By Polly Checkland Harding

Manchester’s best cultural venues are set to reopen their doors from 17 May onwards, with an incredible programme of exhibitions and events lined up across the city. There’s an exciting amount happening – so let’s get straight to the details!


Currently taking the prize for the earliest reopening, HOME returns on Monday 17 May with plenty of safety measures in place, and an exhibition focusing on the creative talents of prison inmates titled Soul Journey to Truth. Over 135 artworks have been selected by curator Lady Unchained (Brenda Birungi) to express prisoners’ unheard stories; visitors should be aware that the exhibition comes with some content warnings. 17 May also sees the welcome return of HOME’s cinemas, with a reopening schedule of films featuring several Oscar winners and nominees. HOME’s bar, café and restaurant will be welcoming punters again, although the shop remains closed for the time being. Brand new outdoor site Homeground opens two weeks later on a nearby lot – check out the website for news of the outdoor theatre, music, food and drink on offer here from 28 May.

The Lowry 

The Lowry’s first post-lockdown show is C-O-N-T-A-C-T, opening at two new outdoor locations in Salford and Manchester from Tuesday 18 May. A critically-acclaimed immersive theatre experience, C-O-N-T-A-C-T is followed by the reopening of The Lowry’s galleries on weekends only from 22 May. These return with two exhibitions, LS Lowry: The Art & The Artist and Days Like These, which captures Salford locals’ lockdown experiences. The first indoor performance will be The Room Next Door, which tells the story behind an internet sensation that debuted on The Late Late Show with James Corden. Dangerous Liaisons by Northern Ballet follows: this major production runs from 1–5 June and is a scintillating adaptation of the classic story. For a look further ahead at The Lowry’s programme, check out this feature.

IWM North

As well as the reopening of IWM North’s Main Exhibition Space including the cinematic Big Picture Show on 19 May, the museum is extending the opening of Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire, an exhibition that explores the practical, personal and ethical dilemmas faced by humanitarians operating in areas of conflict. IWM North returns with reduced opening hours (10am–5pm Wed–Sun; seven days in the school holidays) and advance booking is recommended for all visitors, with walk-ups accommodated where possible. The museum’s shop will be reopening but not the café for the time being.

Science and Industry Museum

The 19 May also sees the Science and Industry Museum welcome visitors once again – having undergone significant changes. The museum now has a new £5m Special Exhibitions Gallery, designed by award-winning architects; this will be open to the public alongside a new garden in the Upper Yard, Revolution Manchester, and the Textiles and Experiment galleries. The rest of the site is remaining closed whilst undergoing a multi-million pound restoration project. Among the museum’s new temporary exhibitions are an insight into the intriguing world of codebreaking, Top Secret: From Ciphers to Cyber Security, and a deep dive into the history of one of the city’s most influential record labels, Use Hearing Protection: The Early Years of Factory Records. As with IWM North, the Science and Industry Museum is operating with reduced opening hours – 10am–5pm Wed–Sun or seven days during the school holidays until April 2022 – and pre-booking tickets to visit is essential.

People’s History Museum

Under its long standing slogan of ‘Ideas worth fighting for’, Manchester’s People’s History Museum reopens its doors with a number of temporary exhibitions alongside the permanent galleries including the 2020–2021 Banner Display and ‘More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox’ exhibition. 19 May remains the most popular reopening date, and both the museum’s shop and new Open Kitchen café will be ready to receive visitors from the off. The café, run by sustainable catering company Open Kitchen, will serve delicious breakfasts and lunches made using sustainable and ethical food – some of which would otherwise have gone to waste. Now closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, the museum is open 10am–4pm Wednesday to Sunday and will be encouraging visitors to book ahead.

Castlefield Gallery

You’ll need to get in quick at Castlefield Gallery if you want to visit Obstructions, the venue’s lockdown exhibition, in person: it’s open for just five days from 19–23 May. A short hiatus follows before the opening of Nicola Ellis and Ritherdon & Co Ltd: No gaps in the line on 13 June, with a ticketed preview the evening prior. The exhibition marks the end of Ellis’ placement at Ritherdon & Co, a steel manufacturer in Lancashire where she spent two years observing, participating and sometimes disrupting the processes in the factory.

Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum reopens to the public on 19 May, and you will once again be able to explore 3 floors of displays and exhibitions, filled with objects and stories from all over the world. Along with natural history highlights including Stan the T.rex and the Vivarium, the museum has two new temporary exhibitions, the soundscape Wild Chorus and the holographic artwork Voicing Silence, which reflect on the unique moment of global quiet during lockdown and the emotional impact of biodiversity loss. In the new separate Museum Shop visitors can also check in with the Insect Hotel, an installation that highlights the important role that insects play within our world.

Manchester Museum is undergoing a £13.5m capital transformation, hello future, due to be completed in late 2022. While this means the ancient Egyptian collections are not currently on display, there are plenty of activities and resources on

The museum will be open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-4pm, admission remains free, however advanced booking is advised.

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA)

Those who missed Multiplicities in Flux, an exhibition exploring identity and belonging, as well as Omid Asadi’s Autopsy of a Home when they first opened in October 2020 have another chance to visit from 19 May, when CFCCA reopens to visitors with reduced hours. Pre-booking is encouraged, although walk-ups are welcome, and CFCCA’s excellent shop will also be operating again.

The Whitworth

The Whitworth’s reopening will be staggered: Imran Perretta: the destructors is the lone exhibition open to visitors from 19 May, alongside the Collections Care Centre, café and toilets. Entrance to the gallery will be through the Whitworth's Parkside entrance, off Denmark Road or via Whitworth Park, with pre-booked tickets encouraged. The Oxford Road entrance remains closed to all visitors until the full reopening on 1 July 2021 for MIF21 summer exhibition, Cloud Studies – a major new investigation by multidisciplinary research group Forensic Architecture that exposes how state power mobilises the air we breathe. The Whitworth’s fantastic shop doesn’t return until later in the year, but an online shop will be launching in July.

Hope Mill Theatre

Much celebrated theatre Hope Mill is staging a socially-distanced production of Zinnie Harris’ incredible, moving play Meet Me at Dawn from 25 May, with reduced seating. In person attendance is via advance booking only, with the theatre opening an hour and a half before showtime, and food and drinks available to order – but there will also be a ticketed live stream option to watch from home.

National Football Museum

The National Football Museum reopens on Thursday 27 May initially from Thursday to Sunday. Its main exhibition is English Football Hall of Fame – which will showcase some of those who’ve made an outstanding contribution to football, both on and off the pitch. A new photographic exhibition: The Euros (opens 11 June 2021) coincides with the rescheduled UEFA EURO 2020. This exhibition will focus on Euro 96 which took place in England. The exhibition will look at popular culture of the period when the Three Lions song reverberated around stadiums as football came home. In late July the museum will also open a new Lily Parr gallery. Parr was England’s first international women’s footballer. The new gallery will feature new objects and previously unseen photographs of Lily and her teammates.

Visitors can book museum tickets in advance.

The Stoller Hall

This prestigious live music venue is relaunching its public events from 3 June: the first is Squid, a socially-distanced tour of work in progress by the band. Lunchtime and evening concerts follow, with The Stoller Hall’s audience numbers growing towards full capacity in line with government advice.

The Royal Exchange Theatre

We’re looking further ahead now, to the Royal Exchange’s reopening on 23 June, initially from 5.30pm onwards only. Little has so far been announced about the programme as audiences return to the theatre, but we can confirm that there will be a pre-booked bar offer at first, with the restaurant returning from September.

Manchester Jewish Museum

Though a few months down the line, Manchester Jewish Museum’s return is one of the most exciting events on Manchester’s cultural calendar: Friday 2 July will see the reopening of the entire museum following a multi-million pound redevelopment that’s seen the venue double in size, with the addition of a new café and shop as well as the restoration of the site’s historic synagogue. Better still, the museum is set to host a major exhibition by Turner Prize-winning artist Laure Prouvost as part of MIF21: The Long, Waited, Weighted, Gathering sees Prouvost transform the synagogue’s Ladies’ Gallery into an immersive exploration of the building’s history through film and textiles.




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