A festival of free entertainment is coming to the city centre this weekend as Manchester says “a big thank you” to everyone who’s helped and supported others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Thank You Manchester Weekender will see the city centre transformed to host a free, fun-filled festival of thanks on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 August for a one-off weekend designed to “bring the laughter back” and “a smile to all”.
Organisers say it’s the city’s way of paying a joyful tribute to all those it wants to thank for helping us get through the past year and a half.
With everything from street theatre and circus performances, to dancing, live music, and even a chance to get involved in working with three city-based artists, Manchester City Council has assured there will be something for everyone.
Doctors, nurses, shop workers, bus drivers, food bank staff, teachers, mums and dads, and vaccination centre volunteers are among those in line for a special mention in the opening event that will pay tribute to everything they have done to help keep us all safe.
In line with the thank you theme, Mancunians are being asked to add their own thank you to an enormous sculpture made up of giant 3D letters that spell out ‘Manchester’. It’s hoped that when complete, it will go on display as a reminder of the spirit of the city over the last 18 months.
“None of us will forget what we have been through this last year and a half, and during it the people we have loved and have lost,” said Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council.
“We will also never forget the people who helped us get through, whether it was for their kindness, practical help, learning support, or life-saving expertise.
“So many people from so many different parts of our city life are owed a massive thank you for everything they have done during the pandemic to keep us safe and keep us going, and we want them to know how much we appreciate them and what their help has meant to us.”
Entertainment and events will be taking place across Cathedral Gardens, Piccadilly Gardens, St Peter’s Square, and Exchange Square.
Manchester’s rich musical heritage will be celebrated with live music in Cathedral Gardens and Piccadilly Gardens, with Bollywood and brass, to samba, soul beats, and everything in-between, as well a special performance curated by Matt and Phred’s.
Manchester Central Library also plays host to a “musical extravaganza” on Sunday, where you can try your hand at playing one of the many instruments from the library’s collection, or hear the Northern Chamber Orchestra perform.
The weekend will also see performances from some of the city’s best loved local community groups.
Exchange Square will be home to a Manchester Market for the weekend – selling iconic Manchester pictures, and themed clothing and accessories, alongside tasty treats from locally-based bakeries and other local produce.
A short community gathering of thanksgiving and remembrance will take place at 12:30pm on St Ann’s Square, too, as well as a minute’s silence to pause, stand together, and remember and reflect.
The festival will be spread over the whole weekend, with performances on Saturday repeated on Sunday to give as many people as possible the chance to come into town, enjoy the atmosphere, and have fun safely.
Councillor Pat Karney added: “This is our way of saying a great big Manchester thank you to all Mancunians for supporting each other during this last year, and to all the many thousands of heroic workers in all kinds of jobs and roles in the city that we have all depended on so much.
“After a year like we’ve just had, this is going to be a weekend like no other [and] we’re determined to spread a little Manchester music and magic to help get the city smiling again.”
The best things to do in Greater Manchester this week | 5 – 11 December 2022
We’re into our second week of December now, and we just can’t get over how festive everything feels across Greater Manchester.
With Christmas cheer having now been firmly spread right across the region, and the big day itself just a matter of weeks away, everyone is getting suitably in the festive spirit and the events calendar is, once again, absolutely jam-packed with plenty to be getting up to, so we’ve cherry-picked a few of the best bits for another edition of our ‘what’s on‘ guide.
As always, some of the events we’re going to mention are completely free, while others will set you back a few pounds, and many will need to be booked in advance.
Here’s our top picks.
Manchester Christmas Markets 2022
Manchester City Centre
Monday 5 – Thursday 22 December
Manchester Christmas Markets 2022 are in full swing.
The iconic annual event – which draws in visitors from all across the globe each year, and has been voted the best Christmas markets in the UK for 2022 – are here once again to spread some cheer right across the city centre.
Open every day until Thursday 22 December, the the main market hubs in will be in Exchange Square, St Ann’s Square, King Street, and Market Street.
Other zones, however, are set to open after Christmas Day and run into the New Year.
You can find out everything you need to know here.
Monday 5 December – onwards
Lightopia has made a return to Heaton Park this year.
Once again lighting up Manchester and captivating audiences for the fourth year in a row, award-winning illuminations event Lightopia is promising to bring the magic of Christmas back to the grounds of Heaton Park from this Thursday – with a brand-new immersive experience set to take over the park until January.
Through brand-new and unseen audiovisual displays, this year’s festival is a “once-in-a-lifetime adventure” for the all the family to enjoy.
Find out more about Lightopia 2022 and grab tickets here.
Monday 5 December – onwards
Did you see that Manchester’s newest cinema on the roof of Depot Mayfield has a whole host of Christmas films on the agenda over the next few weeks?
Backyard Cinema brings its immersive movie going experience to the north for the ever first time, and features way more than a cosy purpose-built cinema room, as it comes complete with an Enchanted Forest, two bars, street food trucks, and a live music stage to boot.
The highly-anticipated and long-awaited exhibit is currently showcasing 145 iconic Banksy pieces all amassed from private collections across the globe to create the world’s largest touring collection of Banksy artworks.
Visitors will have the chance to experience the infamous artist’s most well-known works alongside those rarely seen by the public, all on loan from private collectors.
Proper festive fun for all the family, the Christmas with Paddington grotto experience – which is curated by award-winning experiential events company Bakehouse Factory – includes fun photo opportunities for all ages, the chance to travel through snowy festive trees and scenic street scenes, and so much more.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 is well underway, and Mancs are right to be wondering where to watch the World Cup in Manchester.
International tournaments are always a special occasion we eagerly await to come around and while we’re sure you could walk into any old pub and enjoy yourself, there are some seriously good venues showing Qatar 2022 this winter – so, with that in mind, we thought we’d put together a list of the best places to watch in our city.
Read our round-up list here, and browse for Love Factory tickets here.
Skate Manchester 2022
Monday 5 December- onwards
What’s a festive season in the city without Skate Manchester?
Back once again for 2022 with twinkling lights, the smell of gingerbread, and Christmas songs playing on repeat, Skate Manchester’s stunning outdoor ice rink is in the heart of the city at Cathedral Gardens until 2 January 2023.
With covered rink having a roof to allow everyone to enjoy the ice, whatever the weather, this year, there’s also a brand-new ice path allowing you to skate around the beautiful Christmas tree centre.
Escape to Freight Island has brought its highly-popular Winter Island back to Manchester, just in time to get you in the mood for the festive season.
Having landed at Depot Mayfield‘s premier event space and cargo park, this year’s Winter Island is promising visitors everything from DJs, live entertainment, and Massaoke, to Christmas workshops, pop-up markets, and all the festive food you could hope for.
Food and drink to be scoffed from some of the best local and independent traders.
From Manchester favourites like Northern Soul grilled cheese and the award-winning Great North Pie Co. to Ancoats chocolatiers Cocoa Cabana, who will be letting you create your own boozy hot chocolate (the best kind), there’s so much to tickle your festive fancies.
Popular après-ski village Bar Hütte is officially back in the city centre.
After what was an undeniably successful run in 2021 and the plenty of years prior, Bar Hütte is better than ever this year, with 15 cosy Alpine cabins dotted across the Great Northern square courtyard to bring a lively, festive, and vibrant atmosphere.
Inspired by some of the coolest après ski bars in Europe, there’s everything from live music and free-flowing festive drinks, to the chance to try out the bar’s legendary ‘shot skis’, as well sing-along to all of your favourite tunes inside a private wooden karaoke cabin that’s festooned with twinkling tights.
Cheshire Oaks’ beloved grotto looks a little different to usual as Santa and his trusty elves are taking to the skies and inviting you on a fantastical festive adventure on the outlet’s all-new Big Wheel.
The Santa in the Sky experience is the perfect way to celebrate Christmas as a family this winter, and make memories to last a lifetime.
Open every weekend throughout December, with 10-minutes flights taking place from 10am-1pm, included in the ticket price is four spaces on the Big Wheel flight with Santa and his elves, and you’ll also get to sip on a mulled wine or hot chocolate and enjoy a festive cookie, as well as get a little gift to take home with you from Santa.
The Manchester Christmas Markets have listened to feedback and gone a bit more local overall, so you’d expect everyone would be pleased – but of course they’re not.
One scathing and lengthy review on Tripadvisor said: “Went on a day trip by coach to the Christmas Market, having been four years ago and LOVED it…sorry, but the difference between that experience and this year’s is like night and day.
“First of all, whose daft idea was it to have the market scattered across nine different locations? People who aren’t familiar with Manchester won’t know where all these locations are!
“The first part of the market I came across was a collection of food stalls, the bulk of them not displaying prices – is that legal? – and the entire set-up looked like a building site. No festive atmosphere at all, and sadly this continued the further I walked.
“Gone was the wonderful variety of Christmas ornaments and gifts, replaced by food and drink stalls and, strangely, a stall selling wooden garden furniture. There is nothing remotely Christmassy about an overpriced Kingdom of Sweets stall, and when I came across a second one several minutes later I gave up and killed time in a Wetherspoons until my coach left to take everyone home.
“I wasn’t the only person let down by the experience, either; when an elderly lady boarded the coach on its way home, she was heard to mutter, “Well, I’d have been ready to go home three hours ago.” I’m writing this trip off as a learning experience – and what I learned is that I won’t be going to this market again next year.”
A parent who visited said: “Where to start. This was my families first and last visit to Manchester, The Christmas Market felt very poorly planned with stalls not in one area. People kept knocking into my children manners seem to be missing in Manchester as a whole.”
Someone else wrote in a one-star review: “Ridiculous prices, paid £6 for a hot dog for my son & was then charges £1 extra for tomato sauce, sorry but that is taking the mick.. usual stores have gone and replaced with food, drink or overpriced large goods. The Christmas feeling just wasn’t there this year :(.”
Another person said: “I visited the Christmas Market at the weekend with a friend and it felt more like a food festival than a Market. No price lists displayed. Utter waste of time. Cheaper to go the ones abroad.”
One reviewer said: “Nothing at all Christmassy, pre-covid they was lovely stalls seeming Christmas ornaments ets, now it’s all good and drink mostly £15 for 2 mugs of hot chocolate, cocktails £9 for a snowball just pure greed, very disappointed, definitely won’t be back this year or in near future.”
Someone else wrote: “All about overpriced food and repetitive stalls. Nothing European about it and not what it once was. £10 for a sausage save your money and try a market in actual Europe.”