehouse, 24 Jan)

Poetry School Saturday Session at the International Antony Burgess Foundation

Spend a Saturday doing something a little different. These writing sessions from The Poetry School take place in the surrounds of the lovely International Antony Burgess Foundation, which houses part of the writer’s personal possessions, including much-loved paperbacks, photographs and records. Pass the day writing, learning useful exercises and getting feedback from published poets. (Poetry School Saturday Session, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, 31 Jan)

David Nicholls in conversation with Dave Haslam

DJ and writer Dave Haslam invites author David Nicholls to this in-conversation event, taking place as part of the Bright Old Things festival at Selfridges. Listen to them discuss career changes, inspiration and generally chew the fat while you, erm, chew over a delicious taster plate from San Carlo Bottega. (Bright Old Things Festival, Selfridges Manchester, 29 Jan)

A Quartet for the End of Time at lunchtime

At this time of year, taking a full lunch break can seem a miserable affair; who wants to traipse around in the rain for an hour? The Lunchtime Concert series at The University of Manchester’s Martin Harris Centre is a good excuse to get away from your desk and give your brain a midday break. This concert sees Quartet for the End of Time, composed by Olivier Messiaen while he was a prisoner of war. (Walter Carroll Lunchtime Concert Series, The Martin Harris Centre, 29 Jan)

Culture Guides

Theatre in Manchester and the North


Alongside radical sci-fi adaptations and free arts festivals, we take a look at some of the Christmas shows happening in the North.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Explore the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North for autumn.

Image credit: Maryna Makarenko, Sun-Eaters, 2022


Classic pre-Code cinema, the Artist Film Weekender and the music of John Williams are amongst our highlights this month.


Pause in the hustle and bustle of festive prep to take in some inspiration from this month’s top exhibitions.

The Ocean at the End of The Lane at the lowry


It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Manchester is bursting with fun, family activities to keep the kids entertained in the run up to Christmas!

Poet Helen Mort. Photo by Jan Bella


There’s live literature and book-buying opportunities a-plenty as November unfolds and Manchester – celebrating five years as a UNESCO city of Literature – and the wider North region welcomes some great writers, both in real life and online.


The festive season is here, and whether you want to escape it or embrace it, we’ve got you covered.

Tours and Activities

We’re deep into Autumn now but don’t let that stop you from finding a new tour or activity to get stuck into.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts
Compass Festival 2022
Activity Until 27 November 2022, FREE

Compass Festival 2022

sunny bank mills
Activity Until 27 November 2022, from £2.00

Sunny Bank Mills Christmas Art & Makers Market

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £20

Pottery at Earth Pig Pottery and Fine Art in Buxton

Visual Arts Until 1 December 2022, from £20

Graffiti at Zap Graffiti

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £95

Blacksmithing at Forge Four

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £15

Embroidery with Sara Dennis at Lancaster Castle

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £59

Making silver stacker rings at The Old Granary

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £13

Candle making at Cheshire Workshops

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £60

Glass fusing at Glassmonkey Studio

Textile taxidermy
Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £80

Textile taxidermy with Jaki Bogg at Craven Arts Studios