Music in Manchester and the North

Chris Horkan, Music Editor

We’re now deep into summer festival season – so why not check out our dedicated Summer festivals guide, featuring staples like Kendal Calling and Head for the Hills, as well as new leading lights from the festival landscape such as bluedot and The Good Life Experience. Back in the city, however, the RNCM, Stoller Hall, Royal Exchange and Bridgewater Hall continue to host concerts of the highest quality throughout the year.

Here are our picks

  • 1. bluedot 2018 at Jodrell Bank

    Lovell telescope in cloudy sky

    bluedot festival 2018 at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, 20–22 July 2018, from £159 - Book now

    Entering its third year in 2018, bluedot is a festival of discovery located in the shadow of the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics; the iconic space observatory and the heart of our quest for knowledge. Featuring the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre, Brian Eno, Pixies and Orbital in its first two years, as well as science experiments, talks and immersive artwork, we’re anticipating big things from bluedot 2018.

  • 2. Manchester Jazz Festival: Winstone/Gesing/Venier at the RNCM Concert Hall


    Manchester Jazz Festival: Winstone/Gesing/Venier at Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester, 27 July 2018, from £18 - Book now

    Jazz vocalist Norma Winstone visits the RNCM as part of Manchester Jazz Festival this July. To mark the recent release of Descansado – Songs For Films, she will perform personal interpretations of soundtrack music by the likes of Michel Legrand and Ennio Morricone, backed by her trio’s pianist and reed player.

  • 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. 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.

  • 6. 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.

  • 7. 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.

  • 8. 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.

  • 9. 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.

  • 10. 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.

  • 11. 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.

  • 12. 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.

  • 13. 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.

  • 14. 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

Music 24 April–27 July 2018, from £12

RNCM Summer Season 2018

Featuring classical, sacred and jazz music, as well as poetry, theatre and dance, the RNCM’s Summer Season looks set to both inspire and surprise. Read our picks for the months ahead.

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 19–22 July 2018, from £30

Family Encounters at bluedot 2018

Don’t hang about – book now to adventure, experiment and enjoy the best new outdoor arts and music together for a family festival like no other.

Music 20 July 2018, from £10.00

Tankus The Henge at Waterside Arts

Combining wild showmanship and musical dexterity, Tankus the Henge, incorporate the sounds of rock, funk, blues, ska, roots and gypsy rhythms.

Families 21 July 2018, FREE

African Summer: Rumba at The Sacred Trinity

Cuban & Congolese culture meets at a welcoming day of live music and performance for all.

Music 21 July 2018, from £10.00

Minute Taker at Waterside Arts

Minute Taker creates haunting piano songs with multilayered ethereal vocals, distorted electronic beats and otherworldly synthscapes.

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.

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.

Culture Guides

Exhibitions in Manchester and the North


It barely needs stating; absolute top of our list of exhibition highlights this summer has to be Liverpool Biennial 2018, which opens on 14 July. But that’s by no means all there is to look forward to.



Who says summer is a quiet time for theatre? We’ve got open-air performances, free interactive family events, a ten-day summer festival and much more in our theatre guide.


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

Just So fish festivalgoer courtesy Teneigh


The best outdoor and indoor adventures to keep us all busy. Journeys of the Imagination at Quarry Bank, festival fever at bluedot and Just So and astonishing circus capers with Contact in the City.

Helen Mort. Photo by Jonathan Pow


Despite the traditional summer break of many of our favourite nights, there’s still plenty of poetry and prose to catch, from indie publisher fairs and national magazine launches to a brand-new series of relaxed lectures and an exhibition dedicated to banned books. And if you don’t like sitting still for too long, there’s even a literature trail or two to check out…