Whether you have tickets for MIF or are just looking for interesting things to do in Manchester, the second in our series of festival weekend guides will help you make the most of the city.
From our picks of the places to eat, boutique shops, historic sights, free MIF events and more, the weekend surely starts here. Go on – you can have this one on us.
Friday 12 July
MIF is up and running and has the weather to match: to make the most of the (apparently here to stay) sunshine, head to Festival Square. Here, lights a-twinkle in the trees, Paul Heathcote serves food until late, DJs play for free and, this Friday, Manchester quartet M O N E Y perform at the Pavilion Theatre (7.30pm). Out and about during the day? Tino Seghal is in the Mayfield Depot from 4pm. This is an artist last seen in Manchester as part of 11 Rooms and who promises to plunge visitors “into a pulsating sensory landscape”. The Machine gets its first airing today, too, while, back at that Mayfield Depot, Massive Attack and Adam Curtis continue their bone shaking, base-heavy cinematic installation. It’s an event that’s dividing opinion but we loved it – just don’t go there expecting a Massive Attack gig. Stop off en route for a cheeky half at the Northern Quarter’s Kosmonaut or go retro with the Star and Garter, a legendary pub that is, literally, on the Depot’s doorstep. Hungry? If you can’t make it back to Festival Square then try Bakerie (Lever St) for a communal, casual and carbs-focused meal (excellent wine list too) or else eat on the hoof courtesy of its neighbour, Slice. Close by too is 2022NQ, which on Friday hosts “a poster party for bike people”. The exhibition launch of international art/cycling project, ARTCRANK starts at 6pm, features “bikes, beers, screen prints and Funkademia DJs” (according to one of our friends on Twitter) and runs until late. 2022NQ, meanwhile, is the kind of crossover art venue Manchester does best: it’s in a basement in the Northern Quarter, is run by former music entrepreneurs and alongside exhibitions of art and design by the city’s up-and-comings, puts on very, very loud launch parties. Massive Attack may have some local competition…
Saturday 13 July
We said it last weekend and we’ll say it again: Saturday is all about the art, not least because Manchester Art Gallery is showing group exhibition Do It 2013. It opened with a vulture flying through the gallery (yes, a live one, and yes, we ducked) and continues with a series of instructions from artists that you, the viewer, have to carry out. It also features work by Felix Gonzalez Torres, which is rather neat – as another exhibition across town does, too. The Holden Gallery’s Mortality: Death and the Imagination has a work by the Cuba-born artist alongside others by the likes of Sam Taylor-Wood and Bob & Roberta Smith. The gallery itself is part of the 175 year-old Manchester School of Art, a venerable institution in a good-looking neo-Gothic building; the small Grosvenor Square opposite, built on the site of a former church, is something of a suntrap should you require a dose of vitamin D. If you have time, pop in to the MMU Special Collections gallery, one of our favourite small museums in the city, or go see Stan the (full size replica) T.Rex at Manchester Museum – a Victorian Gothic building designed by Alfred Waterhouse (see also: Manchester Town Hall). Close by is the frankly brilliant Deaf Institute. Good for casual eats in Grade II-listed surrounds, this is one of Manchester’s best live music venues. Its owners also recently bought the Albert Hall, which, as it happens, is the venue for Maxine Peake in this week’s Masque of Anarchy; we can’t decide whether we’re more excited at seeing the wonderful Peake in full flow or just this former Wesleyan Chapel prior to its conversion to a music venue sometime next year. Dive into BrewDog for a pre-Peake pint; it has just re-launched its menu and now serves burgers and the like that are as good as its Scottish-brewed, er, brews.
Combine art with eating and shopping. The Northern Quarter continues to host Some Recent Examples – new work by new artists (Unit 5, Sevendale House, Lever St) – while Forming Words opens today at Manchester Craft & Design Centre. Expect contemporary craft, textiles and ceramics, all with a literary bent; the 2pm today (until 6pm) includes live music. The Craft Centre itself, once a former Victorian market hall, has a sweet café in its glass-roofed atrium; head here for homemade cakes, sturdy soups and the like. Next, try design bookstore Magma, craft beer specialists, Beermoth (Tib St) or arguably the city’s best vinyl institution, Piccadilly Records. Refuel at Icelandic coffee house TAKK or eat in the ever-popular diner-style surrounds of Home Sweet Home (Edge St); the cheeseburger toastie here may not be the most subtle of dishes but it is pretty damn fine nevertheless. Those of you with small people in your life will be heading to the Town Hall for Once Upon a Story today; if you wonder why Alfred Waterhouse saw fit to stud the floors with mosaic bees we’ll say this: we are an industrious, collective lot in Manchester. Busy, like bees. Those of you more interested in the now should check out Blank Media Collective’s feminist “speed debate”; held at 2022NQ its stellar line-up includes (among others) The Guardian’s Ally Fog, No More Page 3’s Lucy-Anne Holmes and the New Statesman’s Caroline Craido-Perez (11.30am-5.30pm, £5). It’s a chance to debate where feminism is heading – which is apt, given that Manchester is the city that was the birthplace of the Suffragettes. Finally, if you’re looking to end your day by dancing, we heartily recommend a one-off appearance by legendary night Club Suicide at Islington Mill. This is late night high-jinx like it used to be: a club night held in a converted industrial mill (now an art space, obvs), with leftfield tunes, weird techno and irreverence writ large.
Sunday 14 July
Still awake? We’d recommend you take it very, very easy after two days and nights of cultural shenanigans. Ease into the day with Sunday lunch at Salford’s The Mark Addy, a pub on the banks on the River Irwell whose chef, Robert Owen Brown, has also been cooking up fine food at the Biospheric Project. He’s a fan of British ingredients (we ate Salford snails at the Biospheric Project last week courtesy of said chef; if Owen Brown can make those slimy critters tasty – and he can – then you’re assured of a blinding meal at the Mark Addy). The People’s History Museum is opposite and you’re not so far here from another Salford pub, the King’s Arms – it’s the pub where Channel 4’s Fresh Meat is filmed and comes complete with a ramshackle beer garden, on-site theatre and, on Sunday, a vintage fair. Talking of parks, head up to park-side gallery, the Whitworth. Here, you can see the remains of Nikhil Chopra’s 65-hour MIF performance, in the form of a coal-on-cotton drawing slung across its façade. Inside, incredible artworks dot the walls – and we’re not just being nice. To mark its final exhibition openings before closure (as part of a £15m redevelopment), the Whitworth has brought out the big guns: its summer shows, which opened last weekend, see works from the likes of Durer, William Blake, Picasso, Gaugin, Rembrant, Van Gogh and many others grace its walls. Now, for years we’ve been banging on about how good the Whitworth’s collection is – we just never realised its collection was this good. An MIF must-see (even if, strictly speaking, the summer shows aren’t part of the festival).
There is more – in a city like Manchester there’s always more – but hopefully this guide is enough to get your weekend started. Read our guide to easy eats or find out what exhibitions are on now. Or head now into some of the features, interviews and previews we’ve published about MIF since its launch in March, from an illuminating interview with the festival’s director, Alex Poots to our guide to the free things laid on by MIF. Enjoy.