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.
4Manchester 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
5Sounds 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
6Greater 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
7Manifest Arts Festival
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
9Manchester Jazz Festival
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
15The Great Northern Ska Festival
16Head 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