10 reasons Manchester is having a moment as the UK’s new cultural capital
“The age of ruins is past. Have you seen Manchester? Manchester is as great a human exploit as Athens.” Benjamin Disraeli
Second city, new cultural capital, ultra-modern to neo-gothic, Manchester is having a moment, and has a huge architectural diversity and a whole host of spaces to cater to all your moments, tastes and events.
1 - HOME. Manchester’s new £25m art complex is a merger of the popular Cornerhouse cinema/art gallery and the Library theatre and the biggest of its kind outside London – essentially Barbican or Southbank Manchester. Including a 500 seat main theatre, 500 sq mart gallery, five cinema screens, café and restaurant Home hosts 4 of its own productions each year, alongside 2 co-productions and visiting shows. A must visit for arts lovers seeking dramatic and deeply engaging content
2 - Festivals. Big and small, from beer to films to the World Black Pudding Throwing Championships, Mancunians love to celebrate. The Manchester International Festival (MIF) is a real highlight, the world’s first festival of original new works from across arts and popular culture. World premieres last time out included The xx, Damon Albarn and Bjork, and the New Yorker called it “probably the most radical and important arts festival today”. 2017 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival (Sept/Oct), the biggest urban food event in the North.
3 - Football. Two of the biggest football clubs in the world, two of the world’s most glamorous football managers, the world’s most expensive player and the Premier League’s biggest ground – Manchester is, without doubt, one of the most passionate football cities in the world. There’s plenty of lower league games within half an hour’s drive of the city centre too including Bolton, Wigan and Oldham who have all graced the Premier League.
4 - WHITWORTH ART GALLERY. Winner of Visit England's gold prize for Large Visitor Attraction of the Year 2016, the Whitworth was recently transformed by a £15m re-boot that doubled its size and created urban sanctuary The Art Garden. With 55,000 items in its collection and a beautiful park setting, the Whitworth is a Manchester arts scene highlight.
5 - Music. Buzzcocks. Joy Division. The Smiths. New Order. Happy Mondays. Stone Roses. The Fall. Oasis. Elbow. The 1975. Hurts. Not to forget Simply Red, most of Take That, M People, and the Chemical Brothers, Manchester artists have produced some truly epoch-defining records. Catch the city’s latest bands in The Deaf Institute, Ruby Lounge, the veteran Night and Day Café on Oldham Street or Whitworth St’s Rebellion, and hang out with the movers and shakers on the music scene at Soup Kitchen, the glorious Hidden and the more experimental Islington Mill.
6 - Food. The last time a Manchester city center restaurant was Michelin starred was 1974, and the 2017 Guide once again snubbed the city’s restaurants, but to more surprise than any time in the last 43 years. Simon Rogan’s The French in the Midland Hotel and Aiden Byrne’s Manchester House are surely on the brink of a star, and 2017 sees a slew of hot openings on the food and drink scene including the Gary Neville backed Mahiki, The Ivy Café (first outside London) and more intriguingly the crowd funded Real Junk Food Project, the city’s first food waste restaurant coming to Ancoats full time after its pop up success in the iconic Victoria Baths.
7 - FACTORY ARTS CENTRE. The £11m arts venue, to be built on the site of the former Granada TV studios and named in homage to Factory Records, will be designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, and initial plans suggest a futuristic design to rival the Guggenheim New York. It’s expected to open in 2019 and attract upwards of 1m visitors a year.
8 - Books. Cheetham’s Library is a must visit, the oldest free public reference library in English speaking world in continuous use since 1653. This is where Marx and Engels got together to write about the working class and you can see Karl Marx’s desk, access more than 100,000 volumes of books and see the library’s huge fine arts collection. Famous Mancunian writers include current Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and punk poet John Cooper Clarke. Manchester Central Library re-opened a couple of years ago after extensive renovations that breathed new life into the imposing columned portico building, loosely based on Rome’s Pantheon.
9 - Theatre. From the mainstream Palace and The Royal Exchange, to quirky independent venues like 3MT in the Northern Quarter and Hope Mill Theatre, home to 120 artists in an Ancoats warehouse, the Manchester theatre scene is thriving.
10 - Hotels. There are over 6,500 hotel rooms in the city centre and more to come as everyone from Zetter Group (their first opening outside London in the Grade 2 listed London Road Fire Station) to Travelodge, (hunting 7 new locations) look to add capacity. The Lowry is still the place to be seen (and temporary home of Jose Mourinho), but the art deco Hotel Gotham is arguably the coolest 5 star, part Gatsby, part Grand Budapest and a favourite of the local A-List.
Manchester recommendations lovingly handcrafted by @placeguru