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Corridor Manchester Itinerary

A walk along a most cultural corridor

Manchester's Corridor is one of the busiest - and intriguing - districts in the city. Take a walk along Oxford Road to find out more. 

There's no denying that Manchester is a city dripping with history and creativity. A place where past and present are tightly knit, and a city where a walk along what appears to be an ordinary road can uncover layers of innovation, science, politics and art. To the south of the city centre lies Manchester's Corridor -a walk along Oxford Road exploring some of the city's key cultural highlights.

At the top of corridor lies the newly reopened Whitworth (daily, 10am-5pm). The UK's original gallery in the park has been extended to the tune of £15m; it opened in February. Doubled in size, beautiful new gallery spaces overlook the park, while its ten free exhibitions are a mix of contemporary commissions and historic displays.  Don't miss the Whitworth's café in the trees; it overlooks an art garden on one side and the park on the other.

To the right of the Whitworth sits a trio of historic buildings that, between them, speak volumes about Manchester's past: the Pankhurst Centre (Nelson St, Thur 10am-4pm), Elizabeth Gaskell's House (the home of the novelist behind Cranford and Mary Barton; Plymouth Gr, Wed, Thur & Sat 11am-4.30pm) and Victoria Baths (Hathersage Rd). The monthly open days held at the baths are a good way to explore a building once described as Manchester's "water palace".  

To the left explore Contact (Mon-Fri 10am-11pm, Sat 3pm-late), a boundary-breaking arts centre known for its performance art, spoken word and theatre.  Contact, like so much of the Corridor, is about to undergo a transformation: a £6m development will keep it at the edge of performance art for years to come.

Corridor is home to around 70,000 students, two universities, a conservatoire, five hospitals and a workforce of 60,000; it is also home to the £61m National Graphene Institute, built in recognition of the fact that the world's thinnest and strongest material was discovered here at the university.

Mid-corridor lies Church of the Holy Name (a Grade I-listed Gothic Revival building whose soaring interior provokes hushed awe), which is in turn close to the campus designed by Victorian architect, Alfred Waterhouse. Part of The University of Manchester, this campus is home to the atmospheric Christie's Bistro (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) and the neo-Gothic Manchester Museum (daily, 10am-5pm). Here Waterhouse's Grade I-listed building houses some six million objects, as well as surprising contemporary exhibitions. Round the corner sits the Martin Harris Centre for Music & Drama (Bridgeford St), whose lunchtime concert series is monthly and free.

Further along the corridor lies the Royal Northern College of Music, one of the UK's leading conservatoires, recently benefiting from a £7m makeover to its concert hall. The renovation makes it one of Manchester's best live music venues and one of the most eclectic. The college offers everything from experimental electronica to opera, via brass, classical and cabaret.

The middle of the corridor houses a clutch of inspiring institutions, from the historic Manchester School of Art (now home to the Holden Gallery, whose exhibitions regularly pull in some of the biggest names in contemporary art, Mon-Fri 10am-4.30pm) to its Special Collections library (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm & Sat 12pm-4pm during term time).  Around the corner is the Benzie Building, the new home to Manchester School of Art, the biggest outside London. Its annual degree shows turn the entire building into a gallery. Also nearby is MMU's Capitol Theatre; all are clustered around Grosvenor Square, a patch of green on the site of the former All Saint's church. This was also the location of the world-changing Pan African Conference. Held in 1946, it was here that leaders from across Africa voted for independence from colonial rule.

Along the corridor, to the right lies grade I-listed former Deaf Institute and the charms of legendary music shop, Johnny Roadhouse. Stroll past street food specialists Kukoos and Goodstock, the vintage shop on the corner of Hulme Street. Here, at the crossroads of Whitworth Street West and Oxford Street lies the Palace Theatre, with Manchester Central Library an impending sight.  Restored and reopened only last spring, the library's circular Reading Room is a thing of beauty, while its Henry Watson Music Library alone contains 380,000 books, manuscripts and music-related objects.

Further along Whitworth Street West, is HOME, a new contemporary art, performance, theatre and film hub that opens in May with a weekend of "world premiere theatre, new visual arts commissions and a unique film and music project".

HOME is also one of the venues for Manchester International Festival (2-19 Jul) - as is the Whitworth; the beginning of Manchester's creative corridor. MIF returns in July for three weeks of eclectic commissions and unusual collaborations from artists as diverse as Gerhard Richter, Charlotte Rampling, FKA Twigs and Björk. And for a road and a corridor as creative and collaborative as this one, somehow MIF feels as apt a place to end.

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