Creative Tourist

There are loads of things to do in March in Manchester and across the North.

In theatre, Back To The Future The Musical at Manchester Opera House continues to make audiences party like it’s 1985 (or should that be 1955?). Figs in Wigs bring a pleasing blend of fierce feminist performance art, dance and avant-garde humour to HOME with Little Wimmin, where you can also see cult cabaret duo Bourgeois and Maurice’s time-travelling comedy Insane Animals. Staged in a former cotton exchange, Rockets and Blue Lights is an award-winning play that confronts an ugly time in history head-on. Then finally RNCM Opera presents a daring adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, by composer Jonathan Dove and librettist Alasdair Middleton.

In Halifax, Alice Irwin’s giant sculptures at The Piece Hall embody a spirit of play, early innocence and imagination. Yet, People Play also has a more serious side. Gallery Oldham presents a nationally touring exhibition of photographs by Yorkshire-born Syd Shelton, capturing the legendary Rock Against Racism movement. Welsh artist Phoebe Davies presents a new body of work at Sheffield’s Site Gallery inspired by her time spent with a group of teenage female wrestlers. The High Dam at The Tetley in Leeds is the latest new work by upcoming artist Emii Alrai. Towards the end of March, Suzanne Lacy: We Are Here opens at Manchester Art Gallery and marks the only UK stop of a major touring retrospective dedicated to the American feminist artist.

Picturehouse at FACT’s cult strand goes back to the 80s with a mini-season of films by cult auteur, David Lynch. In a similar vein, Grimmfest presents a celebration of David Cronenberg at Stockport Plaza — think you can handle a day-long session? Head to Sheffield’s Reel Steel Cult Weekender Film Festival for three days of action, justice-dealing cyborgs and Studio Ghibli — including rare 35mm screenings.

It’s a great month for classical music with stand-out concerts from BBC Philharmonic who begin March with Beethoven – Mass in C Major, bridging church and concert hall better than almost any other work. The Halle take us Beyond the Score with a breathtaking multimedia experience of Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony. Elsewhere, virtuoso pianist Benjamin Powell joins the Northern Chamber Orchestra for an exciting programme of Shostakovich, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Handel.

Gig-wise, Manchester-based Julia Bardo is making a big splash with her 1960’s-leaning pop. With rumbles of a breakthrough year ahead, don’t miss the chance to catch her in a venue as intimate as YES. The last decade has seen a new crop of ambient artists come to the fore. One of the most experimentally-minded of these is Steve Hauschildt, who plays The Yard.

Following the success of 16 sell-out seasons of the popular Carol Ann Duffy & Friends evening, the former Poet Laureate is back to introduce a new crop of student writers, plus guest poets Andrew McMillan and Ella Duffy, and a bit of live music to boot.

Finally, Aerial, a new festival of contemporary music, literature and performance takes place in and around the Lake District town of Ambleside.

Why not use the improving weather to take a trip into Manchester and the North for the best things to do in March, ranging from acclaimed music performances to stunning exhibitions and you can find some great places to eat and drink too.

Things to do in March

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Liverpool Biennial 2020
Exhibitions 20 March–6 June 2021, FREE

Liverpool Biennial 2021 – The Stomach and the Port

Liverpool Biennial has been rescheduled for 2021 – better late than never we say! We cannot wait to see what they have planned.

Still showing this month

Trading Station: how hot drinks shape our lives – exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
Exhibitions Until 14 December 2021, FREE

Trading Station: how hot drinks shape our lives at Manchester Art Gallery

Trading Station at Manchester Art Gallery charts the history and changing social role of hot drinks in our lives.

Literature Until 5 February 2025, FREE

The Little Library in Spinningfields

Take your pick from The Little Library’s carefully curated collection of classics and new releases, adding a recently read book of your own as a replacement.

Cinema Until 31 March 2021, from £9.99

Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Streaming on Mubi

Brittany, France 1770. Portrait painter Marianne (Merlant) is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Haenel), a reluctant bride to be who has just left the convent.

Dogs Don't Wear Pants at HOME Manchester.
Cinema Until 20 March 2021, from £9.99

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants – Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema

Heart surgeon Juha has lived life at an unengaged distance since his wife’s passing. And although it is often debilitating, his grief also throws up some rather surprising sexual urges.

System Crasher at HOME, Manchester - director Nora Fingscheidt's distinctive depiction of dysfunction in an under-resourced care system.
Cinema Until 2 April 2021, from £9.99

System Crasher – Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema

Controversial from the moment it premiered in Competition at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival, documentarian Nora Fingscheidt’s fiction feature debut portrays the life of a chaotic and troubled young girl.

Posters from the civil rights era – an online exhibition
Exhibitions Until 30 June 2021, FREE

Posters from the Irish civil rights era – Online with the Working Class Movement Library

Working Class Movement Library presents an online exhibition of powerful posters made by young activists fighting for civil rights in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

The Living Planet – Online at FACT, Liverpool
Exhibitions Until 31 March 2021, FREE

The Living Planet – Online at FACT, Liverpool

FACT’s year-long programme, The Living Planet, seems even more timely than first imagined – and has been created for people to interact with and enjoy remotely for free online.

What it is to be here: Colonisation and Resistance – Online at The Portico Library
Exhibitions Until 27 July 2021, FREE

What it is to be here: Colonisation and Resistance – Online at The Portico Library

The Portico Library marks 250 years since British explorer James Cook first landed on the shores of what we now call Australia with an online exhibition that explores the history of violence and resistance that followed.

Exhibitions Until 1 May 2021, FREE

The Gardener Digs in Another Time – Online at the Whitworth

the Whitworth in Manchester invites you to step into the garden as subject with an online version of its 2016 exhibition, The Gardener Digs in Another Time.

Hamilton - Streaming on Disney Plus
Theatre Until 15 October 2021, from £5.99

Hamilton – Streaming on Disney Plus

Politically charged with a hip-hop soundtrack, there is no doubt that this filmed performance is one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 2020.

Swallows and Amazons For Ever! at Windermere Jetty Museum
Exhibitions Until 18 April 2021,

Swallows and Amazons For Ever! at Windermere Jetty Museum

Celebrate the spirit of adventure, learn more about the Cumbrian landscape and uncover the inspiration behind Arthur Ransome’s classic tale.

What is Manchester Art Gallery?
Exhibitions Until 31 January 2023, FREE

What is Manchester Art Gallery? at Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery reopens with a thought-provoking new exhibition that delves into the history of the public institution and its role within the city.

User Not Found: A Video Podcast with HOME
Theatre Until 10 March 2021,

User Not Found: A Video Podcast with HOME

Exploring digital legacy and online identity, acclaimed theatre-makers Dante or Die are back with a video podcast version of their hugely successful show.

Don McCullin at Tate Liverpool
Exhibitions Until 9 May 2021, from £11

Don McCullin at Tate Liverpool

Tate Liverpool presents a major retrospective of work by Don McCullin, widely considered to be one of the greatest photojournalists of our time.

Vision & Reality: 100 Years of Contemporary Art in Wakefield at The Hepworth Wakefield
Exhibitions 20 November 2020–25 April 2021, FREE

Vision & Reality: 100 Years of Contemporary Art in Wakefield at The Hepworth Wakefield

Wakefield’s art collection was established in the 1920s to nurture a public understanding of contemporary art and its relation to modern life – a collecting principle still followed by The Hepworth Wakefield today.

This exhibition will demonstrate how the collection has been strategically developed over nearly 10 years since The Hepworth Wakefield opened.

Vision & Reality features works of art selected in order to address historic imbalances in the collection or to enrich narratives explored by artists in shifting contexts over the decades. A number of previously unseen new acquisitions will go on display for the first time, enabling new stories to be told and showing how contemporary narratives and ideas can cast new light on historical works of art.

The exhibition will also showcase major gifts to Wakefield’s collection, from the War Artists Advisory Committee works gifted in the 1940s, to the first public display of a very significant bequest of ceramics and paintings by Yorkshire collectors Terence Bacon and John Oldham in 2020.

This is a fascinating opportunity to see the ambition and depth embodied in Wakefield’s significant public art collection and how it continues to be a vital and growing resource.

This exhibition is kindly supported by The Hepworth Wakefield Collection Circle.

Aliza Nisenbaum at Tate Liverpool
Exhibitions 15 December 2020–27 June 2021, FREE

Aliza Nisenbaum at Tate Liverpool

International portrait artist Aliza Nisenbaum will present a new painting at Tate Liverpool this winter, depicting members of the city’s key workers.

Things to do right now

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Activity Until 27 September 2020, from £9

Skyliner: Alternative Tours of Manchester

Puffin Box
Music Until 27 September 2020, from £110

Puffin Box at Hilton House

gassing with the galdem
Activity Until 28 September 2020, FREE

Girl Gang: Gassing with the Galdem

Science Learning at Home with Jodrell Bank
Activity Until 30 September 2020, FREE

Science Learning at Home with Jodrell Bank

HOME Reopening Programme
Cinema Until 30 September 2020, from £5.5

HOME Reopening Film Programme

Visual Arts Until 30 September 2020, FREE

Manchester Art Gallery Highlights Tour

eat the archive
Activity Until 30 September 2020, FREE

Eat The Archive at Manchester Jewish Museum

MAD walkers
Activity Until 30 September 2020, £36.60 for annual membership

Manchester and District Walkers (MAD Walkers)

Activity Until 30 September 2020, from £20

Circus House: Circus Online

Cinema Until 30 September 2020, FREE

Above The Line – September at YES

Manchester Museum Online
Activity Until 30 September 2020, FREE

Manchester Museum Online