At long last, Manchester’s art scene – by which we mean art galleries, theatres, event spaces and more – is reopening in summer 2021, after a year of tough lockdown measures. It goes without saying that the past year has been an incredibly challenging time for arts venues and cultural spaces in Manchester and the North. Thankfully, due to a world-class vaccination rollout lockdown is now easing and we have a roadmap back to normality.
As regular readers will know, Creative Tourist has been keeping a close watch on the situation throughout 2020 and early 2021, being quick to announce to our culturally conscious readers when venues are reopening and when situations are changing, for better or worse.
We’re delighted to say that, barring some unprecedented misfortune, Manchester’s cultural spaces are gearing up to bounce back in 2021 with a series of captivating new exhibitions and other great developments that can only rubber-stamp the city’s status as one of the North’s leading cultural hubs. This has been due in no small part to the generous grants given out by the Arts Council, which Creative Tourist was also lucky to receive.
To acknowledge the invaluable help given to these vital organisations, and celebrate the return of Manchester’s cultural landscape, we have spoken directly with many of the key institutions in the city, ranging from small community theatres to grand art galleries with a worldwide reputation. We’ve looked at the most important things to be aware of as we leave lockdown, such as the specific reopening dates, increased safety measures, new exhibitions and events, and everything else you could possibly want to know about re-engaging with the regional arts scene.
If you’re looking for the most accurate and culturally connected guide to the reopening of Manchester’s arts scene, look no further. Learn about the exciting new exhibitions announced by esteemed spaces such as The Whitworth, Manchester Art Gallery and the Museum of Science and Industry, as well as the cutting-edge plans in place by smaller but nimble venues such as Z-Arts, Chinese Centre for Contemporary Art and the People’s History Museum. And we’ll also look at the plans of roaming events, such as the world-famous Manchester International Festival and the city’s unmissable orchestra, Camerata.
Here are our picks
Science and Industry Museum, Liverpool Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 4FP - Visit now
The much-loved Science and Industry Museum returns on the 19th of May with an exciting new programme of events and exhibitions to take us through summer 2021 and beyond. Of particular note is Use Hearing Protection: The Early Years of Factory Records, an exhibition launching on 19th June that will undoubtedly prove wildly popular. Many areas of this vast site will be reopening, with enhanced cleaning and safety measures, but a few key sections of the venue will remain closed due to the ongoing multi-million-pound restoration project.
Hope Mill Theatre, Hope Mill, 113 Pollard Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 7JA - Visit now
The Grade II-listed Hope Mill has been a standout success story for Manchester’s independent theatre scene, with a longstanding policy of relying solely on tickets sales and bar income to keep this important venue running and bringing vital productions to the New Islington and Ancoats area. The venue reopens on 25th May with its first event, Meet Me At Dawn, a play from multi-award-winning writer Zinnie Harris. A wealth of safety measures have been implemented, including a one-way system, temperature checks on arrival and mandatory mask-wearing.
Manchester Museum, The University Of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M13 9PL - Visit now
The wonderful Manchester Museum is reopening and happily, all the Natural History galleries are open and free to visit, including the legendary Stan the T Rex and the Vivarium. However, there will be some changes, meaning the Archaeology and Ancient Worlds galleries, including Ancient Egypt, are going to remain closed until 2022 while the £13.5m transformation takes place.
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 3JL - Visit now
The awe-inspiring Grade I-listed Manchester Art Gallery is one of the city’s premier-league galleries and we’re delighted to announce it’s now ready to welcome visitors back once again, albeit with a few small changes. The acclaimed café will be closed for the time being but the shop is back open, and measures including a one-way system, increased cleaning procedures and mask-wearing at all times inside the venue are a small price to pay to be able to experience this beautiful venue and its exhibitions once more.
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 6ER - Visit now
The Whitworth, one of Manchester’s leading art galleries is opening back with a slightly more limited offering through summer 2021, including some easy-to-follow new instructions, such as reduced numbers and shorter opening hours. Thankfully, the open, airy layout of The Whitworth means all exhibition spaces, bar the back galleries, will be open, meaning art-lovers can look forward to a rich and endlessly fascinating summer.
National Football Museum, Urbis Building, Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 3BG - Visit now
One of the UK’s top football-related attractions, the National Football Museum is eagerly awaiting reopening for summer. Happily, bar a few small changes most of the venue will be up and running, although just from Thursday to Sunday at first, with a small number of interactive exhibitions offline. You can look forward to a risk-free trip thanks to enhanced cleaning procedures, limits on the number of people allowed in groups and clear signage to keep people on track.
Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Market buildings, Thomas Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1EU - Visit now
The UK’s leading organisation for the promotion of contemporary Chinese art, this Northern Quarter space is making its long-awaited return in summer 2021. The actual gallery spaces won’t be open until later in the year, due to the size of the space, but the venue itself will be open to the public (small groups only, initially) and the ever-popular on-site shop will be open for business and now employing contactless payment. Other key safety measures will be present throughout the building, such as improved signage, hand sanitisers and enhanced cleaning measures.
Manchester International Festival has become a vital institution in Manchester in recent years, bringing world-class art and artists to the city and showcasing the city as global hub of forward-thinking culture. After an enforced year out in 2020, they’re finalising their plans for the year ahead and the full programme is set to be announced on the 28th of April.
HOME Manchester, 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 4FN - Visit now
HOME Manchester is one of the city’s crown jewels when it comes to culture and they haven’t disappointed when it comes to their plans for reopening. The biggest announcement is of a huge new temporary outdoor venue, set to launch in May to provide a summer destination for people looking for low-risk enjoyment throughout summer as lockdown eases. This space will be based on First Street, just next to HOME, and will cater for lovers of theatre, food, drink, shows, music, cabaret, and comedy. We’re still awaiting details about the other elements – which includes two theatres, five cinema screens, a large gallery, bar, cafe bar and bookshop – and expect to have them updated very soon.
Contact Theatre, Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 6JA - Visit now
Contact Theatre has always been the place for emerging theatre, dance, spoken word, hip hop and digital performance mash-ups, and we’re looking forward to this vital space reopening. We understand the plan is to reopen the venue in September, but we’re delighted to announce that the online festival Queer Contact 2021 is running from 28th April to the 1st May.
Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), 124 Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M13 9RD - Visit now
The wonderful Royal Northern College of Music is focusing on getting its students settled back in, while also providing enough space to keep things as safe from Covid as possible. This means reopening for events is very much at the planning stage. However, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation and as soon as we hear about any developments.
People’s History Museum in Manchester, Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3ER - Visit now
The People’s History Museum (PHM), the home of ‘ideas worth fighting for’ is reopening in May with a few small changes to usual proceedings following a period of closure during the Covid-19 lockdown. It’s is the only museum in the UK dedicated to the history of British democracy and while the cafe remains closed for the time being much of the rest of the museum is open for business.
Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 5PD - Visit now
Manchester Central Library largely reopened on the 12th April 2021, with 60 seats in the Reading Room available, on a first-come-first-served basis. There are a few restrictions in place, such as customers can browse for an hour all the key collections, but overall numbers are limited to 250 people at any one time. However, aside from the third and fourth floors the entire building is open for visitors to take advantage of everything this stunning venue has to offer.
The Stoller Hall, Hunts Bank, Manchester, M3 1DA - Visit now
Monday 7th June sees The Stoller Hall reopen to the public, with the Soweto Kinch lunchtime concert, which launches the venue’s new NQ Jazz series. At first, audiences will be reduced in capacity and socially distanced, to ensure everyone’s safety. As a newly built concert venue, the venue is lucky enough to have a state of the art air handling system which ensures air is not recirculated. There will be other safety measures implemented throughout the venue to ensure your visit is as safe as it is enjoyable.
Z-arts, 335 Stretford Road, Manchester, M15 5ZA - Visit now
Based in Hulme, Z-arts is Manchester’s dedicated venue for families. They spent late-2020 making countless improvements to the cleaning and safety situation to ensure any risk of catching coronavirus was greatly reduced. This included renovating the toilets, marking queuing spots on the ground, a new ‘keep left’ system (ideal as a way to keep things simple for children) and a whole host of other smart ideas to make your visit as risk-free as possible. From May onwards, opening hours will be reduced, but live participation classes for Bright Sparks members return from the 20th of April, while the reopening of the theatre and exhibition gallery pushed back to May/June. The café won’t be able to open until the next stage in the roadmap, which should hopefully be the end of May.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Salford, Manchester, M50 3AZ - Visit now
The Lowry has announced its roadmap out of lockdown with some exciting new exhibitions and events. The LS Lowry and Days Like These gallery exhibitions will run on Saturdays and Sundays from 22nd May until the 29th of August. Days Like These will be sharing the stories of Salford in 2020 using paintings, photographs, films and poetry contributed by locals. There will be a few changes to normal proceedings, including improved safety measures through the venues, but do be aware that the galleries will be only be opening at weekends for the time being. However, the theatre will be open in the evenings for shows as well.
Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 7DH - Visit now
One of Manchester’s most acclaimed theatre spaces, the Royal Exchange Theatre is all set to announce its roadmap out of lockdown. We’ll need to wait a few more weeks for the full details but we’re expected the first show to be in mid-June, providing all goes well with the current reduction in lockdown restrictions.
Palace Theatre, 97 Oxford Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 6FT - Visit now
The Palace Theatre has announced its post-lockdown plans and the good news is from August this year the venue will be reopening fully. This means we can expect the same peerless level of West End shows, along with some additional safety measures that should help make your evening out both risk-free and even a bit easier to navigate, with measures such as ‘click & collect’ food and beverage options.
Manchester Opera House, 3 Quay St, Manchester, M3 3HP - Visit now
Reopening on the 21st August, the revered Manchester Opera House is set to return to its acclaimed line-up of mainstream theatrical productions, occasional music gigs, opera and ballet. Inside the beautiful building, theatre-goers will the same great experience as before, with additional reassuring safety measures to ensure any Covid-19 risks are kept to an absolute minimum. Standing proud on Quay Street, Manchester Opera House will continue to attract the very best in entertainment and we’re delighted to have it back.
The Sound of Joy Division Orchestrated at O2 Apollo, Manchester, 17 September 2021, from £52.95
Curated by Peter Hook alongside Camerata’s musical director Tim Crooks, “The Sound Of Joy Division Orchestrated” sees over fifty artists, musicians and guest vocalists come together to revisit the post-punk elements that shaped Joy Division’s groundbreaking sound, alongside with a full orchestra to project and respect the spirit of this legendary Manchester group.