So you’ve made it to Manchester, the greatest student city in Europe. But after all of the frivolity of Welcome Week you come to realise that the student loan doesn’t stretch as far as you would like, that your budget does not seem as large as you once imagined. Fear not! There are a great many fun and free things in our fair city, so put away the iPlayer and basics noodles and go explore it.
People’s History Museum
You could expect nothing less of the city at the very forefront of the industrial revolution than to have a museum largely devoted to telling the story of the working class people who shouldered the hard work that made it what it was. Formerly known as National Museum of Labour history, the Spinningfields-based museum it spans the past two hundred years, telling the tale of the growth of democracy in the UK through key events and topics such as the Peterloo massacre, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, popular radicalism, the 1945 general election, the Cooperative retailing movement and football. A recurring theme throughout the museum is various banners of political movements and trade unions, which are both works of art in their own right as well as being telling insights into the great political and societal issues of the day. There’s even a dress up bit complete with bus conductor uniforms, Victorian dresses and Edwardian straw hats.
Whitworth Art Gallery
The art gallery is a favourite for a lazy afternoon; the gallery being one of seven major art galleries in Greater Manchester. Situated in between Whitworth Park Halls and the Park itself, the gallery regularly hosts major exhibitions to go alongside its permanent pieces. The ‘Building On Things’ exhibition, which runs until the January 6th 2013. Contains work from world class artists like Patrick Caulfield and Tacita Dean, and focuses on the relationship between ruins and not only their effect on the past but their enduring legacy into the present.
Afterwards, you can use the money you saved not buying an admission ticket to enjoy a cup of tea in their lovely café (the cake is particularly glorious).
RNCM free recitals and concerts
Sandwiched between the UKs two biggest Universities in the midst of Oxford Road’s hustle and bustle is the Royal Northern College of Music, containing some of the most talented musicians in the country. You can enjoy top class musical performances from students at the conservatoire frequently during term time, from just short recitals to fuller concert repertoires. The concert orchestra particularly plays informal lunchtime concerts free to members of the public. In fact, every Wednesday lunchtime during term time there are performances from soloists and small ensembles in St Ann’s Church, just around the corner from RNCM itself.
John Rylands Library (Deansgate)
One of the more historic buildings of the University of Manchester, this library is both a tourist attraction and also one of the University’s libraries. There are numerous events and tours at the library, including a Harry Potter event on whether or not cloaking is a possibity, which may well excite the inner child in you. There is also an exhibition in September called the ‘ever open door’ about the Manchester based charity ‘The Together Trust’ – of which Mr John Rylands himself was a committee member at its founding in 1870 – through from its inception to the present day. The charity has worked to provide an ever open door to the city’s young poor people, in the beginning primarily to those who lived through the horrific workhouses and the grinding extreme poverty of the era.
Built in a Neogothic style and first opened to the public in 1900, it was given Grade 1 listed status in 1994. As a side note, it is also a very quiet place to study over exam time, quite unlike the main University library, not that that needs to be thought about until the winter and summer exam seasons.
The Museum of Science and Industry
Since 1983 the museum has been providing the best steam train rides in Manchester. Located in Liverpool road station (vacated by British rail in 1975), one of the original terminuses of the Liverpool and Manchester railway, the world’s first passenger railway. But the museum does have more than just trains to offer in its telling of the city’s industrial contributions, with year round exhibitions including everything from domestic appliances to x-ray equipment.