Just when you thought the festival season was all but finished until next year, Manchester pulls it out of the bag once again.
As the days grow shorter and the weather shifts to a ‘wear a coat in the morning, regret it in the afternoon’ phase, it feels like summer is officially over until next year. But if you’re suffering from a serious case of the early autumn blues and could do with one last festival to get you through the cold winter months – you’re in luck!
For the next four days, Sonder Festival is taking over Manchester, offering over 200 live acts featuring music, comedy, art and poetry, spread across venues around the Northern Quarter and Oxford Road including The Bread Shed, Night People, Sand Bar, Hatch, Zombie Shack, Joshua Brooks and FAC251.
Founder Kevin Leigh says the idea for the festival came from a chat he had with musician Gav Pettifor about the lack of opportunities on the Manchester festival circuit for a diverse range of acts.
“We felt that at times this city can be less about the quality of acts and more about the number of tickets they may be able to sell, so we wanted to create a low-cost festival that is focused on people rather than profit.
“Sonder has now become a culmination of so many creatives’ ideas bringing together an incredible line-up for a ridiculously low affordable price because we all feel that the arts should be inclusive and accessible to all.”
With the festival’s aim to offer a platform for grassroots performers who might not ordinarily get this sort of opportunity, how does Kevin decide which acts to give performance slots to?
“The festival is about talent not numbers, so whether a band can sell more tickets or pull a larger crowd doesn’t mean they will get preference over any other band. The creative scene and other event promoters generally send us recommendations of who has impressed them this year and we go from there.”
This year’s event will be the festival’s third big weekender in Manchester – and the biggest. And there are some very special guests.
“We have Russell Howard, who is kindly volunteering his time alongside Mick Ferry, Steve Hall, Che Burnley and Mike Newall, to play an intimate show at Manchester Academy with our charity partners Future Perfect who are raising funds for art and music therapy at The Christie. That should be a fantastic event as most of the team and our partners have lost someone close to us due to cancer.
“Bang Bang Romeo are headlining The Bread Shed on Thursday on our White Ribbon UK stage which will be amazing. NGUVU who are one of the very best acts we have come across so far this year will be performing at Factory on Sunday. On top of the main venues we are also running free entry events at HATCH in which we have a band from South Africa called Stone Jets just confirmed to come and do an acoustic show on the Thursday night. We also have a band called Feather Trade performing on Sunday who come from LA.
“We also have a fantastic artist called Krystan-Grace Sharpe-Young on board this year who will be running a free entry live art event at Hatch on Thursday and Friday called Novus Live Arts. We have another artist called Kirk Whitehouse curating a stage at Night People for us, bringing us some of his favourite festival acts that he’s worked with at other larger festivals.
“This year has much more of a community feel about it. We have had so many local independent companies get involved to help support the creative scene they love, from breweries like Blackjack, Alphabet and Shindigger to newly formed drinks companies like YUSA and Cool Cold Brew helping support the bands with their riders.
“The festival doesn’t get any form of arts council grants of corporate sponsorship, so we heavily rely on the generosity of small independents getting involved and it’s really amazing how many are just volunteering time to help us out.
“This year we are expecting between 3,000 and 5,000 people across the whole of the festival – a huge increase on Sonder 1 when just 500 people turned up!”
Sonder Festival takes place from Thursday 27th September till Sunday 30th September. Day tickets cost £10 whilst full weekend wristbands are £20.