Pic: Clem Rutter

Ancoats has faced some tough times. It was recorded as a hamlet in the ancient parish of Manchester as early as 1320. The name probably comes from the Old English ‘ana cots’ which means ‘lonely cottages.’ It wasn’t lonely for long though as the completion of the Rochdale Canal by 1804 made the area ideal for industry and a number of mills were built in the area.

By 1815 Ancoats was filled with back-to-back houses for the mill workers and with a population bigger than Bury and Blackburn. Many jobs were lost due to industrial decline and the area fell into disrepair.

Regeneration in recent years has seen Ancoats’ revival with developments like the £250m  New Islington project and MM2 Apartments.

The Through The Mill Festival is another example of the energy coming back to the area. It’s a celebration of Ancoats, the world’s first industrial suburb, with music, culture and creative events taking place over the weekend of 9 and 10 September at Halle St Peter’s, Halle St Michael’s and Cutting Room Square.

These two stunning former churches turned event spaces (Halle St Peter’s holds a Grade II listing) will come alive with some unique cultural experiences, many of which are free.

Over the weekend there will be a psychedelic disco, interactive live games including human chess, spoken word, Northern Soul Dance classes and a monster ceilidh to name a few.

But it’s not just a music festival, it’s a complete cultural experience.

Friday 9 September is Day One with free entry from 5pm-7.30pm in time to see the opening ceremony! This will feature craft ales and artisan food, a performance from local legend Stephen ‘Chaddy’ Chadwick (you may know him from The Backhanders) and a collaborative performance of The Masque of Anarchy, Shelley’s poem about the Peterloo Massacre. To enter after 8pm you will need a ticket. That’s when Psychedelic Discotech kicks off with acts including Omit Sleep, the Moods and Death to the Strange.

Pic: Clem Rutter
Pic: Clem Rutter

Day Two takes place from lunchtime on Saturday at Halle St Michaels with a number of immersive experiences which will give you a feel for Ancoats’ history. There will be guided walks so you can learn more about the place that was once at the heart of an industrial boom before falling into disrepair in the 1930s.

There are lots more activities available on the Saturday making for a great day out including street art history with live urban sketching, a Northern Soul Dance Class from Kev Nolan and a range of children’s activities.

The Useful Beauty Salon is an afternoon of demonstrations, discussions, talks and how to’s designed to equip you with useful skills and knowledge for surviving 21st Century life. Pop into their tent and take a seat. You’ll leave with new ideas, useful skills and some beautiful experiences.

There will also be two unique discussions by key cultural figures. Little Italy is set to be a fascinating talk by Anthony Rea, focusing on Ancoats’ Italian heritage and how Italian immigrants shaped history here. The City We Build led by top architect Dan Dubowitz explores how Ancoats is being revitalised. You may well have heard of Ancoats Coffee Company, Kettlebell Kitchen, and seen brand new apartments going up. Your opinion on this matters!

Getting people involved and excited is a key feature of the festival. Into Saturday night there will be a range of interactive games, comedy screen showing from Boys in the Band, spoken word from Chris Jam and friends, as well as immersive live acts from local promoters Gallivantes. This includes some toe-tapping razzamataz and a a monster ceilidh you will end up being dragged into whether you like it or not.

For tickets to the evening events and more information: facebook.com/throughthemill

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