2019 will mark the start of a three-year cultural transformation for Greater Manchester, with a host of major projects leading up to the opening of major new arts centre The Factory. 

Significant projects on the way include Manchester International Festival’s return in summer 2019; the expansions of three major Manchester museums – Science and Industry Museum, Manchester Museum, and Manchester Jewish Museum in 2020 – and the phased opening of RHS Garden Bridgewater, Europe’s largest garden project. 

These projects will pave the way for the opening of the North of England’s flagship new cultural venue, The Factory; a 13,300-square metre arts and theatre space anticipated to attract 850,000 people a year from 2021. The major new landmark, designed by Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), 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.  

With tourism numbers continuing to break records; a spate of new hotels, bars, restaurants and tourism experiences on the cards; and a host of new international airline routes from China, India the US and Europe, 2019 is set to be a landmark year, kickstarting a cultural wave across Greater Manchester. 

Flagship cultural event returns 

One of the top reasons to visit Manchester in 2019 is Manchester International Festival (MIF19), which returns 4 – 21 July to venues and found spaces across the region. As well as producing the biennial event, which is a highlight in Manchester’s cultural calendar, MIF will run and commission ambitious work for The Factory, the North of England’s flagship new cultural venue, when it opens.

The world-class Manchester International Festival will open with a piece by Yoko Ono in Cathedral Gardens, titled Bells for Peace, which will bring together thousands of diverse voices to ring out for peace – and welcome the world to Manchester. Other artists announced to perform at the festival so far include actor Idris Elba, rapper Skepta and singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe. Festival Square, located by Manchester Town Hall will be open daily throughout the MIF19, hosting a free programme of live music and talks, as well as great food and drink. A full festival line-up announcement will be made in March 2019.

Culture and tours experiences abound 

Manchester has a strong and ever-present musical identity recognised around the world. Building a strong future for this identity will be the expansion of iconic music venue Band on The Wall in 2019, which will bring the adjoining Victorian Smithfield Market building back into use to significantly increase its capacity. The new space will be used to expand gig sizes and create a new place to teach young people about the music industry. 

Youth-led Contact theatre will continue its tour of venues across Greater Manchester, which includes its popular Queer Contact season, whilst its home location complete a transformation before reopening in late 2019. 

Another entertainment development for next year will be boutique cinema chain Everyman Cinema bringing their living-room style cinemas to Manchester for the first time in Autumn 2019 at the upcoming ABC buildings, part of the new St. John’s quarter, one of several emerging neighbourhoods in the city.   

Following success in 2018, Britain’s longest-running soap brings back Coronation Street The Tour to take guests around the famous cobbles on selected weekends throughout the year, discovering behind-the-scenes of one of the UK’s largest television lots, now vastly expanded at its new MediaCityUK location. In a similar capacity RHS Garden Bridgewater will offer a series of sneak peek events throughout the year where the public can see the project coming to life before opening. 

Other arts and culture attractions to look out for in 2019 include – the upcoming Harry Potter-inspired Wizardry School at a former Franciscan Monastery (February); the West End hit show The Book of Mormon making its Manchester debut at the Palace Theatre (June); the annual Manchester Pride Festival which is set to take on a new exciting format (August); the annual Food & Drink Festival returning to Albert Square (September); and the Manchester Literature Festival and Manchester Science Festival‘s, both taking place in October. 

Political tourism on display in a radical city 

2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, a major event in UK political history that occurred on 16 August 1819. 60,000 people held a peaceful protest to demand parliamentary representation but were dispersed when the cavalry charged on them killing 18 people and injuring 650 others. The day started a chain reaction for democracy in the UK and resulted in the founding of the Manchester Guardian (today published as The Guardian). From June to August a vast Peterloo 2019 events programme will unfold across the region, featuring creative interpretations and exploration from regional, national and internationally recognised contributors. 

Manchester’s strong history in protest and democracy also has its roots in the suffragette movement. As the birthplace of Emmeline Pankhurst, Manchester unveiled a statue of the suffragette leader in St. Peter’s Square in December 2018, commemorating her valiant role in the fight for women’s rights. The city has also been celebrating 100 years since women won the right to vote through a number of centenary events that have taken place at The People’s History Museum and The Pankhurst Centre.

Hotel boom continues apace 

In recent years there has been a significant increase in new hotels opening across the region and this trend shows no sign of slowing down with the number of rooms available in Manchester city centre set to increase by up to 40% by 2020. 

The first major opening for 2019 will be London Warehouse. The former Place Aparthotel on Ducie Street is undergoing an extensive refurbishment to bring out the character of the Grade II listed Victorian railway warehouse, creating 166 design-led serviced apartments operated by the Native group.  Also on Ducie Street will be the £25m luxury Dakota Deluxe Hotel due to open in May 2019, offering 137-bedrooms as part of the Piccadilly Basin regeneration. Elsewhere in the city, Manchester United football icons Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are developing the Stock Exchange Hotel, a 41-bedroom boutique with in the former historic stock exchange. 

In November and December two new hotels opened their doors in Manchester city centre. Transformed by acclaimed New York architects/designers Grzywinski + Pons the 159-bedroom converted warehouse Whitworth Locke has a stunning atrium space and workspace featuring Manchester coffee experts Foundation; whilst Hotel Indigo Manchester – Victoria Station has brought 187-bedrooms to the northern gateway to the city, retaining features from an original Victorian building paired with contemporary extension. 

Spotlight on sport

It’s no secret that Manchester is an iconic city when it comes to sport. Home to two world-famous Premier League football clubs – Manchester United and Manchester City, the region continues to be a hotspot for sports fans in 2019.

Cricket mania sweeps the region as the city welcomes ICC Cricket World Cup between 30 May and 14 July, hosting six fixtures at Emirates Old Trafford, including a semi-final and the most-watched fixture in the cricket calendar when India take on Pakistan.

The newly renovated stadium will also play host to the popular Ashes series when the fourth test match brings England and Australia head-to-head to see who will take home the coveted urn.

Fans of football are also treated this year, with the reopening of the newly enhanced National Football Museum, which charts historic moments from the beautiful game with a revamped World Cup area, and the story of women’s football now woven into four floors of exhibitions, memorabilia and trophy lifting photo opps.

Growing foodie hotspot  

As the fastest growing food and drink destination outside of London, ongoing demand for casual dining is expected to continue in 2019 whilst several upmarket developments will join the fold.  

Many eyes are now fixed on Gary Usher as he prepares to open his highly anticipated sixth restaurant Kala on King Street in February; a new food hall Market 41 set to open by the end of the year in emerging suburb Urmston; award-winning Hip Hop Chip Shop is taking up bricks and mortar to serve up untraditional fish and chips in Ancoats; ongoing cyclical vendor changes at pop-up food and trader space Hatch will help to nurture new talent; and a concept at the aforementioned London Warehouse by the team behind Bistrotheque is expected to be one of the biggest hits of the year.  

The best of 2018 

2018 saw a host of openings across the region that will reverberate into 2019. The first dual-branded hotel Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites (now Hyatt Regency and Hyatt House Manchester) opened on Oxford Road; ambitious new restaurant Peter Street Kitchen embraced shared dining with a combination of Mexican and Japanese cuisine; Dishoom brought Bombay’s Irani-café scene to Manchester Hall with queues from morning til night; the city joined UNESCO’s network as a City of Literature; a new direct route from Mumbai to Manchester was launched bringing extra tourism opportunities; and The Cow Hollow Hotel in the Northern Quarter won several awards making it one of the most sought after places to stay in the city. 

It was also announced in December 2018 that Manchester will be represented at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for the first time with The Manchester Garden, using largely re-used materials and asking questions about how urban cities create green infrastructure.  This will provide a poignant talking point ahead of the 2020 opening of RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford, Greater Manchester; which is currently the biggest gardening project in Europe.