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‘Manchester Wakes’ as Central Library presents one-off event in collaboration with university

Enjoy a unique and experimental cultural experience at Manchester Central Library this May, bringing together inspiration and innovation in the name of the city’s past and present


Manchester Central Library is this week unveiling an exciting exhibition and bringing Manchester residents a free, one-night-only event inspired by the city’s industrial and cultural heritage.

The Manchester Wakes project takes as inspiration the tradition of ‘Wakes Week’, which began after the Industrial Revolution and saw factory workers in Northern towns and cities flock to the seaside every year for a week of holiday fun, as industrial buildings were shut down for essential annual maintenance. This is widely thought to have brought about the popularity of seaside holidays in the UK, so we have our Mancunian ancestors to thank for those Bank Holidays in Blackpool and Bournemouth!

Not only were workers rewarded with sun, sea and sand, but also with live entertainment and a plethora of leisure activities, something that the team behind Manchester Wakes is proud to be recreating in a 21st century context; ‘Workers at Play’, an evening of unique entertainment curated by Tom Hingley, former frontman of Inspiral Carpets, takes place at the Central Library on Friday 15th of May.

On the bill are award-winning performance poet JB Barrington, Monologue John Bartley with a one-off folk performance, and Manchester’s own broadside and folk singer Jennifer Reid. As well as these renowned guests, the University of Manchester’s very own Cosmo Singers, and members of the new experimental sound, space and interactive art Research Centre, NOVARS, will take centre stage, alongside students of the Royal Northern College of Music, magician Jez Mansfield, and ukulele group Levy Uke Up. Join them and many more for an after-hours entertainment experience like no other, in the city’s most beautiful cultural hot spot.

‘Workers at Play’ will present a truly modern twist on the classic holiday traditions of generations gone by to launch ‘Wonderland by the Waves’, a new interactive exhibition of Blackpool-based archives, telling the tale of this seaside resort and its connection with centuries of Manchester residents.

For this, the Central Library struck up an exciting collaboration with postgraduate students of MA Arts Management from the University of Manchester, bringing together a wide circle of students, academics and cultural experts in this truly unique and collaborative display at the Central Library as part of Manchester Wakes.

Donations were generously loaned by Bolton Museum, The Transport Museum, Stockport Museum and the North West Film Archive, and take the form of significant pieces, objects, and films that reflect the popularity of Blackpool and other seaside resorts around the UK.

Manchester Wakes

Photo: Manchester Wakes

Hannah Bonney, an exhibition curator for ‘Wonderland By The Waves’, said: “My favourite object from the exhibition is a family photo album we discovered in the archives. It’s battered and falling to pieces, but the photos inside act like a time capsule of this family’s holiday. There are wonderful photos of the family in their woolly swimsuits, the father building sandcastles with his son, and all the really iconic sites. It’s a truly magical object that transports you back to 1930s Blackpool.”

Sharing in the excitement of Manchester Wakes is ‘Workers at Play’ curator Tom Hingley, who said: “Whether you’re a Central Library stalwart, or a novice; whether you’ve seen the beautiful newly updated library, or have not stepped inside the cultural spaceship for years, we can guarantee music, sights and sounds to make you laugh, cry, reminisce and look backwards to the future. I couldn’t be prouder to be asked to put this evening of entertainment together for Manchester Wakes at the Central Library.”

‘Wonderland by the Waves’ opens on Monday the 11th of May until Friday the 5th of June, and ‘Workers at Play’ takes place on Friday 15th May from 6pm. Both events will be free and held at Manchester Central Library, and ticket information can be found at For more, follow @ManchesterWakes on Twitter.