Music in Manchester and the North

Johnny James, Music Editor

This month’s music guide takes a look ahead at an incredible autumn line-up.

We’re in the midst of a great era for UK jazz. With a new wave of genre-melding artists breathing new vitality into the scene, labels like Manchester’s Gondwana Records are in full bloom. It’s the perfect time, then, to catch three of Gondwana’s most exciting artists play live in Manchester this November.

Acoustic electronica trio Gogo Penguin will be playing a special homecoming gig at Albert Hall, whilst jazz-meets-minimalism trio Mammal Hands (supported by STUFF.) will be captivating an RNCM audience.

Over in Newcastle, meanwhile, something out of the ordinary is happening. As part of the Great Exhibition of the North, Manchester’s Brighter Sound are putting together an event series wherein music, art and science collide. Featuring the likes of Anna Meredith, Nadine Shah and Stealing Sheep, it’s set to be a knockout.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Glitterbox Official Afterparty For Manchester Pride


    Glitterbox Official Afterparty for Manchester Pride at Albert Hall, City Centre, 25–26 August 2018, from £27.50 - Book now

    Add some extra glitter to your Manchester Pride celebrations with Glitterbox, Pride’s official Saturday night afterparty at Albert Hall. Life’s stresses can be left at the door at this bank holiday blow-out to end all blow-outs.

  • 2. The Hexagon Experiment

    The Hexagon Experiment
    Image courtesy of Brighter Sound

    The Hexagon Experiment at Sage Gateshead, Newcastle, 3 August–6 September 2018, free entry - Visit now

    We preview Brighter Sound’s addition to the Great Exhibition of North, The Hexagon Experiment is a series of innovative events wherein music, art and science collide.

  • 3. Festival No.6 2018 at Portmeirion

    Festival No.6 2018 at Portmeirion, 6–9 September 2018, from £120 - Book now

    Welcome to a festival like no other, in the most stunning festival setting in the world. The picturesque Italiante village of Portmeirion is Festival No.6’s home, and was the original inspiration behind its desire to create a completely new type of festival. 2018’s line-up already features Franz Ferdinand, Friendly Fires, Everything Everything, Anna Calvi and Django Django – with plenty more still to be announced.

  • 4. Head for the Hills 2018

    Head for the Hills

    Head for the Hills 2018 at Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Manchester, 14–16 September 2018, from £10.00 - Book now

    Formerly Ramsbottom Festival, the award-winning Head for the Hills returns for its eighth outing this September, with a musical line-up including The Bluetones, The Futureheads’ Barry Hyde, The Lovely Eggs, Stealing Sheep and plenty more – as well as exciting arts, theatre and activities programmes.

  • 5. Respighi | Walton | Sibelius at The Bridgewater Hall

    Respighi/Walton/Sibelius at The Bridgewater Hall, City Centre, 22 September 2018, from £12.5 - Book now

    The BBC Philharmonic opens its new season with a real Italian job, featuring two works influenced by and written in Italy: William Walton’s rhapsodic Cello Concerto, inspired by the postcard-perfect island of Ischia, and Sibelius’s magnificent Second Symphony. To open, Respighi’s cherished tribute to the Eternal City.

  • 6. The Good Life Experience 2018 at Hawarden Estate

    The Good Life Experience
    Vic Phillips

    The Good Life Experience at Hawarden Estate, 14–16 September 2018, from £119 - Book now

    Co-founded by Cerys Matthews, The Good Life Experience returns for its fifth outing, in the shadows of two castles on the Hawarden Estate in Flintshire. The festival features music from the likes of Gwenno, Bill Ryder-Jones and Norman Jay, as well as campfire cooking, spoken word, a 1930s fairground and dozens of activities for all ages.

  • 7. The Stoller Hall Autumn/Winter season

    Image courtesy of Chetham's

    The Stoller Hall Autumn/Winter season, 6 July 2018–31 December 2019, from £6 - Book now

    Manchester’s newest concert hall continues to push boundaries with its upcoming Autumn/Winter season – from a brand new audiovisual work to celebrate 100 years of votes for women to a one-off staging of a dark adaptation of A Christmas Carol, via a visit by the world-renowned Gould Trio and a year-long series celebrating outstanding pianists who studied at Chetham’s.

  • 8. José González performing with The String Theory at Albert Hall

    José González by Malin Johansson

    José González performing with The String Theory at Albert Hall, City Centre, 22 September 2018, from £30 - Book now

    Swedish singer and guitarist José González partners up with artist collective and string ensemble The String Theory for a 17-date European tour. Catch the pairing live at Albert Hall in September – one of only four UK dates.

  • 9. Ólafur Arnalds at Albert Hall

    Ólafur Arnalds by Benjamin Hardman

    Ólafur Arnalds at Albert Hall, City Centre, 30 September 2018, from £28.50 - Book now

    BAFTA-winning artist Ólafur Arnalds performs at Albert Hall as part of his first worldwide tour in three years. The Icelandic composer and musician will have a string quartet and percussionist in town, plus his own assortment of pianos and synthesisers, as well as two ‘self-playing’ pianos.

  • 10. Wildest Dreams Festival at the Brudenell Social Club

    Shadowlark by Jordan Murphy

    Wildest Dreams Festival at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 6 October 2018, from £15 - Book now

    This all-day festival presents some of the best up and coming artists from Leeds and further afield, including Sweden, in the name of a good cause – with half of its proceeds going to Children of Prisoners Europe.

  • 11. Jane Weaver: Loops in the Secret Society at the Royal Exchange

    Courtesy of Band on the Wall

    Jane Weaver: Loops in the Secret Society at Royal Exchange Theatre, City Centre, 21 October 2018, from £20 - Book now

    This first solo outing in five years by Manchester-based experimental pop musician Jane Weaver promises a uniquely atmospheric audiovisual take on the music from her two highly acclaimed recent albums, The Silver Globe and Modern Kosmology, in one of the city’s most unusual venues.

  • 12. In Good Company at Grand Central Hall

    In Good Company at Grand Central Hall, City Centre, 26 October 2018, from £20 - Book now

    Featuring American musicians Phosphorescent and BC Camplight, In Good Company is a new event taking place at Liverpool’s Grand Central Hall. With both acts joined by their bands – and more artists still to be announced – this promises to be an unusual and exciting use of this special venue.

  • 13. Mac DeMarco at Victoria Warehouse

    Mac DeMarco

    Mac DeMarco at Victoria Warehouse, Manchester, 30 October 2018, from £27.50 - Book now

    To celebrate Manchester promoter Now Wave’s 10th anniversary, Canadian singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Mac DeMarco plays Trafford Park’s huge Victoria Warehouse. The full line-up is to be announced.

  • 14. The Ligeti Quartet: Reich and Crumb at The Leadmill

    Mike Massaro

    The Ligeti Quartet: Reich and Crumb at The Leadmill, City Centre, 31 October 2018, from £5 - Book now

    Modern and contemporary music specialist The Ligeti Quartet presents a one-off concert in Sheffield, featuring two of the 20th Century’s masterpieces: Steve Reich’s Grammy Award-winning Different Trains and George Crumb’s iconic Black Angels. With a diverse programme of works by John Adams, John Zorn and Tanya Tagaq completing the programme, this looks set to be an exciting and unique evening at The Leadmill.

  • 15. Manchester International Festival and The Warehouse Project present ‘Special Edition’ at Mayfield Depot

    Image courtesy of Manchester International Festival

    Manchester International Festival and The Warehouse Project present 'Special Edition' at Mayfield Depot, Manchester, 3–11 November 2018, from £22 - Book now

    Featuring five performances in the atmospheric Mayfield Depot, ‘Special Edition’ boasts Swedish experimental pop artist Fever Ray, Bonobo (and friends), Manchester grime artist Bugzy Malone and Northern Irish electronic duo Bicep. Presented by Manchester International Festival and The Warehouse Project, the series is overseen by BBC 6 Music DJ Mary Anne Hobbs, with lighting design by Stuart Bailes.

  • 16. Mammal Hands at Royal Northern College of Music

    Royal Northern College of Music

    Mammal Hands at Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester, 8 November 2018, from £16 - Book now

    Combining jazz, electronica, classical, north Indian, folk and ambient styles, Mammal Hands make achingly powerful music whose ebbs and flows take you on a deeply immersive and cathartic journey.

  • 17. GoGo Penguin at The Albert Hall

    GoGo Penguin by Emily Dennison

    GoGo Penguin, 17 November 2018, from £18.5 - Book now

    Taking a victory lap after the release of their critically acclaimed album A Humdrum Star, Manchester’s own jazz-but-not-jazz trio stop off at Albert Hall to revel in some well-earned hometown glory.

  • 18. James Holden & The Animal Spirits at the Royal Exchange

    Courtesy of Band on the Wall

    James Holden & The Animal Spirits at Royal Exchange Theatre, City Centre, 9 December 2018, from £20 - Book now

    For his third and latest album, electronic musician and DJ James Holden has recruited a band – The Animal Spirits – to supplement his custom-made modular synths with brass, woodwind and percussion. Experience the record live and in-the-round at the Royal Exchange theatre.

More in Music

Phil Collins: Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong at HOME, Manchester
Cinema 7 July–16 September 2018, FREE

Phil Collins: Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong at HOME

‘Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong’ at HOME brings together three politically charged works by the Turner-Prize nominated artist Phil Collins who returned Engels to Manchester in 2017.

Families 17–19 August 2018, from £20

Just So Festival 2018 at Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire

Read our new guide to the best family festival in the UK. Custard catwalks, midnight feasts, pillow fights and the best new outdoor arts for families.

Families 17–19 August 2018, from £20

Footlights music line up at Just So Festival

We can’t wait to dance like wild things to over 20 brilliant bands and artists including Honeyfeet. Not to mention dance workshops with the choreographer from Strictly and 80s Anthems Yoga … bring on the footstomping.

Adventures in Flatland at the Great North Museum
Music 17 August 2018, FREE

Adventures in Flatland at the Great North Museum

Musician/composer Sara Lowes and visual artist Mary Griffiths showcase their graphene-inspired works, whilst Lauren Laverne quizzes the pair on their experiments in music, art and science.

Music 24 August 2018, FREE

Making Waves at Sage Gateshead

Four inspiring musical innovators carve out a future-leaning audio adventure, before a discussion with Mercury Prize-nominated Nadine Shah.

Cinema 30 August 2018, from £10

The Man From Mo’Wax Premiere At Odeon Great Northern

The Man From Mo’Wax Manchester Premiere, featuring a Pitchblack Playback of an exclusive mix from UNKLE’s forthcoming new album, plus a never-before-seen interview with James Lavelle.

Music 31 August 2018, FREE

Wow Machine at Boiler Shop

Charmingly mischievous art-pop trio Stealing Sheep pull out all the stops in a theatrical-musical-dance-art spectacular that pays tribute to the electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire.

Vintage by the Sea courtesy Emma Sudall
Families 1–2 September 2018, FREE

Vintage by the Sea in Morecambe

Celebrate the brilliance of 20th century design, fashion, vehicles and entertainment at this award-winning festival set around Morecambe’s famous art deco Midland Hotel.

Music 7 September 2018, FREE

Works in Progress at Cobalt Studios

Ludicrously creative, boundary-smashing composer, producer and performer Anna Meredith unveils a brand new work, before scientists from the National Graphene Institute let slip their latest revelations.

Culture Guides

Julian Opie, Julian (2013). Part of Heads Roll at Graves Gallery, Sheffield


A remarkable journey to unpick the secret behind one of the world’s most popular and enduring art genres, a fresh look at the idea of First World War remembrance, and a city-wide takeover in honour of the Royal Academy’s 250th birthday; check out our latest pick of exhibition highlights and must-go events.

Figs in Wigs: Often Onstage at HOME


Everything has been a little sedate in Theatreland over the summer…but now it’s time to yawn and stretch and get ready for the eclectic new season. Make a brew and check out our packed guide to performance in the North.


Pop-up cinemas, outdoor screenings and essential retrospectives — we’ve got it all this summer.

Just So Festivalgoers courtesy Teneight


Wild Worlds, Lost Castles, Journeys of the Imagination, ALL the best festivals. We’ve got this folks.

Writer Nicholas Royle. Photo by Danny Moran.


We have our sights on the top-notch prose on the horizon, poetry is popping up all over the place from bars to galleries, and Manchester Literature Festival is making announcements. Hurry – events have been selling out!

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