Chorlton Arts Festival, Manchester

Live music, satirical cartoons and theatre on wheels – these are some of the spectacles showcased this month at the Chorlton Arts Festival in Manchester, whose eclectic programme is as ambitious as ever. Created in 2000, the annual event presents 10 days of music, visual arts, comedy and performance in the leafy South Manchester suburbs of Chorlton-cum-Hardy. The festival has since grown in size and scope, securing some of the biggest names in the arts while maintaining a focus on musicians and performers from the local area. It is now a permanent fixture in the festival calendar, and its organisers hope to attract an audience of more than 15,000 to beat last year’s record figure.

This year’s highlight is Theatre Exterior, an Arts Council-funded theatre project which comprises a selection of stage productions in unique venues, from barbers to bookstores and even on-board the Metrolink tram as it travels along the newly opened tram line to Manchester Airport. The latter, entitled TRAM, was created by the multi-award winning theatre company Shred Productions, and will celebrate how we journey through Manchester, and explore what it means to live in the growing city in 2015.

Trevor MacFarlane, Shred Productions’ creative director, said: “The trams really have become symbols of Greater Manchester, encapsulating the city’s metropolitan energy and continued ambitions for growth. We hope to create an intimate but dynamic live performance that will explore the ideas of journey, togetherness and urban living in the 21st century. Above all, we hope the audience will enjoy the truly unique (if not slightly surreal) experience of watching a play on a moving tram!”

Two of Manchester’s finest, and least known, celebrities also make an appearance. Fontoonery is an exhibition of Private Eye cartoons by Tony Husband. The cartoonist, who lives in Tameside, is responsible for satirical magazine’s much-loved Yobs comic strip, and he has also illustrated for The Times, The Spectator and The Sun. He will be signing copies of his recent book, Take Care, Son (2014), which will soon be adapted into a film by Lupus Films, the creators of The Snowman (1982).

On the same weekend, an event called In Conversation features Steve Hanley, a former bassist for Manchester’s rowdiest post-punk band, The Fall. Olivia Piekarski, the co-author of Hanley’s biography The Big Midweek: Life Inside the Fall (2014), will be leading the Q&A discussion on Hanley’s 19 years working under the leadership of the band’s notorious and belligerent frontman, Mark E. Smith.

Internationally acclaimed musicians will be in the limelight during the final Bank Holiday weekend (22 to 24 May) that brings the festival to a close. The folk duo O’Hooley & Tidow will open the ‘Chorlton Weekender’ in the atmospheric St Ninian’s Church. Continuing in the same vein on the following Saturday night, is the Manchester favourites The Travelling Band performing their own psychedelic brand of alternative folk at St Clements Church, with support from blues-influenced Chorlton two piece, WALK. The festival closes on Sunday with Young Knives, whose jerky rhythms and angular riffs have drawn comparisons with Franz Ferdinand.

Ella Byford, director at Chorlton Arts Festival, said: “We’re delighted to be presenting such a diverse and unique programme for CAF 2015, from site-specific theatre on the Metrolink, to cutting-edge musicians performing in unique venues across Chorlton. With over 120 events, the majority free of charge, there’s something for everyone.”

The Chorlton Arts Festival runs until 24 May. For tickets and information, visit

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Charlie Bennett

1. Guy Meachin, Dislocation. Courtesy of Chorlton Arts Festival.