Things to do in Manchester

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.

Above: The spiced-to-perfection Plantain and the sadly absent Jerk Chicken.

Since his Dragons’ Den appearance, Levi Roots has planted Caribbean food firmly in the national consciousness, and despite his range of sauces, pre-packaged meals, and Domino’s pizzas being a touch too sweet and short on spice for my palate, the increased number of establishments now serving this cuisine is certainly a fantastic upside to his success.

Mind you, Caribbean food has long been to Hulme what Indian food is to Rusholme. Once you have had a taste of sizzling jerk chicken breast nestled atop a pile of coconut and scotch-bonnet infused rice and peas, you may find that your long-standing affection for fire-engine tandooris begins to wane.

There are several fantastic places in Hulme you can visit for your African-Caribbean fix. Yaba, located on Hulme High Street, is a solid neighborhood restaurant, with a menu largely comprising warm, comforting, slow-cooked stews.

There are certain things you expect from a neighborhood restaurant: homeliness, friendly service, reasonable prices and, most importantly, good, honest, home-cooked food. Yaba definitely delivers on these fronts.

This wasn’t my first visit to the restaurant; given that it is so close to my apartment, and that jerk chicken with rice and peas is my go-to food when I am in need of comfort (read: slightly worse for wear having had too much to drink the night before), it’s no surprise that I’ve popped in a couple of times before.

This time I was in for a slight disappointment, as I didn’t get my chicken fix, because the grills were apparently broken. No matter, though, for the Curried Goat was pretty delicious – chunks of melting meat in a mean and spicy sauce, served with a pile of rice, vegetables, and a mini-dumpling for mopping up the stray dregs at the end.

Hangover hunger pangs being what they are, I could’ve eaten a touch more than the portion I was provided with and, greedy though we may be, that seemed to be Kristian’s main complaint too (though fear not, we also consumed a plate of spiced fried plantain for the price of £3, and both of us agreed that it was wonderful).

He plumped for the stewed oxtail; rich on-the-bone flesh in a thick gravy, made all the richer for the hours that it had spent being slowly infused with succulent bone juices. The spices add provocation to the familiarly English taste of stewed meat – kind of like your grandmother’s casserole with a bouquet garni scoured south of the equator. Comforting yet exotic. Again, it came with the familiar rice and peas (although you’re also free to choose a more carb-based options, such as chips, if you fancy), vegetables, and the same cute little dumpling. Both mains came in at around £8 each.

So two great mains and two happy customers. Negatives? Well the vegetables were overcooked, no question about it. And they don’t serve alcohol, although they do offer a selection of homemade drinks, including a refreshing ginger beer that packed enough punch to shake away my remaining cobwebs. You can bring your own booze, if you like, but you will be charged £7 for corkage/provision of glasses.

If you would like to sample the whole menu there is an all-you-can-eat buffet on Fridays and Sundays. For more information please see the Yaba facebook page.

I was watching the six o’clock news on BBC1 last Wednesday. It seems that every week brings news of another country in dire finical crisis, running cap in hand to the IMF. This week it was America’s turn to run the risk of defaulting on its debts.

The newsreader cut to a congressman making a quick quip about the Philippines giving the US advice on how to best handle their monetary strife. “What next?” cried the appalled, overweight politician, “the Ethiopians telling us how to grow crops!?”

Well, not quite. But if Ethiopian restaurant Habesha is anything to go by then our African cousins certainly have something to teach us all when it comes to dinner. This little establishment is begining to create some noise around its simple, authentic menu, all of which is served up at reasonable prices. With M.E.N. and reviews under its belt, Habesha is in danger of becoming one of Manchester’s worst kept secrets.

That said, finding your way into the restaurant is a bit tricky. It’s located above the takeaway branch of Cafe Istanbul, on Sackville Street in the Village. You go up a white spiral staircase, seemingly inside the takeaway, but which it is in fact accessed by a separate door.

Once you make your way in you’ll find the interior is warm, homely and “feels” African in terms of its choice of colour, furniture and art. There’s even a comfy seating area near the bar where patrons can sit, sipping Ethiopian beers and wines on large square cushions in front of massive hessian baskets. The blast of MTV from the flat screen on the wall was an unwelcome intrusion, but ho hum.

The waiter was a lovely man who encouraged us to pronounce the names of our dishes without making us feel silly for getting it wrong. He was also helpful, when hearing that this was our first time at the restaurant, in suggesting items that we might enjoy.

Gluttonous sods that we are, we ordered three dishes. Lege Tibs (£6.50) could be described as a mild stewed lamb, which came swimming in a sauce made from tomato base, with sliced peppers. The second, Yebeg Wot (£5.90), was also lamb, in a piquant broth. The flavors were exotic enough that I could determine on taste the ingredients and the menu just says ‘hot pepper and spices’. But it was delicious – spicy, warm with a base of fine stock and a deep red in colour. Both dishes came served with rolled up injera, a kind of flat bread which, in its unrolled form, resembles a crumpet-like pancake. Made of teff flour, they were perfect for absorbing the meaty liquor of our mains.

The third dish was the only vegetarian option on the menu, and consisted of three small dishes, one of pickled, curried vegetables and two of lentils. Whilst one was mild with nutty undertones the other provided balance with the same punchy flavor we found in the Yebeg Wot. The trio was presented on an impressively large injera with a polite side salad of iceberg lettuce and tomato.

We rolled out of Habesha full and content and not too much lighter in the pocket. The food was tasty, filling and, for both of us, a new culinary experience. Go and try it for yourself.

You could be forgiven for mistaking Manchester for a ghost town in August; the promise of guaranteed sun or a week of music a la wellies proves too much of a lure for some. But if you’re still around, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in our fair city.

Here are a few of this week’s highlights:

Monday 1st August to Saturday 6th August

As You Like It at the Royal Exchange Theatre

The Royal Exchange Theatre has a strong track record of putting on excellent Shakespeare adaptations, and As You Like It is one of the bard’s superior comedies. This is the last week of its run, so catch it now or miss out forever. Features the immortal “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players” monologue.

Tuesday 2nd August

Halle Youth Orchestra and Youth Choir at the Royal Northern College of Music

Halle’s worldwide reputation for excellence is something Manchester can take a great deal of pride in, and any event affiliated with the famous orchestra is worth at least considering when you’re plotting out your week. They’re performing a selection of the works they played during a recent tour of Cornwall.

Wednesday 3rd August

Meet The Brewer with Flying Dog at Port Street Beer House

The second ever Port Street Meet The Brewer event will be well worth attending if the first one is anything to go by: expect quality beers, excellent pub food, interesting conversation, and an altogether memorable evening.

Stitched Up Swap Shop at Creative Corner Cafe

Of course, if fashion ranks higher on your list of priorities than beer, and if you’re a fan of the upcycling trend, then you’ll possibly be more at home here. Recently new to Whalley Range, the Creative Corner Cafe is making an admirable attempt to establish an art scene in a suburb which isn’t exactly known for its artistic endeavours.

Friday 5th August

An Evening with MCR Scenewipe at Fuel Cafe Bar

MCR Scenewipe has grown impressively in a short space of time, and should be particularly lauded for its free events at Fuel. Their latest features a trio of artists – Walton Hesse (an Americana Sebadoh), T.G. Elias (M. Ward-esque Americana, complete with harmonica), and Jo Rose (earnest Americana) – who are all worth an evening of your time.

Saturday 6th August

Speed Date UK Premiere at Sound Control

Here at Onward, Manchester we keep our eyes open not just for the best events, but for the most interesting too. So while the trio of bands that are playing this night are not exactly to our tastes, how often do you get to attend a premiere in Manchester? A chance to experience the work of young filmmakers before they (potentially) become huge.

Sunday 7th August

Scrabble Club at the Deaf Institute

Is the very existence of a Scrabble club proof (if any were needed) that this whole twee trend has gone too far? Almost certainly. Nonetheless, it sounds like a perfectly pleasant way to wile away the Sunday hours. Later on, the same venue is hosting an open mic night; as always, approach with caution.


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