Manchester After Hours 2017: programme announced

Manchester After Hours returns to celebrate the city’s galleries, museums and venues with late-night events, performances and workshops

Feature by The Skinny | 20 Apr 2017
  • Engine House at The Museum of Science and Industry

Manchester After Hours, the city’s annual crepuscular one-night arts festival, returns with another vibrant programme. An offshoot of the nationwide Museums at Night arts extravaganza, After Hours sees some of Manchester’s best loved galleries and venues – as well as some more unusual spaces – open their doors late into the night to be transformed into places of wonder for a quixotic collection of gigs, performances and exhibitions. Across the city on 18 May you’ll find an eclectic array of 15 original and largely-free cultural events, including gigs on wheels, video installations projected on to landmark aircraft and live musical experiences staged within the city’s treasured libraries.

One of the absolute must-attends of this year’s festival looks to be a night at the Whitworth Art Gallery presented by NTS Radio. The cult music station brings DJs and visual artists to the award-winning art gallery for a night of left-field music and off-kilter video projections. We’re told to “expect idiosyncratic playlists and a party atmosphere within the gallery’s impressive surrounds.”

Another highlight in that part of town is the takeover of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House by Bad Language. The lively literature night will host an immersive evening of storytelling with some of the finest writers and live performers in the region. Each piece in the promenade style performance will be specially-commissioned and respond to the house of Elizabeth Gaskell, author of Mary Barton and North and South.

Another After Hours stalwart is Manchester Museum. It’s throwing its doors open late for an exclusive look at an exhibition titled Object Lessons, which will showcase rare pieces from the private collection of George Loudon, an art collector fascinated by 19th century life science teaching objects. The exhibition features Blaschka glass models of soft-bodied animals, made using techniques no one has been able to replicate. 

We also love the sound of John Rylands Library’s event: Breaking the Sound Barrier: the Delia Derbyshire Legacy. The lineup will feature a group of female artists whose sound and method echoes that of the incomparable Delia Derbyshire, the great pioneer of electronic music at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop who contributed to the original Dr Who theme tune. Now You See Me Now You Don't, a collaboration between Islington Mill’s Engine House Collective and The Museum of Science and Industry also sounds unmissable: they're planning an audio-visual installation that uses enveloping sound, atmospheric lighting and bold projections directly on to the Air and Space Hall’s enormous Avro Shackleton aircraft. You'll be able to both immerse yourself in the installation and try your hand at creating your own visual designs.

Other highlights look to be Juliet the Moon, RNCM’s live installation created especially for Central Library’s Reading Room that features extracts from letters sent between Frank Merrick, pianist and tutor at RNCM, and his wife Hope Squires throughout Merrick’s imprisonment during WWI; two new exhibitions at Manchester Art GalleryShirley Baker: Women, Children and Loitering Men, a showcase of the trailblazing British street photographer’s work, and an exhibition that spans South Asian craft over the last three centuries; and the launch of the National Football Museum’s Pelé exhibition Art, Life, Football, with added caipirinha cocktails and live Samba music.

The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art offers up tea tasting and a movie with the one-off screening of Big City Little Man, a short silent film by renowned Hong Kong street photographer Ho Fan. Soup Kitchen take some cutting-edge music to Manchester’s oldest building, Chetham’s Library, with an experimental electronics installation from Dutch master Walter van Veldhoven. And MadLab and Fred Aldous join forces for an evening of DIY digital innovation, art and craft spread over three floors at the Northern Quarter art suppliers.

If the thought of traipsing around Manchester gets you down, never fear. Metroshuttle are getting in on the act: for one night only, Metroshuttle 2 will operate an extended route stopping within a four minute walk of every participating MAH venue. Travel on board is free, and better yet, you’ll be entertained while you wait at traffic lights by intimate and live performances programmed by kickass local music promoters Hey! Manchester.

Manchester After Hours, 18 May, various venues. For the full programme and listings, head to