Top 30 Things To Do In Manchester In 2017

From MIF to Parklife and The Crystal Maze, here's Confidential's guide to this year's unmissable events

Written by  Vicky Smith | Follow @mcrconfidential | Monday, 26 December 2016 12:26


Come January, you'll no doubt be in need of the prospect of a holiday. Fortunately, one of the North’s leading travel events hits EventCity right on time: bringing together over 90 exhibitors spanning tourist boards to leading operators in pursuit of the perfect getaway. A programme of attractions running alongside includes travel photography masterclasses, food & travel stage with some of TV’s best-known travel personalities and a ‘meet the experts’ theatre for those all-important travel tips.

BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL | Manchester Central | 19-21 January

With most of the action clustered in October - Indy Man Beer Con, Didsbury, Oktoberfest - Manchester Beer & Cider Festival provides a unique opportunity to drown your January sorrows in a pint or few. They’ve brewed up another beery bonanza for 2017; promising ciders, perries and over 700 beers spread over twenty bars. From ‘traditional ales to cutting edge craft news’, there’s no lack of range either. 


YEAR OF THE ROOSTER | Citywide | 26-29 January

It’s out with the Monkey, in with the Rooster, as Chinese New Year celebrations strut into Manchester in January. While festivities are always a treat, we can anticipate one of the greatest spectacles yet for 2017 as 40 lantern warriors illuminate Exchange Square. Part of acclaimed exhibition Lanterns of the Terracotta Warriors, they are accurate replicas of the original 8000-strong army famously uncovered in 1984 from the tomb of China’s First Emperor. More info here

NEVER GOING UNDERGROUND | People’s History Museum | 25 February - 3 September

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts in England and Wales, a milestone which signified a gradual shift in attitudes towards LGBT+ rights in 1967. PHM’s visionary exhibition comes after almost two years of intensive research into the tumultuous tale of ‘pride and prejudice’, and will be accompanied by a full season of events. With the Alan Turing Law - which was to pardon 75,000 people criminally convicted of homosexuality - talked out of court in October, it’s never been more relevant.



After a successful debut in 2015, MANIFF 2016 kicked off quite literally with Dennis Violett - A United Man and ended with glory at the final whistle. In between was a champion’s league programme spanning international premieres to Oscar nominees and over 90 films: from drama to documentaries and animated shorts, it was a goal all round. While the line-up for #17 has yet to be revealed, we’re assured it’ll be more than a match for previous events. 

WONDER WOMEN | Citywide | 2-12 March

Coinciding with International Women’s Day on 8 March, Wonder Women celebrates our radical feminist history through art, music, film and debate. Whilst ‘feminist’ is often misconstrued, it simply means someone who believes in gender equality so there’s no reason - whether male or female - not to get involved. Other unmissable girl power events throughout the year include Lady Fest and Women in Comedy.


SICK! FESTIVAL | Contact | 8-25 March

With its unpropitious name and eclectic programme, you could be forgiven for thinking SICK! is niche. Obscure perhaps. But the topics it deals with are anything but: illness, gender, politics and society’s expectations are all covered with refreshing honesty, wit and originality. It’s something that won SICK! a prestigious EFFE accolade over 748 other festivals last year; recognising its pioneering blend of arts, health and well-being. 

HAPPY MONDAYS | Bowlers Exhibition Centre | Saturday 11 March

The Madchester mavericks are back in town with their signature blend of soul, acid house and psychedelia: expect all the Salfordian rockers’ hits, from Step On to Kinky Afro and Hallelujah. K-Klass will perform live as main support, alongside DJ sets from Hacienda icons such as Graeme Park, Allister Whitehead and Dave Haslam. If all that’s not enough to bowl over Bowlers, we don’t know what is.


NORTHERN RESTAURANT AND BAR | Manchester Central | 21-22 March

North England’s largest hospitality exhibition returns for another whopping events menu, catering to trade and public alike. NRB stalwarts like the Top Fifty Awards and NRB debate will be joined by 300 exhibitors, 65 live demos and Fringe favourites like Too Many Critics; which last year saw Gordo wielding a large knife and a skewer at Fazenda. All health and safety regulated, we promise... 

THE CRYSTAL MAZE | Old Granada Studios | From 1 April

No longer relegated to London, a new live experience of the nineties hit - hosted by Rocky Horror Show’s Richard O’Brien and latterly musician Ed Tudor-Pole - is coming to OGS. And, despite what sound like some pretty ambitious plans, we can assure you this is no April Fools’. Test your team mettle as you travel, guided by the ‘Maze Master,’ through four adventure time zones - Aztec, Industrial, Futuristic and Medieval - encountering challenges along the way. Each crystal gained will score you extra time in the final dome challenge.



‘The flattest, fastest and friendliest UK marathon’ sprints back into calendars next year, offering the ideal opportunity to get fit and raise money for a great cause while you’re at it. The route, at Emirates Old Trafford, also boasts an increased probability of scoring a seasonal or personal best. Several options are available, from the whole hog to relays and even a workplace challenge. 

WONDERLAND | Palace Theatre | 24-30 April

Wonderful and whimsical in equal measure, the popularity of Lewis Carroll’s seminal story continues to be a magnet for imaginative adaptations over 150 years after its release. Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland heralds one of the most visionary yet, scooping multi Grammy nominations over the course of its worldwide tour. After sell-out seasons in Tampa, Texas and Tokyo, Manchester is something of a homecoming for the show; which is headlined by Corrie’s Wendi Peters (Cilla Battersby-Brown) as Queen of Hearts. Kerry Ellis (Wicked’s Elphaba) guest stars as Alice.


SOUNDS FROM THE OTHER CITY | Salford | Sunday 30 April

Dot to Dot, When in Manchester, Neighbourhood, OTR, Foundations, Sonder, Cosmosis, Independent Venue Week, Punk...Manchester music festivals have grown exponentially in the last two or three years. But continuing to stand the test of time amidst a flurry of newcomers, SFTOC enters its thirteenth year - surpassed only by MJF, founded in 1996 - with the same winning combination of indie promoters, upcoming talent and the fabled ‘Sounds’ atmosphere. 


Coinciding with Visit England’s Year of Literary Heroes, Harry swoops into Manchester Arena as part of a European and American tour. Undeniably one of the film adaptations’ greatest successes is John William’s distinctive score: watching the series’ first instalment in HD on a giant screen, accompanied by a live orchestra performing every note, then, should be nothing short of magical. Really want to get into the Harry Potter spirit? There’s a quidditch Manchester University Club (open to non-students) and next year even sees the Quidditch Premier League.


GREAT MANCHESTER 10K RUN | Citywide | Sunday 28 May

From philosophy to philanthropy, as this major sporting event returns - now with the additional option of a half marathon. As ever there is the option to run for a charity of your choice, on your own or with a team. Even the kids can get involved, with a junior and mini event on Saturday 27. Both 10K and half marathon routes pass landmarks like IWM North and Old Trafford, with plenty of music and entertainment keeping up motivation. Other 10K events include UKFast and Williams BMW


Last June saw everything from spacesuit-clad dogs to Archimedes in his legendary bathtub as Manchester - European City of Science 2016 - celebrated the theme of ‘Eureka’ in recognition of its history of pioneering discoveries. As ever, Walk the Plank did a spectacular job with the parade and there were antics citywide with performance, ‘Brain Box’ event and even a prismatic wave machine. Expect no less from 2017.


PARKLIFE | Heaton Park | 10-11 June

The line-up is yet to be announced but the recent appearance of mysterious Nike trainer-clad posters around the Northern Quarter have us betting on R&B prodigy Frank Ocean for Parklife’s headliner. We’ll have to wait ‘til early 2017 to find out but what is certain is another blowout of the kind that transformed the festival’s early Mad Ferret Days into one of the North West’s leading music events. 


Preceded by the lesser-known Manchester Biennial, MIF is back with a new Artistic Director and all creative guns blazing - having already intrigued us with the unusual ‘Festival in my House’ concept and the announcement of four community-led events, from reimagining Dr Strangelove to creating a huge fashion runway in Piccadilly Gardens. With the full line-up announced in March, we’re expecting a few more surprises yet.



Onto another Manchester institution, with this inclusive arts festival; which last year witnessed hundreds of performances across 23 venues. Priding itself on showcasing emerging performers, the Fringe traverses comedy, drama and everything in between - some genres admittedly more niche than others. With many past productions moving onto established theatres, it’s a unique preview into some of the region’s most promising future talent. 

BLUEDOT | Jodrell Bank | 7-9 July

After a stratospheric 2016 debut, Bluedot beams back into Jodrell Bank Observatory for another innovative fusion of art and science. Set across several sites, the festival of discovery spanned an inflatable ‘luninarium’ to talks from leading scientists and Aiden Byrne’s ‘Restaurant at the End of the Universe’ - capped off at night with galactic concerts from the likes of Jean Michel Jarre. A powerful demonstration of how a little imagination goes a long way. 


MCM COMIC CON | Manchester Central | 29-30 July

Whether a cosplay aficionado or not, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Comic Con: they are the UK’s biggest modern pop culture events after all. And, unsurprisingly, they never fail to produce some of our Best Dressed lists. But there’s more to MCM Comic Con than wacky outfits; with other events including TV special guests, the ‘comic village’, dealer stalls and ‘vidfest UK’, a celebration of all things online video and social. 

CARIBBEAN CARNIVAL | Alexandra Park | 12-13 August

When - in 1972 a group of Caribbean immigrants decided to throw an impromptu carnival procession through the streets of their Manchester neighbourhood - little did they know it would become cemented in tradition. Now one of the city’s most colourful celebrations, this theatrical extravaganza of dance, theatre and costume continues to expand, with additions like the Strat and Latin corners.


PRIDE BIG WEEKEND | Citywide | 26-29 August

Let’s face it, obvious or not, a roundup of the year’s highlights wouldn’t be complete without the Pride Big Weekend. Not only are its fundraising efforts some of the city’s most impressive - 2016 reaching almost £150K - the LGBT and HIV charity’s flagship event regularly draws tens of thousands of spectators from across the UK and beyond with its spirit of inclusion, energetic  parade and endorsement from the likes of Sir Ian Mckellan. Don’t miss Out!,its superb new online resource.   

BUY ART FAIR | Old Granada Studios | 28 September - 1 October

There seems to be a pattern with events getting ‘bigger and better’ year on year but it’s certainly the case with Buy Art Fair; whose 2016 edition saw record sales, over 3000 artworks exhibited and speakers such as Frank Cohen. Elsewhere a Damien Hirst work sold for £10K...and Beastro sold out of bacon sandwiches. What with the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and Manchester Contemporary too, art-lovers are truly spoiled come autumn.



Another music stalwart, ACP lives up to its name with a curated line-up picked out by a passionate team. The title also takes inspiration from a song by ‘math-rock’ pioneers Farquet, illustrating the festival’s refusal to tow the ‘mainstream’ line in favour of genres that challenge the status quo. With its use of local artists, even the striking marketing champions ACP’s independent ethos. 


As Manchester’s restaurant scene continues to grow faster than Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk, it’s perhaps unsurprising that MFDF attracts hungry hordes numbering over 90,000. First conceived in 1998 to ‘show the rest of the nation there was more to Manchester dining than the stereotypes that existed at the time’, it has since morphed into a culinary showcase of much worldlier proportions - much like the city’s hospitality scene itself.  



Established in 2013 with the support of MMU’s School of Art, this non-for-profit event celebrates Manchester’s creative talent through exhibitions, debates, workshops and more. From an exposition of classic Adidas Spezial trainers to a debate on the identity of UK cities in Brexit Britain, an art battle to animation masterclass, itineraries never fail to be fresh and original.  


Yet another in Manchester’s acronym Hall of Fame, MLF has also turned a few pages since its initial conception as Manchester Poetry Festival. 2016 highlights illustrated just how encompassing the literary landscape is, ranging from Zadie Smith to Dame Vivienne Westwood. Also make sure to book in at Chortlon Book Festival, MCBF, Louder than Words and Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival.


MANCHESTER SCIENCE FESTIVAL | Citywide | 19-29 October

Curated by the Museum of Science and Industry, MSF is the largest festival of its kind in England; most recently comprising over 150 experiences, from robot orchestra to an Arndale ‘sleep lab.’ May 2017 additionally sees the museum host the Business of Science Conference, following on from its 2016 premiere as part of Manchester European City of Science. Also in May, keep an eye out for Pint of Science, which ingeniously takes place in pubs worldwide.  

CHRISTMAS MARKETS | Citywide | November-December

Yes it’s a cliché but it would feel wrong not to include one of the UK’s most celebrated festive markets - and one of Manchester’s biggest seasonal attractions. Presided over by the ‘Twitter-loving’ Santa on his Town Hall throne, the event - soon to enter its second decade - now sprawls over ten sites and almost 350 traders, generating over millions for the local economy (perhaps unsurprising when a chocolate crepe costs a fiver but we’ll let that go - ‘tis the season and all). Ho ho ho.

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