Manchester is the thriving centre of culture in the North-West, and is home to many fantastic theatres, galleries and other performance venues – it’s essential to discover what the city has on offer. As many of you will be completely new to the area, we thought it would be a great idea to give you the ultimate guide to culture and the Arts in Manchester – the main venues, where to get the cheapest deals, and the best places to see musicals, ballets, operas, or new writing, and more.
Firstly, you can always count on the Royal Exchange for fantastic theatre. Formerly the Victorian centre of commerce and business, the Royal Exchange is now home to the ‘theatre module’, a futuristic glass bubble, suspended in the Great Hall, enclosing a stage and in-the-round seating. As well as producing high-quality professional theatre, the Exchange is also committed to providing a platform for new writing. Thankfully, the theatre also supports us poor students, with a number of great offers. Under 25s get £4 tickets on Mondays, and for every Friday performance from 12pm you can reserve two free tickets – but it’s first come first served, so be sure to phone up straight away!
Another of the city’s main theatres is the Palace. Situated on Oxford Street, you will soon recognise it as you go past on the Magic Bus into town! It first opened in 1891 and still retains many of its original features. The theatre is mainly home to touring musicals, opera, and ballet. Coming to the Palace in October is the English National Ballet’s version of Romeo and Juliet, followed in December by the second national tour of We Will Rock You. Tickets are not generally too student-friendly, but prices start at around £15 depending on the production, so if you book early enough you can get a decent deal.
If you are looking to experience some raw theatre, you cannot go wrong with the Lowry. It is definitely worth the short tram ride from St. Peter’s Square to Salford Quays. Comprising of the impressive Lyric Theatre and many smaller studio spaces, the Lowry has a prestigious reputation for presenting some of the most entertaining and diverse theatrical material in Manchester, placing much emphasis on diversity and learning. If that is not enticing enough, it also offers generous student discounts.
If you are looking to see a production a little closer to home, The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) never fails to impress. Situated on Oxford Road, it is only a 5 minute walk from the Manchester Student Union. As well as offering a wide range of theatrical productions at a reduced student rate, there are also numerous concerts and musical events performed by both pupils of the RNCM, Manchester University students, and visiting musicians.
The quirky Contact Theatre includes three ultra modern theatre spaces and several smaller rooms, which are used for workshops. Ideal for students and situated on Oxford Road minutes from the Union, the Contact is primarily focused on young adults, giving opportunities to showcase unique up-coming artists – there are many opportunities for learning, development and education within the Arts.
If art is your passion, the Manchester and Whitworth art galleries are worth a visit. You can experience six different centuries as you wander around the Manchester gallery on Mosley Street, and best of all it’s all absolutely free, though donations are welcomed. If you fancy supporting our very own university, then the Whitworth gallery may be a good choice. It is situated on Oxford Road and is part of the university itself. It houses a wide variety of art which aims to remain “accessible and relevant, interesting and provocative for the diverse communities of Manchester and beyond” (Maria Balshaw, Director, from www.whitworth.manchester,ac,uk). Equally, the Cornerhouse Cinema and Gallery on Oxford Street is also a great place to explore contemporary art, arthouse films and world cinema. There are three floors of art galleries, three cinema screens, a cafe, a bar, and a bookshop offering their own distribution service, ‘Cornerhouse Publications’, especially for visual arts resources. Student matinee films are priced at £3.50 and evenings at £5, and the art exhibitions are totally free.
Manchester really is a diverse and cosmopolitan city, a buzzing core of cultural, artistic and dramatic activity. As you arrive in Manchester this week, we urge you to make your way into the city and to begin to enjoy the cultural scene. It’s a great way to start your time here in the city, and we hope you have a fantastic year!
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