Manchester Jewish Museum reinvents itself: Acclaimed comedy, Hey! Manchester & Video Jam

Polly Checkland Harding

The Manchester Jewish Museum has unveiled a superb programme of events – the perfect excuse to visit one of the city’s best unusual venues.

Did you know that one of Manchester’s most beautiful buildings is only ten minutes’ walk from Victoria Station? The Grade II*-listed Manchester Jewish Museum – the city’s oldest synagogue – is something of a hidden gem, with stunning stained glass windows (many of which were installed as memorials), cast iron fittings and a beautifully tessellated brick façade. It’s also the only Jewish museum outside of London; now, though, it’s setting out to become a beguiling event space – and with atmospheric live gigs, award-winning comedy and stunning, hybrid mashups of music and film, it’s off to a great start.

It’s time to think differently about this unique venue, and the area that surrounds it: with the Jewish Museum putting on incredible-sounding nights like a trio of internationally acclaimed comedians, it’s beginning to become a destination in its own right. For the upcoming Comedy Night (15 Oct, 8-10pm, tickets £10), legendary comedian Sol Bernstein will be performing in the historic synagogue, alongside Adam Bloom and Mark Maier. Bernstein is Harry Hill’s “favourite comedian”, but don’t let that put you off – he’s played shows around the world, used to rub shoulders with Elvis and Judy Garland and was also voted best triangle player in the USA in the ‘50s by the likes of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. He’s also very, very funny.

Black and photo photo of comedian Mark Maier

Adam Bloom, meanwhile, has had seven sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, has appeared on Mock the Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Russel Howard’s Good News show – as well as being praised by Ricky Gervais for his “meticulous and brilliant lines.” Award-winning comedian Mark Maier rounds out the bill, having toured to Germany, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, America and more, as well as teaching improvisation and performing alongside Catherine Tate. It should be quite a night – so get booking now. (Photo: Mark Maier)

Atmospheric live gigs, award-winning comedy and stunning, hybrid mashups of music and film

Bollywood Brass band performing

If infectious rhythm, rather than comic timing, is more your thing, stick the museum’s 100 Years of Bollywood night (8 Nov, 7-9pm, tickets £8) in your diary: drummers back a six-piece horn section to make up the Bollywood Brass Band, who will be accompanying video projections of Bollywood classics from 1913 onwards with live music. Bollywood is famous for its energy and melodrama – set that inside a beautifully-decorated synagogue, and you’ve got one remarkable evening.

A film set to live music

Also combining music and film will be an exceptional event (12 Nov, 8-10pm, tickets £5) from the cinematographers and musicians that Video Jam bring together to present live sets alongside short films. Though the acts and the promised ‘very special guests’ have yet to be announced, all will be responding to ideas of faith, worship and ritual. Having watched a Video Jam session at the Whitworth’s opening celebrations, spellbound, we’re dead excited about this event.

Photo of singer-songwriter Karima Francis

Gig promoters Hey! Manchester were behind one of the stand-out happenings in this year’s Manchester After Hours – now, they’re coming to the Jewish Museum to present the hugely talented, Blackpool-born singer-songwriter Karima Francis (26 Nov, 7.30pm-10pm, tickets £6). After a two year break, Francis is back with her third album, Black, taking to the stage for her famously charged live performances. (Photo: Karima Francis)

One final thought: don’t be put off by the Jewish Museum’s surrounding area. Though Chetham Hill is under the shadow of Strangeways Prison, and is somewhat overloaded with rather garishly branded restaurants, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a vibrant, multicultural hub with its fair share of beautiful buildings and, best of all, green spaces. We’ll be putting together a guide to the best bits of the area – but in the meantime, get one of the Manchester Jewish Museum’s events in your diary and congratulate yourself on doing the unusual.

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