Manchester is now riding a second cultural wave, following the first that hit back in 2015 when the city welcomed two major cultural developments – the reopening of the award-winning Whitworth Art Gallery and the arrival of HOME cultural hub.
Now in 2020, with over £300 million of additional investment in culture being committed, Manchester, in the North of England is set to reach new highs as a world-class cultural destination.
Major cultural projects that will complete in 2020 include the opening of a new special exhibition gallery at the Science and Industry Museum; the reopening of Contact and Octagon theatres after significant upgrades; the expansion of iconic music venue Band on the Wall; the rebirth of iconic Wigan Pier; and the phase one opening of Europe’s biggest garden project, RHS Garden Bridgewater.
All of these projects lead to further developments to come in 2021, including the opening of several new galleries at Manchester Museum, a new wing and restructure at Manchester Jewish Museum, and The Factory; the North West’s landmark cultural hub, designed by Rem Koolhaas’ world-leading architects OMA.
On top of this, Manchester’s booming food and drink scene shows no signs of halting after a bumper year of new openings in 2019, set to continue into 2020. Openings in the latter part of 2019 will continue to establish themselves into the new year, such as DEPOT at Mayfield, CULTUREPLEX at Native, and Stock Exchange Hotel – which features food by acclaimed British chef, Tom Kerridge.
Sheona Southern, Managing Director at Marketing Manchester, said: ”In 2020, Manchester will see new cultural projects and regenerations finalise after huge levels of investment, and to add to this, significant growth in the number of hotel rooms in the city, a recent increase in international routes to Manchester Airport and the completion of major neighbourhoods like Ancoats have all added to what feels like a new era for Greater Manchester.
”We’re going to see a world-class garden open in Salford, the biggest garden project in Europe – RHS Garden Bridgewater – when it opens this summer; a significant expansion at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum; the re-openings of Contact and Octagon theatres; an exciting new attraction at Wigan Pier; and Marketing Manchester’s Visitor Pass launch, which will offer a myriad of different deals across Manchester’s attractions, restaurants and bars.
“Our cultural renaissance will reach a crescendo in 2021 with the highly anticipated opening of The Factory, Manchester International Festival’s new permanent home, and will put Manchester on the map as a world-leading city for its cultural offering. It’s a very exciting time in Greater Manchester, and we hope domestic and international visitors alike are inspired to visit in 2020.”
Top 2020 attractions
One of the biggest reasons to visit Manchester in summer 2020 is the phase one opening of Europe’s largest gardening project, RHS Garden Bridgewater. The RHS is creating a stunning new 154-acre garden in the heart of the North West by bringing back to life the lost historic grounds at Worsley New Hall in Salford. RHS Garden Bridgewater is the society’s first new garden in 17 years, and will include an Orchard Garden, Wellbeing Garden, Kitchen Garden, Paradise Garden, a Learning Garden and community teaching allotments, all set within the Weston Walled Garden – one of the biggest walled gardens in the country, along with a Chinese Streamside Garden, woodland play area and lakeside café.
Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum is undergoing a full redevelopment of its site which will include the creation of a major exhibition gallery designed by award-winning architects Carmody Groarke. By refurbishing and adapting a Grade I listed railway station, warehouse and railway viaduct, the new exhibitions gallery will allow the museum to bring world-class science exhibitions to Manchester from autumn 2020, kicking off with Top Secret, a major exhibition exploring over a century’s worth of communications intelligence. In July 2020, the museum will host an exhibition of its significant Factory Record collection, marking 40 years of the infamous label, whilst October 2020 will see the return of the Manchester Science Festival – the UK’s largest science festival.
As well as this, the iconic Wigan Pier will reopen in March 2020 as a new visitor attraction featuring a new gin distillery, micro-brewery, food hall, wedding venue, town houses, Heritage Centre and The Way We Were Museum.
Marketing Manchester will also launch the Manchester Visitor Pass in early 2020, which will offer free and easy access to several paid attractions and tours across Greater Manchester, value added offers for free attractions and an array of exclusive experiences and discounts at bars, restaurants and cafes across the region.
Spotlight on theatres and music
Manchester is known worldwide for its musical history, and the city is home to a wealth of iconic venues. This year Band on the Wall will fulfil their expansion plans, and will reopen in autumn 2020 with increased capacity, new flexible studio classroom and rehearsal spaces, and a second 80-capacity venue for live music and film screenings.
Part of the £1 billion regeneration of the Mayfield neighbourhood, the 10,000-capacity venue and arts space DEPOT at Mayfield launched in summer 2019 with events as part of the Manchester International Festival and Manchester Pride and then became the new home of iconic Manchester clubbing series, The Warehouse Project throughout autumn 2019. In 2020, the venue will host a range of special cultural events, activities and food experiences.
2020 also sees the autumn reopening of Contact theatre following an expansion, with the opening season including Paper Cinema’s Macbeth, a retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein using beat box, gigs and theatre and a family Christmas show, Forest of Forgotten Disco. Octagon theatre in Bolton will also reopen in 2020 following a multi-million-pound redevelopment, enabling the Octagon to grow their capacity to work with young people and the community and make the building more accessible than ever before. Opening in spring 2020, the new theatre will be at the heart of cultural, business, educational and community activity in Bolton.
On top of this, Back to the Future the Musical will receive its world-premiere at the Manchester Opera House in February 2020, and a further line-up of musicals will come to the city including We Will Rock You, The Lion King, the Phantom of the Opera, Zorro The Musical, Les Misérables, and Everyone’s Talking About Jamie.
Following the success of the past two editions, The Lowry’s WEEK 53 festival will return in April to coincide with The Lowry’s 20th birthday and will challenge and question dominating structures and hierarchies in politics, gender, media and culture.
Hospitality boom continues
During the latter end of 2019, two very exciting properties launched in the city; The Stock Exchange Hotel, set within the former home of the Manchester Stock Exchange has been meticulously considered to create a five-star 40-room boutique hotel, complete with restaurant concept called The Bull and Bear, overseen by renowned chef Tom Kerridge; and Native Manchester, set within Ducie Street Warehouse with new social and cultural destination CULTUREPLEX on the ground floor, which consists of Bistrotheque, coffee counter Klatch, events spaces and a cinema.
Coming in spring 2020, Hotel Brooklyn will open on Portland street, offering 189 stylish bedrooms, events space for up to 220 people as well as a panoramic rooftop bar known as Brooklyn Heights, and a restaurant named Runyon’s.
In food news, after 40 years of waiting, Manchester restaurant Mana picked up a Michelin star when the 2020 list was announced in October 2019, opening the city up to a new set of foodie travellers. As well as this, after several years of rumours, Street Feast will be coming to Manchester in 2020 from the team behind London’s Dinerama, Model Market and Hawker House.
Kick-stating the cultural wave that hit back in 2015 was HOME, Manchester’s cultural hub located on First Street, which is set to kick off its fifth birthday in 2020 with the inaugural Manchester Open Exhibition. Set on the premise that ‘everyone’s an artist’, this open-entry art show will celebrate the creative talent of Greater Manchester residents from January-March 2020.
Also celebrating five years since its transformation, the Whitworth Art Gallery has a bumper line-up of events for 2020, starting with a new Whitworth Collection show Utopias from January 2020; a major exhibition by the American artist Suzanne Lacy from April 2020; and perhaps most significantly, the Whitworth, HOME and Manchester Art Gallery will be the opening venues of the British Art Show – the biggest touring exhibition of contemporary art in the UK – from October 2020 before it moves on to Wolverhampton, Aberdeen then Plymouth.
Also coming to Greater Manchester is the Natural History Museum’s Dippy the Dinosaur, which will be stopping at Touchstones Rochdale in February until June as part of a UK-wide tour – the only stop in the North West of England. Another exhibition to interest children and adults alike is international LEGO exhibition, The Art of the Brick. Opening in November 2019, this exhibition will run until April 2020, featuring more than 75 pieces of art – you may recognise recreations of iconic pieces of art such as the Mona Lisa.
Neighbourhoods to watch
While neighbourhoods like Ancoats and rising-star suburbs like Stockport and Urmston garner acclaim, an unloved patch of Manchester city centre has been slowly developing into one of the most exciting places to watch. Piccadilly East, located in the industrial back streets behind Piccadilly train station is set for a landmark moment in 2020 when the much-profiled Crusader Mill conversion by Capital & Centric completes, bringing a new owner-occupied community to the area. Keeping the seats warm in the recent years are several independent businesses including Track and Squawk breweries, Chapeltown Picture House and live music venue Yerrr, with a new Leonardo Hotel due to follow in 2021. The neighbourhood is bounded by several places of interest including CULTUREPLEX, Native Manchester aparthotel and Dakota Hotel Manchester to the west and Mayfield Depot to the south, and should HS2 plans continue the new terminal will open out into the area making it comparable in the long-term to King Cross in London.
2020 key events
Each year Manchester also boasts a varied calendar full of recurring events such as Parklife Festival, where Liam Gallagher will play a pre-festival gig to kick things off in 2020; the Manchester Day Parade which takes over the city for a day in June; Bluedot festival which celebrates music, science and culture at UNESCO World Hertiage site Jodrell Bank Observatory; Manchester Jazz Festival which is the city’s longest running festival; Sounds of the City will return to Castlefield Bowl with Foals, The Streets and Hacienda Classical among the headline acts; one of the biggest yearly events in Manchester’s calendar – Manchester Pride – will return on August bank holiday weekend; foodie events Manchester Food & Drink Festival and Indy Man Beer Con will both return in September; and Manchester Literature Festival returns in October.
Manchester’s Metrolink service will finally see the opening of a tram connection to Manchester’s iconic Trafford Centre. The new Trafford Park Line will add six new stops to the network including one adjacent to Manchester United Football Club, one outside the Imperial War Museum North and one terminating at the Trafford Centre.
Manchester Airport will complete the next phase of the £1 billion Manchester Airport Transformation Programme which will see Terminal 2 more than double in size in 2020. As well as this, new flights will launch from Manchester to places such as; Sylhet and Dhaka, Stuttgart, Cuba, Gambia and Shanghai.
Incoming in 2021
The biggest story ahead for 2021 is The Factory, a world-class centre for arts and culture being developed in the heart of Manchester, which will be the permanent home of Manchester International Festival (MIF). Open year round, MIF will commission and present the world’s most exciting artists, as well as the Festival, which takes place every other year. Designed by Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), The Factory’s size – 13,300 square metres – and highly flexible structure will allow artists to create work of huge ambition and see it hosting everything from major exhibitions and epic concerts to intimate performances and immersive experiences, including dance, theatre, music, opera and visual arts. It is due to open in 2021 and is expected to attract up to 850,000 visitors a year.
Other significant developments include Manchester Museum, which will unveil several new galleries in 2021 following a £13 million series of transformation works as part of the ‘hello future’ project, featuring a new exhibitions space; the North of England’s first large-scale South Asian gallery – co-curated in partnership with the British Museum; a new China Gallery showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Manchester’s Chinese community; and an extended and more ambitious programme of activities.
As well as this, the Manchester Jewish Museum will complete its £5 million expansion in 2021, which will see a major extension built with new galleries, learning spaces, shop and café. The extension will be built alongside the museum’s historic building, a former synagogue which was built in 1874 by Jewish textile merchants. The Grade II* listed Spanish and Portuguese synagogue will be restored to its original architectural splendour in time for the reopening in early 2021, and until then the museum has a temporary pop-up Jewish Museum at Manchester Central Library.