Manchester’s inaugural Festival of Libraries, which took place virtually and in-person across the city-region last week, was a sprawling patchwork of events representing what libraries can be.
From virtual artist residencies and talks by famous writers to interactive activities for children and tours of Manchester venues, the five days of the Festival proved to be a glorious celebration of libraries and all they provide us.
A central theme flowing through the events was curiosity: Not just about what libraries are, but what they provide and what they mean to us.
For celebrated children’s author Michael Rosen – who starred at the Festival – libraries are essential given how they provide us with two of the most powerful tools of life: Reading and writing.
“We make comparisons between the stories we’re reading and the story of me.”
Rosen spoke as part of an ‘Inspired by Libraries’ series, where notable figures in the creative world were paired with a Greater Manchester library service.
Radzi Chinyanganya, a children’s television presenter and debut author, also talked to a group of children in person at Altrincham Library, where he explained how libraries helped him with his GCSES, and enabled him to learn about Karate.
For children, libraries are such a magical place, and the lectures really emphasised just how formative they can be. I saw this in action when I went along to Central Library’s ‘Sunday Funday’. Greeted by characters from Alice in Wonderland, it was wonderful to see young faces light up as they recognised the Mad Hatter and Captain Hook.
Children were able to take part in an interactive story with children’s author Kristina Stephenson, playing with puppets and learning about the fantastical world of Stephenson’s best-selling series. Upstairs was the chance to create a pop-up inspired by books and libraries.
Whilst the sessions themselves were creative and enjoyable, it was the ability for children to be creative and imaginative that brought an excitable fizz to the air.
Another strand of the Festival was a series of artist residencies, where local musicians, poets, and creatives worked together with youth groups in a series of workshops facilitated by libraries across Greater Manchester.
James Holt, a singer-songwriter from Bolton, worked with ‘Us Girls’, a youth group in Stockport, on a song and music video based around what libraries meant to them. He told me how, when he brought his ukulele along in the last session, one of the girls learned some chords and was thrilled by having been able to learn something new.
He says it’s those “little moments” that might encourage people to check out the library, come to a group, or maybe pursue music as a result of the Festival.
One noticeable element to the festival was its broad range of artistic mediums and formats. Hawk Dance Theatre, a Manchester-based contemporary dance company, performed ‘Getting From A to B’ in several of Greater Manchester libraries during the week.
Choreographed within libraries themselves, it proved to be an adventure around the library, examining the choices and decisions we face in our lives.
Stephen Holland, UK comics laureate, spoke to a live audience at Altrincham Library about the power of visual storytelling and Guy Garvey, lead singer of the band Elbow, talked about his love of libraries with Chetham’s Library.
As a UNESCO City of Literature, Manchester has partnered with artists in other cities of literature across the world. Kate Feld talked to Alicia Sometime, writing from Melbourne, Australia, and Anna Polanyi, in Iowa City, via Instagram Live about their projects and experiences of working with Manchester’s libraries from half-way across the world.
“Librarians are the glue that holds the world together,” Alicia said.
The whole Festival was put together at lightning speed, and the quality and quantity of events demonstrated the passion that each of the libraries hold for celebrating themselves and each other.
Martin Roberts, Libraries Liaison Manager for Stockport Council, told me that library staff are effective at pivoting to new events and activities as required, managing the jump between digital and in-person events with ease.
He hopes the Festival will particularly inspire young people, such as ‘Us Girls’ who worked with James Holt.
“A large part of my view about libraries is also that we want to make sure we bring cultural opportunities for young people who otherwise might not experience them,” said Martin.
“Not only do I believe that this free resource is a space that people should use, it’s this space where they won’t be challenged when they come in, they won’t be expected to buy anything, but it’s a space where people can gain knowledge and gain independence.
“I think they’re all opportunities for people in society, especially those starting out.”
Photos: Anna Willis, Festival of Libraries
Art & Culture
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical is coming to Manchester on first-ever UK tour
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical has announced its first-ever UK and Ireland tour, and it’s coming to Manchester.
The smash hit West End production, which documents the life of the iconic singer and is packed with her biggest hits, will visit the Palace Theatre.
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical has been running at the Aldwych Theatre for more than five years, smashing box office records, and eight productions have opened worldwide.
The show is currently on tour in North America and Australia but details of a UK and Ireland leg have finally been announced, with a huge run in Manchester.
The glittering production tells the story of the 12-time Grammy Award-winning Queen of Rock n Roll.
It’s a true and inspiring story which captures how she dared to dream fiercely, shatter barriers and defy the bounds of age, gender, and race to conquer the world against all odds.
Its soundtrack includes her hits like The Best, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Private Dancer and River Deep, Mountain High.
Producer Tali Pelman said: “Tina Turner played to packed out arenas across the UK and Ireland throughout her extensive career.
“We’re thrilled to now be able to bring her extraordinary story to stages across the UK and Ireland for the first time with TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL, celebrating the life and times of a truly inspirational woman whose story continues to move and elate audiences around the world every night.”
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical is dedicated to the memory of Tina Turner, who sadly passed away in May 2023.
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical will be at the Palace Theatre in Manchester from Tuesday 25 November 2025 to Saturday 3 January 2026.
Tickets will go on sale at 10am on Tuesday 5 March here.
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical UK tour dates in full
Thursday 6 – Saturday 22 March 2025, Leicester Curve
Wednesday 26 March – Saturday 5 April 2025, Sunderland Empire
Thursday 8 – Saturday 26 April 2025, Bristol Hippodrome
Tuesday 6 – Saturday 24 May 2025, Grand Opera House, Belfast
Tuesday 27 May – Saturday 14 June 2025, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin
Tuesday 17 – Saturday 28 June 2025, Birmingham Hippodrome
Tuesday 1 – Saturday 12 July 2025, Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Tuesday 15 July – Saturday 2 August 2025, Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Tuesday 12 – Saturday 23 August 2025, Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Tuesday 26 August – Saturday 6 September 2025, Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Tuesday 9 – Saturday 20 September 2025, Sheffield Lyceum
Tuesday 23 September – Saturday 4 October 2025, King’s Theatre Glasgow
Tuesday 7 – Saturday 18 October 2025, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Tuesday 28 October – Saturday 8 November 2025, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Tuesday 11 – Saturday 22 November 2025, Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh
Tuesday 25 November 2025 – Saturday 3 January 2026, Palace Theatre, Manchester
Tuesday 13 – Saturday 24 January 2026, Theatre Royal, Norwich
Tuesday 27 January – Saturday 7 February 2026, Milton Keynes Theatre
Tuesday 10 – Saturday 28 February 2026, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Tuesday 3 – Saturday 14 March 2026, Theatre Royal, Newcastle
Tuesday 17 March – Saturday 4 April 2026, Leeds Grand Theatre
Green Island, the three-part music festival set in a garden centre, is back for 2024
One of the very best festivals in Greater Manchester, and we guarantee the only one that takes place inside a garden centre (yes, really), is returning: that’s right, Green Island Festival is back again this year and we cannot wait.
The unique three-part music festival spread over three months is quietly becoming the best music event you’re missing out on if you live in and around Manchester, but if 2023’s edition was anything to go by, this thing won’t be staying a best-kept secret for much longer.
Green Island Fest 2024 descends upon Hulme Community Garden Centre, a beloved artistic and cultural cornerstone for the local area, from June and will see repeat parties all day and all night in July and September.
Soak up the sun in the day and then dance the night away — how all good festivals operate.
If you’ve never come across the concept before, let us fill you in. Five stages, (the most ever) around 50 musical acts from all over the UK and plenty of artists too, don’t you worry; three chapters, three of the most sun-soaked months in the year, food, drinks, dancing, A LOT of plants and plenty more.
On the face of it, it might sound a bit odd to have a music festival inside a place where people usually buy pots and flowers, but if you’ve ever been to Hulme Garden Centre you’ll know it’s much more than that. The local institution is a hub for creatives, crafters and people from all walks of life.
When you get in there and see the whole vibe for yourself, you actually realise it’s kind of the perfect place for a music festival.
Partnering with the likes of Reform Radio, the nearby NIAMOS Centre, as well Salford and Manchester-based promoters Fat Out, among many others, this really is set to be the biggest year for the festival to date. That also makes it a better time than ever to give it a try if you haven’t before.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another one for those with the energy to dance non-stop for 24 hours, the pop-up food vendors, on-site cafe, various comfy and communal areas and stalls still selling stuff from the garden centre like any other work day mean its super family-friendly too.
In fact, last year we were genuinely taken aback a bit to see just how many parents came along to have a boogie with their kids wearing cute little ear defenders, pot plants, or simply lay back on the bed of chamomile grass and stare up at the sky. It’s just a great atmosphere all around.
We always end up spending most of our time at the Forest stage — which is even better than you think it is — but that’s the perk of having it spread over three different dates, you still have plenty of time to try out all the different spaces around the roughly 1000-capacity venue.
You can see the full lineup for Green Island Festival 2024 down below:
We always stumble across so many up-and-coming artists at this thing.
Green Island Festival returns to Manchester on 15 June, 27 July and 7 September and boy are we praying for hot weather and clear skies — there’s plenty of coverage across the garden centre coverage if not, but there is nothing better than when the sun shines down on this thing.
You can grab tickets for either of the three chapters and the following afterparties over at YES this year via SeeTickets HERE, with day passes starting from just £20. Mint.
We really can’t speak highly enough of this festival and if you don’t believe us, you can read our full review from last year’s event down below and, hopefully, we’ll see you there.