Create Salford Festival: A three-day itinerary

Susie Stubbs

Heading for the University of Salford’s Create Salford Festival? Well, this four-day eventer is a marathon not a sprint, so take your time and enjoy your stay with this handy guide to the cultural and historic highlights, including places to eat and some intriguing things to do.

Wednesday 17 June

Start as you mean to go along, with time to spare at HOME, Manchester’s newest cultural space and of which the University is a founding partner. Take in the Heart is Deceitful exhibition, fortify yourself in the café and plan to come back later to see Kafka’s Monkey in the theatre (17-23 June). Trams close to HOME will take you to MediaCityUK campus for the Create Salford launch by the university’s Chancellor, poet and novelist Jackie Kay MBE (5.45pm). The evening is packed with goodies including live TV shows, design exhibitions, fashion runways, a comedy night and theatre performances.

Thursday 18 June

Today’s for exploring Salford, a city that is both a part of Manchester and distinctly separate; the Brooklyn to its Manhattan. Gritty urban realism has been this city’s stock in trade since L.S. Lowry painted his first matchstick man. But as you shuttle between the Allerton Campus and MediaCityUK, you’ll notice this Dirty Old Town is looking distinctly less dirty these days. Take time to nose around and you’ll find Salford is a creative community that is getting on and doing, making and innovating. The Chapel Street area is home to the likes of International 3, Hot Bed Press and Cow Lane Studios. The pioneer of the studio scene is Islington Mill, a once-abandoned cotton mill that houses artists’ studios, a gallery, cafe, a live music venue and even a small B&B.

Near the Allerton Campus, is Salford Museum and Art Gallery and the Working Class Movement Library which features the personal collection of labour historians Ruth and Edmund Frow, in a treasure trove of material dating back to the 1760s. And there’s Ordsall Hall, the city’s beautifully restored (and supposedly haunted) Tudor mansion.

Ready for a drink or a bite to eat? Salford is good at supplying a decent watering hole, like The New Oxford on Bexley Square and The Crescent on, erm, The Crescent. The King’s Arms on Bloom Street is a Salford institution, celebrated for its bohemian atmosphere and starring role in the Channel 4 comedy, Fresh Meat. If luxury is on the menu, The Lowry Hotel is among the best fine dining destinations in either city. And for cocktails Corridor Bar, hidden down Barlow’s Croft, has some serious mixology going on behind its unmarked door. Go easy mind, you don’t want to miss students and staff perform Nancy Galbraith’s The Passion of St Matthew at Manchester Cathedral (7.30pm)

Friday 19 June

Fingers crossed for fine weather as The Quays can be breezy. This is Manchester’s waterfront – a showpiece regeneration of the old Salford Docks, with the shiny new architectural icons of Imperial War Museum North designed by Daniel Libeskind and The Lowry. The arrival of the BBC and ITV has brought, alongside a new University of Salford campus, such luminaries of broadcast as CBBC, BBC Sport, Radio 5, Coronation Street and the BBC Philharmonic. The old working docks have long gone, but the stories are still told in a public sculpture trail Unlocking Salford Quays. Ask for a leaflet at The Lowry. For eats, there’s lots of choice from quality chains, pop-ups, the upmarket Damson, or choose delicious picnic fayre from Booth’s. This week at The Lowry, Wicked is showing hot from the west-end, and we like the look of Haste Theatre’s dark, physical piece Beyond Cragporth Rock (Friday at 8pm).

Saturday 20 June

If today is your first and only chance to explore Create Festival, be our guest (exhibitions stay open til Tuesday 23rd, 10am-3pm); but assuming time and the weekend is in your hands then here’s a taste of some of cultural Manchester’s other highlights. Try breakfast in the Northern Quarter (head for Koffee Pot), the area of town which Manchester creatives have made their spiritual home. In the middle, amongst the art shows, music scene, design agencies and boutiques, is the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, and partner of the University’s School of Arts and Media, developing contemporary collections as well as exhibitions and symposia.

Crossing the city, the siren call of Manchester’s shops may be hard to resist – but nestled in St Ann’s Square is the Royal Exchange, a former trading hall that’s now a theatre-in-the-round – one of the most critically-acclaimed in the country. Today’s production is an innovative, physical version of Arnold Ridley’s The Ghost Train a collaboration with the company Told By An Idiot (2.30pm and 7.30pm). Nearby, Spinningfields has two unique attractions: the John Rylands Library (a glorious neo-gothic structure) and the People’s History Museum. Step off the main drag and you will discover the smaller galleries and artisan markets of Castlefield. Castlefield Gallery is showing Real Painting, work by ten artists including 2010 Turner Prize nominee Angela de la Cruz and 2004 John Moore’s Painting Prize winner Alexis Harding. Back in the city centre, Manchester Art Gallery, resplendent with pre-Raphaelite collections is sporting a new exhibition of self-portraits including those by Van Gogh and Van Dyck.

Finally, we positively insist you head in the direction of Oxford Road and its cultural riches. At the far end, the newly opened Whitworth alone is worth the trek (or bus ride) for its stunning, newly-refurbished spaces and exhibitions. The glorious café in the trees overlooks both an art garden and the park for a well-earned rest.

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