The Great Manchester Scavenger Hunt

Danger Moo-seWhen was the last time you went on a scavenger hunt? I think my last proper one was the Manchester Cow Parade in 2004. That is, unless you count the Manchester Art Crawl I attempted last year. Then of course there are bar crawls and Northern Quarter café crawls: Do you think they count?

The idea of scavenger hunts has played on my mind for several months now. One of my Day Zero Project challenges is to create a hunt of my own, or to take part in one at least.

(UN)INTERESTING OBJECTS

Poor PlanningManchester Confidential trialled a bizarre one last year: ‘A Tour of Uninteresting Objects’. The fact it claimed to be uninteresting made me very interested indeed. I hoped they would run the tour again and they did, as part of the Stairs WaterfallManchester Histories Festival, but I discovered it too late and missed it again. 

I’m not sure whether I would find the whole hunt entertaining but the name of it intrigues me. I already Diversionknow where to find these little gems… but like many Blockbuster movies I fear they’ve revealed all their best bits in the advertising.

GO TO THE MOVIES

Photo from USA Today of Hayley Atwell filming on Dale Street in Manchester.With a little research I’m sure movie locations could be turned into a hunt. It’s no coincidence that Hollywood keeps returning to Manchester to film: We’re told the Northern Quarter looks a lot like old New York. Captain America was filmed near Piccadilly Basin last year; Alfie was filmed near the old Smithfield Market a few years earlier; and Sherlock Holmes was filmed in-between the two, both in location and in time, with additional scenes at the Town Hall.

ARCHITECTURE

Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield

Photo: Dave Schofield

An Architectural Treasure Hunt took place alongside the Manchester International Festival in 2011. We are lucky to have eclectic and unusual architecture throughout the city centre to match Manchester’s rich and varied heritage. Most of the time all you need to do is look up.

We have our fair share of eye-sores too; Beetham Tower might be iconic but urgh! What were they thinking?

SPACE INVADERS

Manchester Town Hall, John Rylands Library and the Manchester Museum all offer mini scavenger hunts within their walls.Northern Quarter Space Invaider

Moving outdoors, Manchester city centre had 47 Space Invaders hidden amongst its streets. Unfortunately several have been painted over but I know where a few still remain. Using this map I’m sure I could find more.

BIRD BOX PARADE

Perhaps Manchester’s newest scavenger hunt is Farrow & Ball’s 50 bird boxes, which were painted and installed for National Nest Box Week. (14th to 21st February) I read that Farrow & Ball have a pallet of 132 colours for exterior paint so in my mind I visualised an array of brightly coloured, patterned and embellished bManchester Bird Boxird boxes, decorated to rival the Manchester Cow Parade.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered all 50 boxes had been painted off-white. (Technically, they’re painted in ‘Pigeon’ and ‘Dove’ to follow the bird theme). I’m sure they had their reasons but I can’t help thinking it was a wasted opportunity. I’m not going to track down 50 white boxes but if they had been brightly painted, by members of the public or school children perhaps, then I might have given it a go. Maybe I should suggest it to them for next year.

YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS

So when was the last time you went on a Scavenger Hunt? Do you have any suggestions I should incorporate into my own hunt? I’m open to ideas.

All comments are welcome 🙂  

Culture Cramming Challenge

My attempt to cram as many cultural festival-related activities as possible into one sunny Saturday afternoon resulted in an epic failure. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t stick to the plan but I found things I didn’t know I was looking for and met a lot of nice people along the way.

If you follow me on Twitter you might wonder why I’m bringing this up now, seeing as it’s been over a week since I took the culture cramming challenge. I won’t lie: there was talk of woolly mammoths and dead fish and poisonous mushrooms, so I got distracted.

MANCHESTER ART CRAWL

The theme central to my failure was the Manchester Art Crawl. If you read my earlier post you will know I was excited by the prospect of racing around the city centre in search of 16 exhibitions by new and upcoming artists.

It all sounded so promising. I had been in touch with one of the organisers and he’d sent me details about locations, dates and opening times, plus he’d included a map, which as it turned out was too tiny and blurred to be remotely useful. 

I knew the crawl started at The Triangle so I headed there first hoping to pick up a more detailed guide. Unfortunately the stand which had been on display all week had been packed away for the weekend. There were still exhibits in two of the shops, but without the guide I missed them entirely.

Dress by Adnan BayyatADNAN BAYYAT

Instead I discovered an awe-inspiring art exhibition by local designer Adnan Bayyat. I have a soft spot for all things paper related and I love elaborate textures, so when in the window I saw a wedding dress made from intricate pieces of cardboard I had to go inside. Much of Adnan’s work revolves around the idea of recycling. He crochets couture from plastic bags, books and ring-pulls.

Walking into the studio is like walking into a magical grotto. I won’t attempt to describe the dresses, the sculptures or the canvasses. I couldn’t do them justice. Instead you’ll have to go in and see them for yourself. Please don’t just look at Adnan Art Exhibitionthe website – It doesn’t do them justice either. The studio is on the lower ground floor of The Triangle. Go! You can’t miss it.

When I eventually peeled myself away from Adnan’s Studio I went upstairs to Mooch Art, a small art gallery where in my mind I spend at least £10K before leaving. The assistant put me back on track for the art crawl by giving me directions to Number 5.

VICTORIA STATION

Before skipping ahead I attempted to find the 2nd location, which according to the description on the tiny map was at Victoria Station. It wasn’t. After wandering around the station, inside and out, for 20 minutes I gave up and asked in the newsagent for some help. The assistant very kindly googled the gallery on his iPhone and vaguely described how to get there. I wandered in its general direction for a while before surrendering and deciding to try something else.

By now it was 13:55. I had 5 minutes to race across town to Afflecks to catch the 2 pm performance of Three Minute Theatre. I’m so glad I did.

THREE MINUTE THEATRE

Three Minute Theatre: Photo from their website - http://threeminutetheatre.wordpress.com/They didn’t have a huge audience so despite the fact I was puffing slightly, chewing on a lolly, talking with my mouth full and dropping my money all over the floor, no one objected to my presence.

It started a little strange, with a sketch about warts or something. Either the bizarreness subsided or I got used to it. My favourite sketches were the ones incorporating the only female actor: For example the one where she played a hippy doing interpretative dance to the conversation between two welly wearing farmers. Hilarious!

The crowd was small so they got a few titters rather than full blown belly laughs, but the material was good and I’d go again. Three Minute Theatre are back at Afflecks on the 22nd July at 8 pm with a ‘best of’ show. It’s not slick but it is fun so if you’re around it’s worth a look.

RESUMING THE CRAWL

Feeling more relaxed having had a good giggle, I resumed the art crawl. At my 3rd location, Number 5 on the map, I finally got a peek at some pictures, hurray! However the artist wasn’t quite ready for viewings. She was still eating lunch and hadn’t finished mounting her work on the walls. Aloud I lamented that at this rate I wasn’t going to see any of the crawl. Another artist overheard and offered to help by escorting me to his own exhibition himself.

I followed this guy through back streets and narrow passageways to an obscure place called Kraak Gallery, Number 4 on the list. I would never have found it on my own. Now, before anyone starts telling me I shouldn’t be following strange men down strange alleyways he was with his mum and the studio was signposted, ok? (Albeit in an A4 print-out sellotaped to a wall kind of way). We climbed up two floors to the studio, past what looked remarkably like a squat, to find that the door to his exhibition was locked and he didn’t know the key-code combination.

That’s when I abandoned the crawl. I’m sure there were lots of fascinating pieces of work waiting to be discovered but I’d had enough.

Photo from posters advertising 11 Rooms: Photo by John BaldessariMANCHESTER ART GALLERY– 11 ROOMS

All I wanted was to see some nice pretty pictures, so I headed over to Manchester Art Gallery. They were bound to have pretty pictures, right? Did you go to MIFs 11 Rooms? There weren’t any pictures. Conceptual art: Eek!

After my initial shock at realising the photo advertising the exhibition was totally irrelevant to what was actually going on in there, I discovered an enjoyable and occasionally disturbing exhibition. 11 identical white rooms: each containing 1 or more people who were themselves the sculptures. It certainly got us talking.

Laura Lima’s installation for 11 Rooms: Photo by Christopher Thomond for the GuardianThere have been lots of interesting reviews about the exhibition so I won’t ramble on any further. Instead, I’ll point you in the direction of some good links:

This video by the Guardian (Warning: Contains nudity and adult content) shows you 8 of the 11 rooms. The rooms it skipped are the manga character, the piano that plays itself and the room in which they wanted to put a cadaver, but couldn’t secure one in time. (Instead they displayed the emails trying to secure one). Here are some reviews by the GuardianCreative Times and The Telegraph.

EPIC FAILURE

I only actually managed to do two things that Saturday: Three Minute Theatre which was on my list and 11 Rooms which wasn’t on my list. I wanted to finish the day with either a trip to 1395 Days Without Red or the Chorlton Beer Festival – I felt I deserved a pint, but I failed at those too. I ended the day with pop culture instead. I went to the cinema.

Did you get further along the Art Crawl than I did? What did I miss?

If you went to 11 rooms what did you swop? Did you get something more interesting than a business card, a tissue or a piece of chewing gum?

So Many Festivals, So Little Time

There is so much happening in Manchester this month that I’m struggling to keep up. I want to sample a bit of everything but the quantity and variety available is overwhelming.

I’ve already written about the Manchester International Festival, but what about the ‘Not Part Of’ festival and the ‘Not Part of the Not Part Of’ festival, (I’m not kidding) and all the other festivals, activities and shows this month?

I can’t go to everything, as much as I might want to, so I’ve picked out a few events for my diary and I hope to stumble across others as the days go by.

NOT PART OF – 30th June to 16th JulyNot Part of The Festival Guide

First up is MIFs unofficial fringe festival: Not Part Of. They have more than 150 events at 48 venues over 17 days. There are performances / installations / photography / pub quizzes / stand ups / workshops / too many things to mention, happening in the street, in bars, in theatres, in cafes, in parks etc. Basically there’s stuff happening virtually everywhere so keep your eyes peeled.

My understanding is that the ‘Not Part Of’ festival is pretty much a creative and artistic free-for-all. The organisers don’t pick who will be involved – they offer guidance and support, but pretty much if you have an idea and the tenacity to pull it off the organisers let you run with it. Therefore ‘Not Part Of’ is the most diverse and inclusive festival imaginable. Check out the events listing, pick up a leaflet, plan your visits or stumble across them – just don’t rely on me to fill you in because my head is swimming.

ART CRAWL – 2nd to 16th July

That said I am planning to go along to the Art Crawl as part of Not Part Of. (As well as several other things I’ve circled in the brochure). Beginning at The Triangle there’s sort of a treasure hunt all over the city centre. You pick up a map at the first location and follow the numbers to different exhibits and instillations inside and outside various venues. I probably won’t visit EVERY location but once you have the map it’s the kind of thing you can dip in and out of over several days.

24:7 THEATRE FESTIVAL – 21st to 29th July24:7 Theatre Festival

Next up is the 24:7 Theatre Festival. It’s called 24:7 because it starts on 24:7, get it? I didn’t. The Executive Producer himself had to point that out to me, after we’d finished running away from aliens at MIFs Doctor Who. (Hi David, if you’re reading this! See you at Sherica!) Of course, as it ACTUALLY starts on the 21st July this year and not on the 24th as it has previously I think I can be forgiven, right?

There are 13 shows at non-theatre venues around the city centre and at £8 per ticket I think these are a bargain. The ones on my shortlist are ‘I Know Where the Dead Are Buried‘, ‘Sherica’ and ‘The Crimson Retribution’.

24:7 don’t just have theatre productions they have workshops too, not that I’ll be joining in. My method acting (ahem) as a 12 year old for MIFs Doctor Who is as far as my acting abilities can stretch.

AND THE REST… If none of the above takes your fancy how about these:

FLARE THEATRE FESTIVAL – 4th to 10th July 

24 performances over 7 days, plus discussion panels and workshops at Contact Theatre, MMU Capitol Theatre, MMU and the Zion Arts Centre. Tickets start from £3 each.

LASSFEST – 1st July to 1st August

Lass O’Gowrie have created their own ‘one-venue’ fringe by offering 158 events across theatre, film, comedy, music, literature and visual arts.

CAMRA CHORLTON BEER FESTIVAL – 8th and 9th July

If you missed the Real Ale festival at the MOSI earlier this year then here’s another chance to sample some excellent ale, cider and perries.

JAZZ FESTIVAL – (MIF) 22nd to 30th July

There are typically around 400 musicians, doing 70-80 events at 7-10 venues. Some of the events are free in addition to all the free shows at MIF Festival Pavilion.

SUNDAE FESTIVAL IN THE PARK – 23rd and 24th July

Several live bands are performing each day at Heaton Park along with unlimited free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, plus silly activities for all ages.

GELATO IN JULY– 9th July

Islington Wharf is again being transformed into ‘Little Italy’ for the annual one day Italian Ice Cream Festival.

SCREENFIELDS – Weekly until 1st September

Manchester’s open air cinema at Spinningfields has weekly film screenings every Thursday at 8.30pm.

Don’t you just love living in Manchester? I do.

Have I missed anything out? Are you planning to go to any of the events? Are you organising or participating at any? (Shameless self promotion for your events is welcome here! :-p)

Have you stumbled across something and didn’t know which festival it was part of? Tell me what you’ve seen or where you’re going. I’d love to hear what other people think about all the events.

Manchester International Festival

MIF – Concert in the dark and Doctor Who

MIF LogoThere are only 2 days left until the start of the biennial Manchester International Festival. It promises to present “new works from across the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture” and celebrates Manchester’s “pivotal role in music, culture, innovation and the arts”.

It sounds exactly like the kind of thing I should love, so why then do I feel ambivalent? From the 30th June to 17th July Manchester will host 26 world premiers or special events, 10 of which are free, but in reality there are only 2 events that have my attention – and I’m unlikely to attend either of them.

Before you read on you should check out the website and programme for yourself. More than 200,000 people visited the inaugural Festival in 2007 and around 230,000 people attended in 2009 – It’s a popular event and there are lots of big names performing so don’t let my lack of enthusiasm deter you.

ECLIPSEAmadou & Mariam

The first event that appeals to me is Amadou & Mariam’s Eclipse, showing between 14th and 16th July at New Century Hall.

I have never listened to the music of “Malian musical superstars” Amadou & Mariam. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before the festival. They have 6 albums under their belts, including the track “All I Believe in” from the The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack. (I haven’t actually verified that snippet of trivia – blame Wikipedia if it’s not true). They are very well known apparently, just not by me.

I have no idea what to expect from their music but the concept behind these performances has me intrigued. You see, they will be performing 6 intimate concerts entirely in the dark to create an “unforgettable sensory experience”.

Amadou & Mariam, who met in the orchestra of The Institute for the Young Blind in Bamako, have been married for 25 years. When asked about the concerts Amadou Bagayoko said:

“If you cannot see, your sense of sound becomes richer. You appreciate the qualities of sound. That’s one reason I wanted to have a series of concerts in the darkness. I wanted the audiences to try to hear the music just as Mariam and I hear it.”

Intriguing right?

The problem is, what if I hate their music? It seems like a lot of money to spend on a whim if it turns out to be 90 minutes of torture. On the other hand, they could be (and probably are) exceptional, unforgettable, or at the very least entertaining.

Amadou & MariamA friend suggested I should buy an album and listen to it with the curtains closed, thus saving myself a lot of money. He’s got a point, but the environment in which you experience the music, the excitement of knowing it’s live, hearing the music reverberate around you and feeling the room vibrate, is always going to be an entirely different experience to sitting in your front room, even if you do have a great sound system. I loved The Blue Man Group, for example, when we watched them nervously from the sixth row in Vegas, but I wouldn’t listen to them through my iPod.

I have to ask myself – Do I have £27.50 worth of curiosity? (or rather £55 worth of curiosity – as I don’t plan to go alone). As yet I’m still undecided.

Are you familiar with Amadou & Mariam’s music? Will you be going to hear them during the festival? I’d love to hear other people’s feedback to spur me into making a decision either way.

DOCTOR WHO 

Doctor WhoThe second event I want to write about – the one I would be positively giddy about if I could actually go, is Doctor Who: The Crash of the Elysium. Yes, I am a total geek.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had the inside scoop on this particular show. I know someone working on the set. They are, and subsequently I am, sworn to absolute secrecy. My lips are sealed. I don’t like spoilers but if you want to get a feel for what to expect I recommend you read Lyn Gardner’s article for the Guardian here.   

I called it a show, but it isn’t really is it? It’s an interactive adventure in which you have one terrifying hour to save world.

Doctor Who: The Crash of the Elysium is a new work created by immersive theatre specialists Punchdrunk, which tend to leave their audiences / participants, babbling excitedly for days (or weeks) afterwards.

Their 2009 MIF show, “It Felt Like a Kiss” was a nightmarish, walk-through experience about America’s 1960s colonisations of far-flung parts of the globe. When a friend described her (traumatic sounding) experience of the show I kicked myself for not going too.

In this year’s Doctor Who however, it is the children who will have to don biohazard suits to save the world. That’s the kicker: I cannot go because adults are only allowed in if they are accompanying a child aged between 6 and 12 years old. I’m not above child-borrowing but no-one has volunteered yet.

Are you familiar with the works of Punchdrunk? Did you go to “It Felt Like a Kiss”? Can I borrow your children? (Kidding!)

Seriously though, are you planning to go to any of the events during the festival?

Which other shows would you recommend?