Women in Comedy 2015: The best of the festival

John Stansfield

With Maxine Peake as its new patron, the Women in Comedy Festival returns, bigger and better than ever. Our highlights include Harriet Dyer, Sophie Willan and a Comedy Cocktail.

Entering its third year of operation, Manchester’s annual celebration of funny females is back this 15-25 October with a host of talent from around the country coming to the Northern Quarter. We’ve chosen our favourite five – but there’s a whole lot more over the 11 days of the festival to get to.

Evelyn Mok at The Whiskey Jar

There’s a new wave of Scandinavian comics coming to prominence in the UK, with Denmark’s Sofie Hagen nabbing the Best Newcomer at this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards, just like Norway’s Daniel Simonsen did in 2012. Simonsen’s compatriot Evelyn Mok is hoping to follow in these footsteps as she presents her first solo show. Quick-witted and unafraid of any subject matter, Mok is one to watch for many years to come. Mon 19 Oct, 8pm, free (email carol@womenincomedy.co.uk to reserve a space)

Harriet Dyer at The Whiskey Jar

October might seem a little early for a ‘Edinburgh preview’, seeing as 2015’s festival only ended a few weeks ago, but Harriet Dyer is worth catching at any stage of a ‘work in progress’ – such is her spontaneous wit and haphazardly placed material. A truly unique talent, Dyer is one of the most inventive comics currently on the circuit. Wed 21 Oct, 7.30pm, £3 adv.

Comedy Cocktail at Gullivers

There are several showcases during the festival, but the highest quality is arguably the ‘Comedy Cocktail’ taking place at Gullivers. The three acts on stage are a testament to how ridiculous it is for promoters and audiences alike to view ‘female’ as a style of comedy. Jana Kennedy brings character cabaret, Lesley Kershaw has been described by Janey Godley as “the filthy daughter of Thora Hird”, while recent recipient of the Magner’s New Act Award Sophie Willan offers up personal and political posturing with a rose-tinted glint. Thur 22 Oct, 8pm, £4 adv.

MACE featuring Mae Martin at Kosmonaut

Another diverse line-up at this year’s festival sees Mae Martin headline at Manchester’s Alternative Comedy Emporium (MACE for short, thankfully). Mae is a Canadian ex-pat and one of the most delightful comedians you might ever see, never losing her butter-wouldn’t-melt charm when speaking of even the most lurid of subject matter. She is joined by Funny Women 2014 finalist Lauren Pattison and Pesha Lily with Manchester’s favourite American Kate McCabe taking over from Red Redmond as the show’s MC. Thur 22 Oct, 8pm, £5 adv.

Birthday Girls at Gullivers

Last year the Birthday Girls took over Gullivers with their ‘Party Vibes’ and ran away as one of the most talked about experiences for the whole festival. After a brief stint of sell out performances at the Edinburgh Fringe, they are ready once more to put the fun in funny. With offbeat sketches, strange characters and a whole heap of awkward dancing this trio are one to definitely mark in your diary. Sat 24 Oct, 9.30pm, £8 adv.

Culture Guides

Cinema

David Bowie, Japanese classics and some early spooky screenings all feature in this month’s cinema guide.

Exhibitions

Welcome the autumnal season with all of the art goodness that it brings – there are so many brand new exhibitions to see!

Families

As we say bye to the summer holidays and begin to welcome in the cooler months, Manchester’s events and activities continue to bring joy and fun to families.

Kamila Shamsie. Photo Alex von Tunzelman

Literature

There are plenty of online readings and live launches as Manchester and the North welcomes some great writers with book festival season getting underway, and there are loads of new spoken word nights and open mics to check out…

Music

Autumn’s a fine old time for gigs in Manchester and the North. From otherworldly folk to life-affirming soul, here are our top picks for October onwards.

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Theatre

As the new theatre season gets ready to launch, we champion some of the star performances happening over the next few months.

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 as we head into autumn.

Tours and Activities

Every season change is an excuse to try something new, and when it comes to tours and activities, autumn delivers!