Galleries, arts and music venues
Manchester Art Gallery in the city centre is a major gallery holding the historic collections of the city. It is best known for the strengths of its collections of English art, featuring work by Thomas Gainsborough and pre-Raphaelites such as John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, William Holman Hunt and Ford Madox Brown. It is also home to collections in the decorative arts, including glassware and furniture.
The Whitworth Art Gallery is part of the University of Manchester and is a convenient 10-minute stroll from the Congress venue. Its collections tend to focus on more recent work than those of Manchester Art Gallery, although both institutions feature both historical and contemporary exhibitions. Its particular collection strengths include a wide range of textile artworks (unsurprisingly for Manchester), alongside paintings and sculptures by artists including van Gogh, Picasso, Turner, Gaugin, David Hockney, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Eduardo Paolozzi.
The Lowry gallery and theatre at Salford Quays is home, unsurprisingly, to the pre-eminent collection of works by L S Lowry, whose distinctive streetscapes and urban panoramas still have a defining role in conventional visual representations of the industrial north. Alongside changing displays drawn from the Lowry collection, there are regular temporary exhibitions of contemporary work by other artists, including photography and graphic design.
The Gallery of Costume in Platt Fields Park grew out of local textile collections, and tells the story of clothing – from high fashion to workwear – across the generations.
CUBE, the Centre for the Urban Built Environment, is a gallery/design centre specialising in the connections between art, architecture and urban infrastructure.
The Cornerhouse on Oxford Road, within walking distance of the Congress venue, is best known as an independent/arts cinema screening new films, themed seasons, historical rarities and classics. But the site is also home to galleries with regular changing exhibitions, and a dedicated arts bookstore.
The Palace Theatre opposite Oxford Road Station is a 2000-seater venue best known for large-scale productions of blockbuster musicals, but its wider programme ranges from classical ballet to legacy rock acts in concert.
The Opera House does not, despite the name, focus on opera: it’s another large touring theatre, with programming similar to the Palace.
The Royal Exchange Theatre – housed in the building of the old Cotton Exchange whose rises and falls once dictated the life of the whole region – is Britain’s largest theatre-in-the-round (arena theatre) venue, seating 700, with a programme focused on classic and contemporary drama.
The Contact Theatre, on the edge of the University of Manchester campus (and famed for the exaggerated ‘chimney pots’ in its roof design), focuses on connecting young people with writing and performing.
The Dancehouse on Oxford Road is a medium-sized theatre. Its name reflects a partnership with the Northern Ballet School located nearby, but its programme focuses more on comedy, drama, cabaret and music.
The Bridgewater Hall is a major international concert venue, constructed in the 1990s with state-of-the-art acoustic isolation. The Hallé Orchestra, Britain’s oldest established symphony orchestra, is resident; the touring programme focuses on classical but includes jazz, world music, and some rock and pop.
The Royal Northern College of Music, a short walk from the Congress venue, hosts a regular programme of mostly classical, choral, jazz and contemporary work, ranging from new work by young composers to international touring performers.
Band on the Wall is a historic jazz venue also known for its crucial role in Manchester’s punk scene and other popular music movements of the 1970s and 80s. Originally the George and Dragon pub, it took its name from the tiny performance stage, installed in the 1930s, high up on the wall above the audience. Today it hosts a varied programme including jazz, funk, soul and reggae.
The Manchester Arena (formerly MEN Arena) is one of Europe’s largest indoor arenas, and the usual calling-point in the region for tours by the most in-demand headline performers.
The Ritz, a former dancehall with a famous sprung floor, is a large popular music venue hosting major acts mainly from the worlds of rock and pop, R&B and rap. The Apollo in Ardwick is another large venue with a programme tending towards legacy rock acts, with some comedy.
Popular music is now a primary component of Manchester’s bloodstream. Among medium-sized and smaller venues too numerous to mention, Night and Day on Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter is an established calling-point for credible international performers, while The Deaf Institute provides a similar service on Grosvenor Street, just off Oxford Road. The King’s Arms, in a less-than-arty area of Salford, is both a genuine back-street boozer and an experimentally inclined small arts venue spanning music, comedy, drama, and anything in between.