Summer’s here, in case you haven’t noticed. You can tell it’s summer because, although it’s still chucking it down, it’s a bit warmer.
Summer means one thing. Festivals. Lots of them. They’ve come a long way in the last few years. Gone are the days when all you could expect to find would be a stage and maybe a burger van in the middle of a muddy field. These days it’s all multiple stages, street food vendors and sponsored bars.
Alongside the headline acts and smaller filler acts, you’ll also often find campsites, family fun, wellbeing workshops, art programmes, and troops of DJs playing 24 hours straight. Oh, and muddy fields. And what was once a day of entertainment has become an entire weekend or more.
The festivals in these parts are some of the biggest and best out there. But with new ones popping up ten-a-penny, which ones do you go to? To save you the legwork, here’s our pick of the best festivals summer 2017 has to offer.
The summer starts here. Starting as a small gathering in Platt Fields in 2010, Parklife made the move to Heaton Park two years later to accommodate the huge numbers attending. It’s now one of the one of the biggies on the festival circuit and the official start to the summer with over 75,000 people descending on over 600 acres of Heaton Park every day.
This year sees a bumper line-up of acts spanning pop, indie, hip-hop and dance. Headlining the main stage on the Saturday are The 1975, who are confirmed to play an unmissable homecoming headline performance following their number 1 album in both the UK and US charts.
Sunday sees Frank Ocean heading the bill in his first UK festival appearance of the year. Also not to miss are Chaka Khan, London Grammar, Jess Glynne, Rag N Bone Man, A Tribe Called Quest and Boy Better Know. Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox and Pete Tong are some of the big names providing the dance tunes over the weekend.
With food pop-ups including Almost Famous, Lola’s Wings, Pandemania Wood-Fired Pizza, and Old Smokey BBQ, festival-goers will be hard pushed to find an event as impressive as Parklife. It’s one of the best festivals in the country and it’s right here in Manchester. Don’t forget the hot pants and wellies. Especially if you’re a girl.
10 – 11 June
This International Festival Of Yoga will be a two day celebration of everything that encompasses holistic living. The event will promote the spirit of holistic approach for the Mind – to quiet and focus; Body – to cleanse and nourish and Spirit – to renew and awaken. It will bring together artists, musicians, coaches, yoga gurus and chefs to reflect upon practice, music, food, healing and living the holistic way. The focal point of the weekend will be two mass outdoor yoga flow classes which will bring together 800 yogis to practice on the piazza at MediaCityUK.
From 4pm on Friday 16 June to 3pm on Saturday 17 June
Festa Italiana will transform Cathedral Gardens into Manchester’s own “Little Italy” for one weekend, with a programme of events and activity all devoted to Italian culture. The event will recreate the atmosphere of festivals in Italy where the community comes together to socialise, enjoy great food, drink and listen to live music.
The focus will be on cuisine but the festival is all about bringing a real, Italian party atmosphere to Manchester, celebrating all things Italian – with events and entertainment for all ages. There will be an authentic Italian fine food market selling meats, cheeses, oils, coffee and more. Wander the market, pick up a focaccia from Trove, artisan produce from Cibosano and gelato from Joe Delucci’s. Street food stalls will be serving up a range of Italian favourites, from pizza and pasta to arancini and fritto mix.
Whether it’s lounging in hammock with an Aperol Spritz, feasting on pizza, finding the perfect cheese, chilling out with a prosecco, learning how to make pasta, or dancing the night away, this is one weekend where Mancunians will revel in La Dolce Vita.
Friday 23 – Sunday 25 June
Manchester International Festival
Every two years the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events brings together world-renowned artists from different art forms and backgrounds to create dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking new work in venues across Greater Manchester – from theatres, galleries and concert halls to railway depots, churches and car parks. This year sees 18 days of events across the city under new director John McGrath.
MIF17 opens on Thursday 29 June with a large-scale public event. All eyes will be on the people of Manchester as they become the opening event of the Festival. Raised high above the pavements, a unique selection of individuals from across Manchester will walk along a runway stretching more than 100 metres through Piccadilly Gardens. Come to Piccadilly Gardens and join friends, neighbours and total strangers for a Manchester moment to remember for years to come.
The Festival ends on Sunday July 16 with Ceremony, a live event celebrating co-author of The Communist Manifesto and former resident of Manchester, Friedrich Engels. Phil Collins (no, not that one, the Turner-prize nominated artist) is bringing a decommissioned Soviet-era statue of Karl Marx’s buddy from Russia and transporting it to Manchester where it will be installed in Tony Wilson Place.
In between are 16 days of events featuring more music than ever before including five special performances by New Order with a 12-strong synthesiser ensemble inside a unique installation by visual artist Liam Gillick and two works which celebrate the centenary of Anthony Burgess, Harpurhey’s most famous son.
29 June – 16 July
Sounds of the City
Set in the stunning outdoor amphitheatre that is Castlefield Bowl, this event refuses to let Manchester’s music spirit die. The festival started in 2014 with a nostalgic nod to the Madchester era, to celebrate our musical legacy and all tunes Manc. Originally a two day event known as Summer in the City, the festival has grown year on year, attracting local big name headliners including James, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and Guy Garvey.
This year’s highlights include Wigan lad Richard Ashcroft, who released his first album in six years last May; Stockport’s finest Blossoms at their very special homecoming show; a return for James following their previously successful stint here; plus orchestral clubbing with Hacienda Classical. Not quite as local, but also sharing top-billing is a whole host of folk rock at A Beautiful Day Out with The Levellers and The Waterboys going head to head, and not forgetting Arcade Fire who will be playing their first gig here in over six years.
30 June – 8 July
Greater Manchester Fringe
The Greater Manchester Fringe just gets bigger and better every year. This year there’s around 150 productions spread across the entire month of July, with everything ranging from the serious to the lighthearted to the downright wacky. It’s like a great big box of chocolates, with something for everyone. Even people who like marzipan.
1 – 31 July
Various Venues across the city
Manifest Arts Festival
Showcasing the talent of north west-based artists, Manifest features over 30 events, exhibitions and workshops across venues in Manchester, Salford and Bolton. With 15 premieres of new work and exhibitions, 10 open studios, 1 workshop, 3 artist/curator talks, 1 performance, 3 specially extended exhibitions, over 300 artists and even an official tea, this year is set to be even bigger and better than the first one in 2015. Festival-goers will be treated to an eclectic programme of events at unique and unusual artist spaces as well as at some of the most prestigious institutions in the region, including Castlefield Gallery, Chetham’s Library, Manchester Craft and Design Centre, and HOME. A particular highlight will be a premiere of a new exhibition by 2016 GM Arts Prize Winner, Andrew Brooks.
5 – 9 July
The intergalactic festival of music, science, arts, culture and the exploration of space returns for its second year in the shadow of the Lovell telescope, boldly going where no festival has gone before. This year’s line-up is as supersonic as you’d expect with stints from Pixies, Orbital, Alt-J, Hawkwind, and Vitalic all on the programme. Art-electronic duo Goldfrapp are returning to live performance with new material from their seventh album Silver Eye and there’s a rather special rendition by of Mike Oldfield’s classic Tubular Bells by Tubular Brass.
There will be talks from world-class scientists and thinkers, updates on climate change and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, combined with an opportunity to ask leading researchers the Big Questions and a full family-friendly programme of hands-on science experiments and interactive shows.
7 – 9 July
Manchester Jazz Festival
The award-winning Manchester Jazz Festival has been jazzing up Manchester’s summers since 1996. This year it brings over 70 acts to Festival Square and various venues across the city. The festival champions artists who play original work, especially those living and working in the north west, and it’s made up entirely of artists selected via an online submission system – so you know every year the festival will be full of exciting and often unique new acts and collaborations. The highlight of this year’s Festival will be Cottonopolis, which will combine a 12-piece ensemble of north west jazz musicians with the sounds of a mechanical loom and live projections, to create an aural and visual link between some of the most important social and cultural influences on Manchester’s identity.
28 July – 6 August
Various locations across Manchester
The Big Weekend just gets bigger and bolder every year, never taking itself too seriously but managing to raise a serious amount of money for LGBT causes. And it’s all done in the best possible taste, with the campest and most outrageous party-goers Manchester will see all festival season.
LGBT charity’s Big Weekend Festival raised over £149,000 for its charities last year, and they’re aiming even higher for 2017. This year’s theme is The Graduation. So dust off your gown and mortarboard and join the procession or just head to Pride for one big party.
One of the highlights of the weekend is Saturday’s parade, the annual procession of floats from Liverpool Street to Deansgate, St. Peter’s Square to Portland Street, and finally through to the Gay Village, watched by thousands of spectators.
This year’s big names include Melanie C (The Spice Girls), a DJ set from fashion guru Gok Wan, Faithless who have sold over 15 million records worldwide and will see Maxi Jazz, Rollo and Sister Bliss appearing.
The biggest ever dance music DJ line-up for the weekend includes BBC Radio 1’s Dance Anthems Danny Howard and English electronic music duo and production team Simian Mobile Disco, sets from Jodie Harsh and Jeremy Healy, with our very own DJ Paulette presenting and spinning some tunes.
25 – 28 August
Canal Street and Beyond
Five years on and the biggest and best tribute band festival in the country is still going strong. Festwich is a fun-filled weekend featuring over forty live bands across three stages. Why pay through the nose to see acts like Motorhead, Metallica, The Arctic Monkeys and Pearl Jam when you can enjoy Motorheadache, Mentallica, The Antarctic Monkeys and Pearl Scam for free? All you pay is a booking fee of £3.50. Now that’s what we call a bargain.
29 – 30 July
St Mary’s Park Prestwich
You couldn’t get a more picturesque setting than Saddleworth. Get an earful of some frankly excellent music provided by The Coral, The Sugarhill Gang, Nick Heyward, Pins, Clint Boon and more at the inaugural Cotton Clouds festival. Brought to you by the Lees brothers, Rick & Max, the men behind thunderous rock & roll outfit Twisted Wheel, the touring Tim Peaks Diner at major UK festivals up and down the country, and the runway success club night Howling Rhythm in Manchester. It’s the biggest music event to hit Saddleworth since The Jam played there in 1979. Anyone remember?
Saddleworth Cricket Club
A colourful weekend party with rum and jerk chicken, steel drums and dancing. It’s loud and it’s joyous and it’s free. The annual celebration of the city’s Caribbean community takes place at its spiritual home of Alexandra Park featuring a colourful parade of dance troupes in dazzling costumes. Hundreds of spectators will line the streets to watch the procession wind its way around Moss Side, Hulme, and back to the park. Red Bull will be returning with its Music Academy Sound System so put on your dancing shoes.
12 – 13 August
Just So Festival is the multi award-winning and only arts camping festival in the UK for children and their families. Set on the beautiful Rode Hall Estate, and now in its 8th year, the imaginative outdoor event combines art and the woodland enabling families to step out of their day to day lives into a wonderland of world class literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy, and all things creative. Activities include a Tribal Tournament bonkers competition, Silver Screen dance routines, Social Barn fodder exploration, Waleda Peekaboo Garden, Fairy City, and Just So Midnight Feast. This not-for-profit arts festival promises to be truly magical.
18 – 20 August
Rode Hall Estate Cheshire
The Great Northern Ska Festival
Last year this event for enthusiasts and newbies to get together and celebrate their love of all things ska attracted over 3,000 visitors. This year should top that with headline acts including The Skatallites, Bad Manners, Neville Staple, Rhoda Dakar, Baked A La SKA, and Manchester’s finest Lee Hollister’s Ska Foundation. A jam-packed day with live music, merchandise stalls, entertainers, funfair, and plenty of food and drink. Pork pie hats not compulsory.
Head for the Hills
This intimate festival in the picturesque market town of Ramsbottom offers a fun weekend for all the family with music and art the main focus and many participating local food stalls and craft beer tents.
For a small festival there’s some pretty big names performing. Maximo Park are the festival’s opening Friday night headliner, with Beth Orton, best known for her ‘folktronica’ sound and collaboration with electronic artists including Chemical Brothers, headlining on Saturday night.
Manchester band Dutch Uncles will be performing for the first time since the release of their fifth studio album Big Balloon. Also performing will be founding member of The Specials and Fun Boy Three legendary ska vocalist Neville Staple.
The line-up for Sunday isn’t too shabby either with The Stranglers closing the festival in style on the back of their major UK and Australian tour and a career spanning four decades.
15 – 17 September
Ramsbottom Cricket Club