Photo: Jody Hartley

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival will be back for 2020, with a new format in place for the city’s first COVID safe major outdoor event.

The 23rd MFDF, sponsored by Just Eat, will take place this year from 24th September – 5th October, following council approval of the new Festival safety plan.

The Festival Hub on Cathedral Gardens will be at the heart of the event, once more – with a new layout and operational systems designed to ensure the event is COVID-safe and secure, as well as activities in other venues around the city.

The Festival Hub will be open from Thursday 24th – Sunday 27th September and then again from Thursday 1st – Sunday 4th October with a programme of offers and events in partnership with the city’s restaurants, bars, cafes and chefs throughout the full 12 days – all designed to celebrate Manchester’s wonderful, diverse and resilient hospitality industry.

The event will remain free, and a new MFDF app will provide a digital version of the Festival programme. The annual MFDF Awards will take place on the 5th October, with details to be announced soon.

Manchester Food and Drink Festival announces 2020 dates - and new format I Love Manchester

“The 23rd MFDF will help bring people back safely into Manchester city centre,” said festival founder Phil Jones.

“Creating jobs and boosting the economy have always been a central part of our vision. This year that’s more important than ever. The launch of the MFDF App is a great asset for all Mancunians and “Staycationers” and will make this new festival format even easier to navigate.

“We know it’s tough right now for everyone, but the Festival will provide a chance for the Manchester community to come together safely.”

The free to enter Festival Hub will operate with a limited capacity in place to ensure that visitors can enjoy the Festival and maintain an appropriate physical distance from others.

The site will be made up of two key areas: The Feasting Quarter and the Festival Market. 

As well as free, unreserved access to MFDF, there will also be a limited number of bookable tables on site in the Feasting Quarter. For a reservation fee of £5, guests can guarantee a table at the event and skip any queues to get onto the site.

The Festival Bar and Feasting Quarter will all be undercover this year, with enough seating for all guests to eat and drink at tables – and there’ll be no more queuing as the Festival will be operating table service across the site.

MFDF’s famous Manchester beer bar will be back, with many local beers on offer showcasing and supporting the region’s very best brewers.

This year every single brew will be available on tap, and via the tap of a screen too, as the whole site goes digital. Visitors will be able to browse the menus from all the traders, bars and brewers at the Festival via mobile phones to reduce contact and queuing on site. 

Manchester Food and Drink Festival announces 2020 dates - and new format I Love Manchester

The Festival’s live music stage will provide an acoustic soundtrack to the event with some of Manchester’s best bands and artists invited to perform stripped back versions of their usual acts for an easy-going and COVID-safe outdoor live music experience.

The live music stage will be run in association with some of the city’s best acts, promoters and venues and will aim to support and showcase the live industry and its plight as one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic. 

A Festival Market will see over forty traders across two weekends showcasing the very best local, independent and sustainable food and drink from around the region, with strict safety measures in place.

Meanwhile, a programme of activity will be happening in partnership with some of the city’s best restaurants throughout the 12 days, as Manchester’s dining community unites for one big Autumn showcase to encourage support and celebration at the most difficult time the industry has ever faced. 

This will include digital and ‘at home’ experiences for those that aren’t ready or able to eat out just yet.

“We’re thrilled to be planning a 2020 Festival, particularly at such an incredibly challenging time for our hospitality industry,” said director Alexa Stratton-Powell.

“It’s great to be staging a positive event for the city’s food and drink lovers too – we all need something to celebrate and look forward to right now. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to our headline sponsors, Just Eat. Without their support, and that of Manchester City Council, we simply wouldn’t be able to do this.

“It has been, and continues to be, a difficult and distressing time. We know that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere fast – and neither is our city’s love for good food and drink. Our Festival this year will provide a safe setting in which to indulge in the pure joy of great gastro experiences.

“Watch this space for more announcements and we can’t wait to see everyone in September.” 

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