Cross over the River Irwell, and you’ll find yourself in another city entirely – Salford. You’ll barely feel the transition, though; despite locals who are fierce about the fact that Salford is a city in its own right, it’s only separated from Manchester by the width of the river, distance-wise. Which is not to say that you won’t see differences between the two.
Gritty urban realism has been this city’s stock in trade since L.S. Lowry painted his very first matchstick man. Some will have read about it in Love on the Dole. Some will have seen it depicted in kitchen sink dramas or Corrie. And others will forever associate the city with John Cooper Clarke rasping his way through Evidently Chickentown, or the dystopian anthems of Joy Division.
Now, however, Salford has an up-and-coming feel; the Chapel Street area of the city, the focus of an ongoing regeneration project, is home to a creative community including Hot Bed Press and over 100 artists and 50 innovative businesses at Islington Mill. If you’re visiting around May, look out for the highlight of Salford’s strong music scene, Sounds from the Other City festival, which brings an incendiary mix of live bands, literary readings and art hi-jinks to an eclectic selection of venues.
The Council-run Salford Museum and Art Gallery is a friendly city museum with special appeal to families, and the nearby Working Class Movement Library provides a fascinating look at the past. The personal collection of labour historians Ruth and Edmund Frow, it’s a veritable treasure trove of material dating back to the 1760s. Ordsall Hall, the city’s beautifully restored (and supposedly haunted) Tudor mansion, also has a busy programme of events and activities all year round, including events as part of horror film festival Grimmfest.
Salford inspires fierce loyalty among its inhabitants. Spend any significant period of time here, and you may begin to understand why.
Working Class Movement Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 4WX - Visit now
The Working Class Movement Library is a singular establishment, a Tardis of loosely left-leaning histories. It somehow encompasses not only 30,000 books and over 200,000 pamphlets, but also an array of sometimes unexpected memorabilia and a fascinating history of its own.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Salford, Greater Manchester, M50 3AZ - Visit now
With two theatres, galleries and a studio space, The Lowry combines the performing and visual arts to impressive effect and is loved for both its famous LS Lowry Collection and the dizzying array of productions it hosts year on year.
RHS Garden Bridgewater, Occupation Road (Off Leigh Road), Worsley, Salford, Greater Manchester, M28 2GU - Visit now
If you’re looking for an outdoorsy family day out, Salford might not immediately spring to mind, but after four years of digging, building and planting, the spectacular 154-acre RHS Bridgewater Garden in Salford beckons outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
Imperial War Museum North (IWM North), Imperial War Museum North, The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M17 1TZ - Visit now
Designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind to represent a globe shattered by conflict, the sharply jutting structure of IWM North boldly punctuates the Salford Quays waterfront, and houses a dynamic programme of temporary exhibitions, contemporary art and one-off events that explore the many ways in which conflict shapes society.
Four Sis4ers Gin Distillery, Unit 39 Waybridge Enterprise Centre, Daniel Adamson Rd, Salford , M50 1DS - Visit now
11 siblings: four sisters, seven brothers, the former into spirit distilling, the latter into beer-brewing. Together make the largest family of direct siblings in the global alcohol industry. As for the distillery, it’s a great spot for a tasting experience, where you’ll hear all about gin plus the intriguing story of the four sisters.
The Empty Space at Footlights House, 48 Kansas Avenue, Media City, Salford, M50 2GL - Visit now
The Empty Space is an intimate black box theatre space. Situated close to the MediaCityUK studios, with free parking and good transport links, the theatre hosts plays, comedy, musicals, performance poetry, recitals and showcases. An ideal venue to present creative work of all kinds and a party or event space.
Ordsall Hall, 322 Ordsall Lane, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 3AN - Visit now
Ordsall Hall is Salford’s beautifully preserved (and supposedly haunted) Tudor mansion and museum. This lavish building is packed with beauty and an incredibly interesting history, an ideal visit for the history fanatic where the brave can also stay overnight.
Embankment Kitchen Restaurant & Bar, 16 Chapel St, Salford, M3 7NH - Visit now
Adorned with fairy lights, luxurious blankets and outdoor heaters, Embankment is the perfect spot to cosy up and indulge in a fabulous array of food and beverages. It is an excellent restaurant that manages to be high end and also welcoming to all. Their brand new summer menu has both vegan and non-vegan options and they’re both reliably high in quality.
The Storm Cone, Peel Park, Peel Park, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 4NJ - Visit now
Okay, a curve ball to finish. The Storm Cone is a digital artwork and soundscape by artist Laura Daly and composer Lucy Pankhurst, which simulates lost park bandstands and explores their forgotten histories. You experience The Storm Cone through a free app using headphones, augmented reality revealing the spectral architecture of the bandstand as you listen to the music.
The Lowry unveils ‘The Ambassadors’, a new commission from artist Hew Locke which ponders the symbols of authority through opulent sculptures.
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