Things to do in Manchester

Apologies for our absence last week. We were living it up in Berlin, which made it a lot more difficult to keep our ears to the ground (and our eyes on Twitter) as far as Manchester events were concerned. We’re back just in time for freshers week, but don’t worry: if fancy-dress-themed debauchery isn’t your cup of tea, there’s still plenty to do.

Tuesday 20th September

Fear Of Men and The Louche FC at the Castle

Two buzz bands for the price of less than one? An absolute bargain, and it helps that both Fear Of Men and The Louche FC are well worth your time. Another positive: the Castle’s backroom makes for a great little venue. Not to be missed.

Wednesday 21st September

The Great Gatsby at The Met

Bury may be a little further out than you would usually venture, but the Metrolink makes travel easy enough, and an opportunity to see The Great Gatsby – an absolutely superlative novel, elements of which certainly lend themselves to the theatre – is not one to pass up.

Thursday 22nd September

Slow Club at the Ruby Lounge

Sheffield’s finest, Slow Club have carved out a niche for themselves as a cutesy indie pop with actual chops. With new album Paradise released last week, now’s as good a time as any to see them.

Friday 23rd September

Underachievers Please Try Harder at the Roadhouse

The long-awaited return of one of our favourite club nights. After a brief stint at Gullivers, Underachievers will now be starring at the Roadhouse, which could well be a marriage made in heaven. After Let’s Buy Happiness and Evans The Death (both worth getting down early for) have provided the music, make sure you’ve got your dancing shoes on for a tour through the very best indie rock.

Saturday 24th September

Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer at Manchester Art Gallery

Given that Manchester’s most recent tribute to 19th century painter Ford Madox Brown was the naming of a Wetherspoon’s after him, a new retrospective is somewhat overdue. Spanning the length of his career, this exhibition considers the influence Brown had on the artists who followed him.

Sunday 25th September

American Street Fun Fair at Tib Street

To commemorate 10 years of Northern Quarter bar and restaurant Simple…, Tib Street will be transformed into a haven of rides and cheerleaders and cotton candy and any number of other American-themed trappings. Should be a colourful day’s entertainment…

Manchester Print Fair at the Night & Day

…and whilst you’re in the area, the Manchester Print Fair is being launched at the Night & Day. Celebrating the best of local art and design, you’ll be able to pick up prints, posters, and all manner of publications. Worth dropping by and checking out what’s on offer: there’s plenty of great zines and the like being produced in this city, many of which will be available here.

Bad Shoes Art Festival at Dulcimer and Elektrik

Rounding off a busy Sunday, don’t forget to save enough time to head out to Chorlton for the Bad Shoes Art Festival, a collaboration between Bad Language Manchester and Shoestring Magazine. With music and artists at Dulcimer and literature and crafts at Elektrik, there should be a diverse mix of culture on offer.

Monday 5th September

Knitting In The Snug at the Kings Arms

Knitting/sewing/stitching may sit in that uncomfortable middle ground between kitsch and cool, but we’ve typically found that people who try it really, really enjoy it. So why not give it a go in the comfort of the Kings Arms, one of the shining lights of Salford’s pub scene.

Tuesday 6th September

Beirut at Manchester Academy 1

That Zach Condon has made himself huge off the back of music that combines Balkan folk with just a hint of Western pop would be surprising were it not for the fact that he’s a remarkably talented individual. We saw him play Club Academy way back when, but he’s long since outgrown that venue, and is more than capable of captivating the cavernous Academy 1.

Wednesday 7th September to Sunday 11th September

Edward II at the Royal Exchange Theatre

The work of Christopher Marlowe was enough of an influence on William Shakespeare that, since the 17th century, certain “scholars” have argued that Marlowe was the true author of Shakespeare’s works. Such ludicrous frivolities tend to overshadow the fact that Marlowe was a fine author in his own right, responsible for some truly fantastic plays, of which Edward II is one of the best. Telling the story of the titular king’s reign, this is not one to be missed.

Wednesday 7th September

Arty Farty Film Party: Dr. Strangelove at An Outlet

One of the funniest films you could ever hope to see, thanks to humanity’s infinite capacity for waging war Dr. Strangelove remains as relevant as ever. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for a treat: this is laugh a minute cinema at its finest.

The Rapture at Club Academy

Much loved for a brief window back in 2003, on record The Rapture never set our world alight, but the band are a different beast live, with audiences tending to lose themselves in “House of Jealous Lovers” and the like. Back with new album In The Grace Of Your Love, here’s hoping they’ve lost none of their onstage edge: Club Academy should prove to be the perfect venue for them.

Thursday 8th September

Elliott Eastwick’s World Famous Pub Quiz at the Black Dog Ballroom

Pub quizzes may be ten a penny, but it’s always worth escaping from the comfort zone of your regular establishment and discovering what questions unfamiliar quizmasters have to throw at you. The Black Dog Ballroom run their music- and film-based quiz every Thursday, and Elliott Eastwick has a reputation as a particularly charismatic host. And who doesn’t enjoy the glory of taking home prizes plucked from the city’s pound shops?

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins at the Deaf Institute

One of the most enchanting albums released all year, Diamond Mine combines the songs of the legendary King Creosote with the field recordings and ambient soundscapes of Jon Hopkins. On record, the effect is absolutely beautiful; it’ll be interesting to see how well it translates to the live arena. Support comes from the wonderful Francois & The Atlas Mountains.

Friday 9th September to Saturday 10th September

Heresy N Heelz at Sound Control

Burlesque seems to be growing in popularity in Manchester – with several active troupes and a handful of locations offering classes – which means that the timing of this two-day event couldn’t be better. Heresy N Heelz, one of the UK’s premier purveyors and promoters of the artform, will be hosting an evening of burlesque and twisted cabaret on the Friday night, featuring live performances and the like; on the Saturday, more than 20 traders will be selling their wares, with clothing and accessories covering everything from vintage and fetish. Not to be missed!

Sunday 11th September

Taxi Driver at the Cornerhouse

Whilst a matinee showing of Taxi Driver might not be the best start to a day for those nursing a hangover, for everyone else it represents a rare opportunity to see one of the greatest films of all time on the big screen. Robert De Niro provides a tour de force as Travis Bickle, the disaffected cabbie who has failed to readjust to everyday life after returning from Vietnam.

Monday 29th August

The Centre Cannot Hold: ZIne Launch Party at the Deaf Institute

Several talented individuals have worked hard to ensure that Manchester is a hotbed of zine-based activity, with a number of wonderful titles available. This particular event launches The Centre Cannot Hold, a collection of some of this year’s best writing from the city’s pop critics.

Tuesday 30th August to Thursday 1st September

Last Year In Marienbad at the Cornerhouse

Playing at the Cornerhouse for a limited period – 50 years after it premiered at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Golden Lion in the process – Last Year in Marienbad is an arthouse cinema classic. A man named X insists to a woman named A that they met one year earlier, and is convinced that she is waiting for him; she begs to differ.

Tuesday 30th August

Comet Gain at the Roadhouse

In Howl of the Lonely Crowd Comet Gain have released one of this year’s best albums, deservedly raising their profile in the process. That support comes from local favourites Help Stamp Out Loneliness and the ABC Club is the sort of added bonus that means we cannot wait for this gig.

Wednesday 31st August

Gordon Gano & The Ryans at the Ruby Lounge

Gordon Gano hasn’t exactly been prolific since the Violent Femmes came to an end, but his legacy with said band marks him out as one of the most important figures of the post-punk landscape. Support comes from Manchester power pop outfit the Sun Electric Band.

Friday 2nd September

Poets Get Mashed at An Outlet

A poetry-centric open mic night where anyone is welcome to read out their own work and a poem written by somebody else. An important part of Manchester’s thriving poetry scene, this is an opportunity to see as-yet unheralded writers in their natural environment.

Iceage at Islington Mill

Danish punks evoking the spirit of ’76, Iceage make the sort of rawkus noise that is always best observed in a live venue: expect literal blood, sweat, and tears. Support comes from Eagulls, whose brand of post-hardcore is also generating a fair amount of buzz.

Sunday 4th September

Dark Matters at Whitworth Art Gallery

An exploration of the impact new inventions have had on visual culture, the Dark Matters exhibition opens at the Whitworth on Sunday. New commissions focusing on darkness and shadows, populated by spirits, spectres, and phantoms, will be displayed alongside works by Francis Bacon and JMW Turner.

Monday 22nd August to Sunday 28th August

Retracing Salford: A-Z of Lost Salford Steets at the People’s History Museum

An exhibition documenting the so-called “slums” of Salford, the terraced streets of Broughton and Ordsall that were demolished in the 1960s and 1970s, disrupting the family and social lives of scores of people as a result. Retracing Salford aims to shed new light on the lives of those who were residents of the areas.

War Correspondent: Reporting Under Fire Since 1914 at Imperial War Museum North

As relevant as ever, the role of the war correspondent is endlessly fascinating, and such individuals should be celebrating: this exhibition does exactly that, starting from World War I right up to the modern day, focusing on the stories of those brave enough to bring us some of the most important news coverage of the last 100 years.

Monday 22nd August

Meet the Brewer with Thornbridge at Port Street Beer House

Branching out into brewery events has added another dimension to what was already our favourite watering hole in Manchester, and the visit of Thornbridge – who will be bringing some exclusive beers with them – is one to look forward to. We’re most excited about Geminus, an 8.5% double IPA.

Wye Oak at the Ruby Lounge

Proponents of a wonderful brand of indie-folk-rock, now is as good a time as any to see Wye Oak – their newest album, Civilian, has earned them more buzz than ever before, and with good reason: it’s a big step forward for the band. Support comes from local favourites Air Cav and The Steals.

Tuesday 23rd August to Sunday 28th August

Hi High Rise at Manchester Art Gallery

Wherever you might be in Manchester at any given time, it’s likely you won’t have to look far to be reminded of the troubled legacy of high rise apartment buildings. Hi High Rise is a short film about Hornchurch Court – one of Hulme’s last surviving tower blocks – and, more importantly, the people who live there.

Tuesday 23rd August

Sebadoh at Manchester Academy 3

One of the finest American indie bands of all time, Sebadoh’s legacy spans multiple albums and any number of truly amazing songs: it also happens that, when they’re on form, they’re absolutely fantastic live. They’ve done great things in this venue before, and could easily provide one of the standout nights of the week.

Thursday 25th August to Sunday 28th August

The Skin I Live In at the Cornerhouse

A new Pedro Almodovar film is always something to get excited about, and the high concept of The Skin I Live In – plastic surgeon obsessed with perfection -means that, on paper at least, it’s his most interesting film in years. Antonio Banderas has done great work for the director in the past, and the mash-up of horror and thriller elements should be a winner.

Friday 26th August to Sunday 28th August

Manchester Pride Weekend at various locations

It’s the time of year when Pride Weekend takes over Manchester and, as you’d expect, there’s an incredibly broad range of events taking place. From fringe music/theatre/comedy, to the four-day Big Weekend party, to the actual parade, there’s something to pique the interests of everybody.

Friday 26th August

Belle Vue Vinyl Night at An Outlet

We discussed Belle Vue in a recent post, and found it to be filled with some excellent articles and features: unfortunately, this event is serving as a goodbye, as the founding members are heading to different ends of the globe. Why not start your weekend by saying farewell and dancing to an eclectic mix of musical genres? And be sure to pick up an issue or two of the fanzine, if any are still available.

Whilst we’re probably not the only ones hoping for a quieter, more uneventful seven days, that doesn’t mean we won’t want to be out and about. This week’s highlights include a diverse range of free events, exhibitions, and film screenings, and Port Street Beer House celebrating the work of Manchester’s own Marble Brewery.

Monday 15th August to Sunday 21st August

Ernest Rutherford: Father of Nuclear Physics at the Museum of Science and Industry

Manchester has a long and storied history of being at the forefront of scientific and technological revolutions. This free entry exhibition celebrates Ernest Rutherford, whose work established the nuclear structure of the atom and the nature of radioactive decay, earning him global recognition in the process.

Monday 15th August to Saturday 20th August

Leo Fitzmaurice: Post Match at the Cube Gallery

With the football season now well and truly underway, this free entry exhibition is particularly timely. Over the course of ten years, Fitzmaurice has crafted around 800 miniature football kits using only discarded cigarette packets; the result is a vibrant, thought-provoking journey through the histories of two industries with particularly tarnished images.

Tuesday 16th August to Sunday 21st August

Manchester Week at Port Street Beer House

Port Street’s Manchester Week was planned in advance of last week, but given the events which unfolded, the timing of it couldn’t be much better. It’s largely being held as a tribute to Colin Stronge, the brewery production manager at the superlative Marble Brewery, with several other fantastic local brewers also represented.

Wednesday 17th August

Eyebrow Cinema at An Outlet

The free entry world and independent film club is screening Precious on Wednesday, and if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s well worth checking out; it’s not quite as strong as some critics made it out to be, but it’s still a compelling piece of cinema.

Friday 20th August to Sunday 22nd August

Platform 4 Festival at Piccadilly Gardens, St Ann’s Square, and Castlefield Arena

A free event that spans across the city, incorporating aerial and circus shows, music, dance, and street theatre, Platform 4 Festival sounds both ambitious and unique. The acrobatics of the Spanish Atempo Circus at Castlefield Arena should be a particular highlight.

Friday 20th August

Hey! After Hours at Whitworth Art Gallery

Conceived as a response to current Whitworth Art Gallery exhibition Projections: Works From The Artangel Collection, Hey! After Hours promises an evening of highly cultured music, including the Prism Quartet performing Philip Glass, and a set from Liz Green ahead of the long-awaited release of her debut album.

Saturday 21st August to Sunday 22nd August

A Game of Consequence at Piccadilly Gardens

The Contact Young Actors Company bring an old-fasjoined medicine show to Piccadilly Gardens free of charge; however, as the name of the performance suggests, every choice has its consequence. It’s directed by Cheryl Martin, who has already made a number of lauded contributions to the Manchester theatre scene.

Saturday 21st August

Chad VanGaalen at the Deaf Institute

Diaper Island is one of the finest albums released this year, a definite leap forward from a guy who has been making great music under the radar for what seems like forever. The fact that support comes from New Hips (three-quarters of the sadly missed Deaf to Van Gogh’s Ear) is the sort of added bonus that means this is one we’re very much looking forward to.

The basement safe of Incognito Gallery on Stevenson Square seemed an uncomfortably small space in which to view the latest artwork of the troubled yet endearing artist, Daniel Johnston. Especially since the opening of this exhibition, which runs until the 7th October, had drawn crowds ranging from established fans to hairspray-addicted hipsters to curious passers by.

However, Story of an Artist, with its characteristically naive, felt tip, comicbook aesthetic, transports you into the mind of a man plagued by mental disquiet, and seems an apt location in which to view the private thoughts and exuberantly disturbed illustrations of this much loved man.

The work on show comprises a collection of hand-drawn posters tacked to cork boards around the 10ft by 10ft metal container. Untangling the colorful, character-driven imagery reveals concern over the contradictions of life in a world driven by commercialism and war, with a longing for the innocence, liberalism, and romance of a bygone era.

We might not have braved the launch of the exhibition, and the large crowd it was sure to attract, had it not been for the suggestion that the man himself would play a short set. Upon arrival, we were told that it would be happening at around seven; however, seven came and went with no sign of him.

The minutes flew by without further word, and as we stood outside to escape the heat of the packed gallery we watched as the organisers became increasingly harried. Once eight o’clock rolled by, it seemed doubtful that he’d be turning up. We had all but given up when he finally appeared, threaded his way through the maze of people both outside and indoors, picked up the guitar that had been provided for him, and played a trio of songs for an audience who were clearly delighted to have been there.

He seemed just a touch uncomfortable during the first song, but settled into proceedings; even so, it was more of an “I was there” moment than a revelatory performance. For us, the artwork on display was the real highlight of the evening, and the short set was more of a warmup for his Sound Control appearance the following day.

Comicbook artist Jack Kirby heavily influences Johnston’s  work, along with The Beatles, for whom Johnston has a longtime reverence – even going so far as to nickname his brother Sergeant Pepper, on account of his mustache.

Western politics appeared to be commented upon in one image, which features a disillusioned Captain America overlooking the signing of a Bill of Rot by two ducks dressed in SS-like uniforms, while a blank faced, buxom woman looks on and a pink cat rejoices at his secret Nazi plans. In this image, Captain America concludes that seeing as how it appears that no-one can be bothered to resist anymore, and no-one seems to care, he might as well read a “girly magazine.”

In other pieces, characters display their allegiance to fascism and peace in similar ways, against backgrounds of disembodied red and yellow heads, some crying, and often accompanied by speech bubbles. The Blue Meanies of Yellow Submarine popped up again and again, often in conjunction with a green man, who reappeared in a variety of states, always looking muscular but often with missing limbs.

Drawing definite conclusions from Johnston’s art seems pointless – these pieces can be taken as social commentary, as a subversion of the naive aesthetic, or simply as the musings that enter into his mind, for which he finds catharsis upon a blank page. Whichever way you choose to interpret the work, it certainly plants ideas that the mind masticates over for some time afterwards.

From sci-fi to gay cinema to a number of interesting art exhibitions, the Manchester cultural calendar is certainly diverse this week. The triple header of Daniel Johnston-themed events over Thursday and Friday are worth checking out, and we also have high hopes that the Cornerhouse screening of Break My Fall will be an introduction to an exciting new cinematic talent.

Monday 8th August to Saturday 13th August

Beyond Their Shells at Contact Theatre

Eggs Collective are a group of Manchester-based female performance artists working in partnership with Contact Theatre to produce challenging, original work. In this Eggshibition (their pun, not ours), Roshana Rubin-Mayhew photographs the individuals behind the collective, in a series of portraits that explore the concept of self-identity.

Zion Young Creators Exhibition at Zion Arts Centre

The Zion Arts Centre is one of the best things about Hulme. It plays host to a variety of interesting events, ranging from dance classes to animation workshops, and much more besides. Zion’s own Young Curators have developed an exhibition which reflects the artistic perspectives of young people; any institution encouraging today’s youth to engage with art should be applauded.

Monday 8th August

Washed Out at the Deaf Institute

Currently one of THE big things in music, don’t let the hype deter you too much (of course, don’t buy into it too much either). The band have followed a strong EP with a debut album that’s a decent soundtrack to this washed out summer. It should be interesting to find out how their music translates to a live stage.

Tuesday 9th August

Break My Fall at the Cornerhouse

POUT on Tour is being launched to coincide with Manchester Pride 2011, with Break My Fall opening proceedings. The debut film from emerging talent Kanchi Wichmann tells the story of two lesbians, Liza and Sally, whose hedonistic lifestyle quickly starts to get away from them. Followed by a post-screening Q&A session.

Wednesday 10th August

Givers at the Night & Day

Having garnered a bit of attention from Pitchfork and the like, Givers are now touring their debut album, In Light. Catchy in a post-Vampire Weekend sort of way, should be a lot of fun live.

Thursday 11th August to Friday 12th August

OpenMind Festival at An Outlet

An ambitious celebration of independent artists, OpenMind Festival will feature poetry readings, live music, comedy, and most intriguingly, a screening of their sci-fi theatre piece Infinite Perspectives

Thursday 11th August

Daniel Johnston: Story of an Artist at Incognito Gallery

This preview evening launches Manchester’s first ever Daniel Johnston art exhibition; it also features a performance by the man himself, and an opportunity to purchase his work. We’re unbelievably excited about this.

Some Things Last a Long Time: A Tribute to Daniel Johnston at the Night & Day

After Incognito Gallery kicks out at eight, the Night & Day is keeping the Daniel Johnston fires burning, with a host of Manchester bands covering songs from the great man’s extensive back catalogue. With new Onward, Manchester faves Walton Hesse part of the bill, it may well be the perfect prelude to Friday night…

Friday 12th August

Daniel Johnston at Sound Control

…when Daniel Johnston will be performing his own songs. Initially scheduled to take place at Manchester Cathedral, the change of venue shouldn’t derail the evening too much; fans of his music will be captivated by his very presence on stage, before he even plays a note.

Saturday 13th August

Shonen Knife at the Deaf Institute

The legendary all-female Japanese pop punk trio have been kicking around for a staggering , and yet still have more creativity in their little fingers than the vast majority of their peers.


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