Get ready for a Manchester gathering which is throwing a spanner in the gears of how music festivals are conventionally perceived – Foundations. This is an off-the wall two-days of alternative music, live art, immersive experiences and community action inside two independent Northern Quarter venues: The Peer Hat and AATMA this 14-15 December.

And rather than there being a hierarchy of musical headliners, Foundations stands out in that community engagement and collaboration hits high in the running order; people are not just attendees, but actively involved. Be part of the festival, rather than just a punter.

Max Tundra headline DJ Set

Just some of the highlights of Foundations - a Manchester-made event through local record labels AnalogueTrash and Valentine Records in 2016 and now in its second edition – includes a Friday-night fix of a headline DJ set from Max Tundra as well as an intimate performance from the city’s own ILL, whose Harri Shanahan had this to say:

"The Manchester music scene is our life blood and festivals like Foundations serve to bring us together in a spirit of celebration of the beautiful artistry of our mother city. As a Manchester band we are happy and proud to take part."

Also celebrating the artistry of the city will be the ‘Community Action Stage’, taking place on Saturday afternoon – a panel discussion downstairs at The Peer Hat with a powerful difference. Rather than a ‘Question Time’ style quagmire which sees issues accumulating rather than answered, at Foundations the packed range of panels will seek to take action on key music industry issues of representation and diversity, co-curated by The Membranes’ John Robb and HAUNT Manchester’s Emily Oldfield.

Speakers this year include Manchester Creative Collective’s Wendy Smithy, musicians Josey Marina and James Holt, the man behind Red Balloon Music Chris Thomas, Rebecca Swarray of Rebecca Never Becky Productions, music PR Joesy Lowesey, lecturer and musician Dr David Wilkinson, Anointed DJ Deany Sevigny and punk rock legend Ian ‘Moet’ Moss.

“I think it's good that the foundations festival panellists are a diverse bunch… hopefully healthy debate will be stimulated rather than the music biz back slapping that too often passes as debate,” says Ian.

The panellists will be considering issues in contemporary music culture which apply to wider society, including 'Why is Manchester music marketed as so white, male and heterosexual?' and ‘Does Manchester grassroots music have an 'age gap' problem when it comes to engagement?’.

“I feel that by being involved with this festival, I can discuss my experiences of the local music scene with other talented and creative panellists and professionals,” adds Chris Thomas “I am very much looking forward to some informative and interesting discussions with them regarding the grassroots music scene in Manchester.”


Also involved is Rebecca Swarray – who following on from the success of her For The Nostalgia launch event in August, part of her production company Rebecca Never Becky (RNB), is bringing an ArtJam Music Pop Up Party to AATMA this 30 November:

“I feel really honoured to be taking part in the panel discussion,” Rebecca told HAUNT Manchester “I champion diversity through my RNB events so to have to opportunity to talk about this within the Manchester scene is very integral for me.
The Peer Hat and Aatma are very much inclusive spaces so it is ideal the festival is being held across the two venues.

“I am actually hosting my next event at Aatma on Friday 30th November. This will be an ArtJam Music Pop Up which will be celebrating Manchester based DJs and Artists with a conceptual club night twist. It will be all inclusive space whilst advocating BAME and LGBT+ creatives.”

And if that wasn’t enough, for an especially Gothic twist, Black Christmas is coming to Foundations during Saturday daytime: a cutting-edge cabaret of local talent unleashing an alternative Xmas like no other - thanks to the city’s newest portal for all things mysterious, HAUNT Manchester.

Prepare for upstairs in The Peer Hat to be transformed into the gritty grotto for your hosts The Fallen Angels, Satanic Santa and a series of ‘Zombie Elves’ – unfurling throughout Saturday daytime. With performances from Liquorice Black, Rosie Garland, Lethal Gem, Joshua Hubbard and many more, ‘Black Christmas’ is likely to be one of the most unique arrays of talent you will see at any UK festival this year. This is an over-18s extravaganza with some seriously indulgent decorations – and firmly in the face of convention.

‘Convention’ after all is something that Foundations seeks to challenge, rather than submit to – shining the spotlight on the city’s hardworking, often under-appreciated creatives and drawing attention to artists across mediums.

As soon as people step through the door they will have the option of being plunged into an opening ceremony of ‘In a Lonely Place’, ‘ A Promising Future Behind Me’ - an art installation from Neil Milton, chance to enjoy Black Christmas’ bustling array of stalls including a presence from the SOPHIE charity, can catch a showing of ‘White Christmas in Negative’ and even witness an intense installation from Birmingham’s own experimental duo Wrapped in Plastic.

Wrapped in Plastic installation piece

Plus with live music well into each evening charged with delicious darkness and  dirty beats, with artists including Dirty Freud, STOCKSNSKINS, HUSK, Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand, Val/Kyrie  and Still Forever, this is a chocolate-box of a festival format with each pick bringing its own brilliant, if slightly naughty, taste.

Forget festival formats which involve endless standing around and waiting: as Foundations is crafted to be actively engaging and interactive. By taking place in two adjacent venues – with music and events both in The Peer Hat and AATMA – jumping between stages is possible. Thanks to the closeness of artist to audience in both these locations, there is an intimate intensity too.

It truly is a two-day feast for the senses, as pop-up soapbox sessions (curated by spoken word artist K.G. Hildebrandt) will occur at random throughout the event, there will be roaming poets, ‘Transient Noise Bursts with Announcements’ will take place and with an Advance Weekend Ticket at just £22.25, being part of the city’s homemade history is very possible too.

Get involved, enjoy a Black Christmas and have your perception of music festivals melted into something else entirely. For more information about the extensive line-up and tickets, visit the website.