Theatres, galleries, museums, comedy, music, literature…culture has gone online

COVID-19 is one of the greatest challenges the arts and culture scene has ever faced, with Manchester venues and creatives no exception. Government aid and bodies like the Arts Council (which revealed £160m of emergency funding) have provided some relief for staff and self-employed, while local arts bodies have also chimed in: Manchester International Festival has collated a range of resources and is supporting several regional artists to develop online work following a creative callout; GMCA offered £500 for artworks and poems responding to the crisis; and GM Artist Hub has launched to help independent practitioners, artists and companies throughout Greater Manchester.

The Still Buzzing MCR scheme, meanwhile, is matching small businesses to creative freelancers and Events 4 Covid 19 is connecting the event industry to those on the front line. 

Nevertheless many have been left reeling, often turning to heartfelt crowdfunders, while the Music Venue Trust has launched a crisis campaign and the Creative Industries Federation a plea for funding. Meanwhile, Manchester’s vibrant events calendar continues to collapse.

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Many venues have turned to crowdfunding, including Victoria Baths

There’s no denying it’s a time through which some will struggle to survive. Even now, however, the local arts and culture scene is fighting back with a myriad of initiatives and events. 

Theatres, galleries, comedy, music, museums, literature…we’ve listed those bringing top-notch recreation direct to your home. This will be kept updated so feel free to check back occasionally.

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HOME is amongst several arts venues to launch online projects


The arts venues below have all launched special online portals… 

Homemakers at HOME

Homemakers is series of new commissions inviting theatre and live art makers to create new works at home, for an audience who are also at home. These fully funded commissions challenged ground-breaking artists to transform the definition of ‘live theatre’ – whether through streaming, recorded performance, games, interactive stories, personal encounters, or something completely different. Work will be available on HOME’s website on a ‘pay-what-you-decide’ basis from Friday 1st May. HOME has also compiled a handy list of great local theatre productions you can watch online and is streaming several films. 

A Week’s Notice at Contact

For seven weeks until 10th May, seven freelance artists suggested seven creative ideas to help you 'take notice' for Contact's wellbeing project, which is still available online. You can keep your responses private, or share them with Contact to help create a small archive of these strange times. Contact is also hosting an array of virtual events via its website

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A Week’s Notice features daily creative ideas

Love Lowry at The Lowry

Love Lowry is a daily service of creative activities and art experiences for people to enjoy from their homes: offering the likes of ideas for children, adults and families; digital art designed to be experienced online; and the chance to ‘watch again’ art experiences The Lowry has in its digital archive.

Octagon Online at Bolton Octagon

Octagon Online includes a selection of activities that everyone can enjoy free of charge, including; trivia and quizzes, virtual StoryMakers sessions, a daily BSL challenge, podcasts, Get Creative challenges and blog posts.

Mini podcasts at Oldham Coliseum

Last summer, the Coliseum invited writers to submit new Oldham-inspired plays of 100 words or less. Inspired by this quirky project, its new Mini-Podcast series spans established names to local emerging writers, with plays performed by a cast of GM actors and edited by Grant Archer. The theatre is also offering a monologue challenge for students of its partner schools and colleges.

Manchester Art Gallery Online

MAG may be closed but ‘its art is still beating.’ The gallery is offering a range of online beneficial programmes to bring creativity, health and hope into the homes of residents of Manchester and beyond; see the listings for what's on. 

Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery has helped residents’ wellbeing for over 200 years


You can enjoy side-splitting shows from XS Malarkey and Bongo’s Bingo on Twitch or West Didsbury Comedy Festival on Facebook. Fancy shaping up your own stand-up skills? As well as shows and events, Frog & Bucketand ComedySportz are offering courses and workshops. 


Venues streaming music via their websites and social media include Jimmy’s, Stoller Hall, RNCM and Band on the Wall - alongside local collectives like Kaleidoscope Orchestra. Meanwhile an enterprising array of initiatives, from acid house documentaries to ‘Zooming’ choirs, are proving the show must go on. 


Alongside The Lowry, the National Football Museum is offering virtual tours via the Google Arts & Culture app - as well as exhibitions and activities on its own website - while Ordsall Hall and Rochdale Pioneers Museum have their own tours online. Many museums are delving into their collections via their websites and social media; Imperial War Museum, Manchester Museum, People's History Museum and the Science and Industry Museum are amongst those offering an array of special content spanning YouTube videos to podcasts and resources. Manchester Jewish Museum, meanwhile, has even launched a virtual picnic.

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Imperial War Museum is sharing collections and content online


Manchester short story publisher Comma Press - founder of the Northern Fiction Alliance (NFA) - has collated all the latest NFA initiatives, from discounts to podcasts, while library-users can enjoy a free 24/7 service despite closures thanks to Manchester Libraries’ digital services. Meanwhile the team at Manchester UNESCO City of Literature continues to round up everything from online reading clubs to writing projects and bookshops offering deliveries.

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Library-users can enjoy a free 24/7 digital service


Comps, workshops and challenges

Weekly creative challenge with Creative City (4th May - 6th July)

Tree photography competition with FOE Manchester (until 20th June)

High school/college writing competition with Creative Manchester (until 26th June)

Design competition with Manchester Science Partnership (until June)

#ThroughaMcrWindow challenge with Manchester Cultural Education Partnership

'Looking Sketchy' sketch club with Cotton On MCR

Classes with Life Drawing+

Play reading/watching and industry Q&As with Up 'Ere Productions

Poetry writing with MMU

Lockdown video appeal with North West Film Archive

'Armchair adventures' with Made by Mortals

Events and workshops with Old Bank Residency

Messages of Hope with Great Northern

Send Joy with Creative City

Spanish activities with the Cervantes Institute

The Wonder of Dance with Company Chameleon

Activities roundup by Creative Boom

Creative challenges and colouring with The Horsfall and The Co-Op Archive

Events and exhibitions

Lockdown lectures with Manchester University (18th May - 17th June)

Events with the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society

Meetups with SheSays Manchester

Mini stories with PechaKucha

LGBT event listings with Superbia

Archive material with Archives +

Rock Against Racism exhibition with Gallery Oldham

In Bloom exhibition with Contemporary Six

Dippy on Tour with Visit Rochdale

Things to buy

Playwrights prize draw with SwitchMCR

NHS charity doodle map with Dave Draws

'Postable pop-up market' with Curated Makers

Illustrated market with Stall MCR

Northern Quarter tours with Skyliner

'Pay it forward' tourism vouchers (for 50% off dining vouchers, visit here)

Tours plus poetry and illustrated merch with Invisible Cities


Theatre to watch with Thespie

Free stage shows, musicals and opera roundup with WhatsOnStage

Arts initiatives roundup with March Network

Artwork to buy with #DrawForNHS

Artwork to buy with Artist Support Pledge

Prints to buy with Art UK

#OnlineArtExchange with Art UK

Adventures in Art podcast with The Sunday Times

Museums in Quarantine series with Channel 4

#MuseumFromHome with BBC (30th April but content still available)

For more inspiration see our COVID-19 Action page, also featuring a range of online events

Read more: COVID-19 - Manchester events cancelled or postponed

Main image: Meha Art