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Visit Manchester’s museums and galleries this summer

14 May 2021

Image of Visitors playing interactive Match Girls' Strike game at People's History Museum, Manchester

Visit Manchester’s museums and galleries this summer

It’s been a long time coming but must-see exhibitions and experiences are back at museums and galleries across the city next week.  Plan and book your visit now with our handy guide below.  We have all missed you.

You can also check out and let culture set you free!

Here’s some ideas for what you can do:

Castlefield Gallery

Jane Fairhurst, '...a global seam of plastic...' (2020) details. Mixed media. Image courtesy Jules Lister

Obstructions, Castlefield Gallery’s lockdown exhibition, will open for just five days from Wednesday 19 to Sunday 23 May. 

Originally due to open on Saturday 21 November 2020, and only able to welcome visitors in the virtual realm since then, the exhibition was conceived during what now feels like the early days of the pandemic, this exhibition brought together 15 artists from across Greater Manchester, to exchange obstructions.  The idea riffed off the restrictions imposed by lockdown and provided Castlefield Gallery with an opportunity to put a positive spin on things, working safely with a group of artists close to them.

Later this summer and marking a high point in nearly ten years of working together; Castlefield Gallery presents Nicola Ellis’ first major solo exhibition.  Featuring ambitious large scale work developed during a two year artist placement at Ritherdon & Co Ltd: a manufacturer of steel enclosures based in Darwen, Lancashire.  Works include metal panels coated with ‘dead powder’ the leftover paint from the factory’s daily jobs excessively applied so that it slips and drips as it dries.  Industrial strip lights linked to real time light sensors in the factory and a video installation showing how pace and rhythm is set, changed and communicated.

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA)

Grace Lau, 21st Century Types (2005), Multiplicities in Flux install at CFCCA (2020). Photo by Walla Alradhi

CFCCA reopens from Wednesday 19 May with a duo of exhibitions investigating and unpicking themes of belonging, identity and citizenship in a globalised and hyper-connected society.  Housed in CFCCA’s Northern Quarter galleries, the exhibitions are just a few minutes’ walk from Manchester’s Arndale Shopping Centre.

Multiplicities in Flux brings together works by contemporary artists Grace Lau and Eelyn Lee in a dialogue around identity and belonging.  Lau’s series of photographic portraits 21st Century Types reflect the diversity of contemporary British society, while Lee’s film Britishness investigates the notion of what it is to be British.

Meanwhile, Autopsy of a Home by Omid Asadi explores the experiences and domestic spaces of migrants using the concept of heterotopia (literally meaning ‘other places’).  When people are disconnected from their roots and familiar environment, cultures and communities are brought together, creating a unique and distinct reality.

Both exhibitions are free to attend and CFCCA’s galleries are open Wednesday to Sunday, 11.00am until 4.00pm.


HOME reopens from Monday 17 May with a programme including two new exhibitions, a programme of film releases including three Best Picture Oscar nominees and a new film season exploring filmmaking on screen.

In HOME’s main gallery space, Soul Journey to Truth, presented in association with Koestler Arts, has been carefully curated by Lady Unchained (Brenda Birungi) and features over 130 artworks ranging from drawings and paintings to pieces of writing and music.  All the works were entries to the 2020 Koestler Awards, an annual scheme run by Koestler Arts, the UK’s leading prison arts charity, to promote artistic achievement in the criminal justice system and secure sectors.

Lady Unchained is an acclaimed London-based performance artist and poet, who is the Founder and Creative Director of Unchained Poetry, an artistic platform for artists with lived experience of the criminal justice system.  Her mission is to prove that there is life after prison and challenge the ‘ex-offender’ label through creativity.

Elsewhere in the HOME building, the Granada Foundation Gallery, which can be found on the first and second floor of HOME, providing a way to combine art with a social visit to HOME’s restaurant or cinema bar, will feature Sarah-Joy Ford’s Feeling Backward: a quilter’s guide to The Lesbian Archive.

The exhibition uses quilt to look back at lesbian pasts and take pleasure in the return to the images, iconographies and symbols that have been used to invoke lesbian strength, power and community throughout the 20th and 21st century: Sappho, the interlocking Venus, the labrys and the Amazon woman.  But it is also an act of mourning the disappearance of the lesbian archive, dyke lands, lesbian history walks and lesbian spaces.

In its opening weeks, HOME will be showing a number of nominees for the Best Picture Oscar – Minari, Sound of Metal and Judas and the Black Messiah amongst them – plus key films previously available to audiences for online viewing only.

And from Monday 7 to Wednesday 30 June, audiences will have their first chance to enjoy a new film season at HOME since FilmFear in October.   The Reverse Gaze: Filmmaking on Screen will look at the act of creating images and more generally the process of artistic endeavour, offering along the way an analysis of the film industry and the personal struggles within it.

IWM North

Aid Workers Ethics Under Fire exhibition installation at IWM North

IWM North reopens its doors from Wednesday 19 May, and can’t wait to welcome you back.

The Main Exhibition Space is full of collections that tell the stories of conflict, from World War I to the present day.  Discover the forgotten histories of service personnel and civilians, see conflict through the eyes of artists and immerse yourself in the Big Picture Show at IWM North this summer.  This is a place where every object on display, every contemporary work of art and every exhibition is designed to live long in the memory.

For a limited time only, the exhibition Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire, has been extended which brings together powerful stories from humanitarians working in conflict zones.  Now running until Friday 24 September 2021, understand the global story from interviews of individual experiences in the field, displayed alongside photographs and unique objects – recorded and sourced specially for this exhibition.  On your visit you’ll encounter a Médecins Sans Frontières Land Cruiser, an iconic vehicle associated with aid work, and the IKEA Better Shelter, an innovative shelter designed for refugees.  See aid workers’ personal belongings and equipment which give an insight into the conditions they face, and the mental and physical trials of working in the field.

The Lowry

The Lowry in Salford has confirmed its reopening line-up.  The first performance, which will take place outdoors from Tuesday 18 May, is a critically acclaimed live production of C-O-N-T-A-C-T by Aria Entertainment and WEF Productions.

From Saturday 22 May, the art centre’s galleries will reopen at weekends on a timed entry, socially distanced operation – offering visitors both the permanent LS Lowry collection and the exhibition exploring people from Salford’s experiences of lockdown, Days Like These

On Sunday 30 May, comedian Michael Spicer will be the first artist to perform indoors on the main Lyric Theatre stage, with his The Room Next Door tour to a socially distanced audience.  Northern Ballet follows in the Lyric Theatre with a five-day run of Dangerous Liaisons from Tuesday 1 to Saturday 5 June. 

Manchester Art Gallery

Grayson's Art Club

Manchester Art Gallery reopens on Wednesday 19 May. Opening times are 10.00am to 4.00pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

If you’re visiting the main gallery, you won’t need to book a ticket – you can just walk in.  And there will be lots to see: 

What is Manchester Art Gallery?
A new display introducing the gallery including its origins, how the collection was formed and how it relates to Manchester and its people.

Jade Montserrat Constellations: Care & Resistance 
Part gallery, part studio, this evolving space showcases Jade Montserrat’s work exploring race, the body and language. 

Grayson’s Art Club
Works on display were selected by artist Grayson Perry during Grayson’s Art Club, the popular Channel 4 TV series.  All the works on display are very personal visual representations of lockdown, made by the public, well known artists and celebrities for Grayson’s Art Club.

Tickets are required for Grayson’s Art Club Wednesday 19 May to Sunday 20 June.  The gallery have had  big demand and are fully booked for the first month.  The need for tickets for entry after 21 June is dependent on the Government’s roadmap and the lifting of restrictions.  If further ticketing is required, tickets will be released two weeks prior to 21 June.

Also coming soon is Suzanne Lacy: Cleaning Conditions and Uncertain Futures from Thursday 24 June.  This brings together two of Lacy’s Manchester projects, Cleaning Conditions and her new collaborative work Uncertain Futures, which explores paid and unpaid work for women over 50 focusing on gender, age, race, disability and class.

The shop and cafe will be open with an updated seasonal menu, lots of new outdoor seating and of course, plenty of cakes.  For now it will be table service in line with Government regulations, but you don’t need to book, or visit the Gallery to come and enjoy the café.  Manchester Art Gallery hopes to see you soon, from 10.00am to 4.00pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

Manchester Jewish Museum

Manchester Jewish Museum (c) Chris Payne

A new museum for you and me.

Manchester Jewish  Museum is thrilled to be reopening its doors from Friday 2 July 2021 following a major capital development, redesign and extension.  Two years in the making, the brand new museum now features a gallery, cafe, shop and learning studio and kitchen as well as the stunning restoration of its 1874 Spanish and Portuguese synagogue.

Located in Cheetham Hill, one of the city’s most culturally diverse areas, Manchester Jewish Museum explores and shares Jewish stories of migration, communities and identities to make universal connections and to bring people together.  As well as a brand new exhibition space and restored synagogue, the museum will also launch a season of events and activities from the summer. 

The museum will be reopening this summer with a unique installation by Turner Prize-winning artist Laure Prouvost as part of Manchester International Festival 2021, #MIF21.  

The museum looks forward to welcoming you.  It will be open seven days a week from 10.00am – 5.00pm (until 10.00pm on Thursdays) and tickets for general admission will go on sale from Thursday 20 May.

Manchester Museum 

Manchester Museum - Living world with visitors

Manchester Museum is delighted to reopen from Wednesday 19 May and looks forward to welcoming you back!

Opening times are Wednesday to Sunday, 11.00am – 4.00pm.  Admission remains FREE, however booking is recommended in advance.

Explore three floors of displays and exhibitions, including objects from all over the world.  There are so many fascinating things to discover – from Stan the T.rex to the Vivarium, and newly bred Harlequin frogs.

Visit the new soundscape exhibition Wild Chorus, recorded and composed in summer 2020 by sound artist Harry Ovington.  The artwork reflects a unique moment of global quiet and acts as a time capsule of the first lockdown, blending field recordings of nature with sonified weather pattern datasets.  Discover the holographic artwork Voicing Silence by Liverpool-based artist Laurence Payot.  This video installation exploring the emotional impact of biodiversity loss is part of the collaborative Thinking Through Extinction project.

Check in with the Insect Hotel, an installation by artist in residence Kate Eggleston-Wirtz, and discover the important role that insects play within our world.  The Insect Hotel is on display in the Museum Shop, where you will also find a fantastic range of unique gifts and books inspired by the museum’s collection – with many fair trade and sustainable gifts, there is something for all ages, tastes and budgets with every purchase supporting the museum.

If all of that has given you an appetite, Manchester Museum’s much loved Café Muse will be open with a range of hot and cold drinks, cakes and snacks to take away.

National Football Museum 

The Laws of the Game will go on show at the National Football Museum

National Football Museum reopens from Thursday 27 May, initially from Thursday to Sunday with the following highlights: 

New exhibition: English Football Hall of Fame (opens Thursday 27 May 2021)
For almost two decades the National Football Museum’s English Football Hall of Fame has celebrated the great and the good of the game. This is the first time the museum has put on a full scale exhibition showcasing some of those who’ve made an outstanding contribution to football, both on and off the pitch.

New object: The Laws of the Game (object on display from Thursday 27 May 2021)
ithout this book, the world would be without its most popular sport.  The 1863 Minute Book features the 13 original Laws of association football, which were written by Ebenezer Morley, the first secretary of The Football Association. 

New exhibition: The Euros (opens Friday 11 June 2021).
This new photographic exhibition coincides with the rescheduled UEFA EURO 2020 which is being held across the continent for the first time in the competition’s 60-year history.  This exhibition will focus on Euro 96 which took place in England.  The exhibition will look at popular culture of the period when the
Three Lions song reverberated around stadiums as football came home.

New gallery: New Lily Parr gallery (open from summer 2021)
The museum celebrates Lily Parr – England’s first international women’s footballer – by creating a gallery to the player inside the museum.  The new gallery will feature new objects and previously unseen photographs of Lily and her teammates.  Born in St Helens in 1905, Parr was one of the most astonishing and important figures in English football.  It’s believed she scored more than 980 goals in a 32 year career

People’s History Museum 

Jo Cox's mountain hat. Courtesy of Jo Cox's family. More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox exhibition at People's History MuseumPeople’s History Museum reopens from Wednesday 19 May 2021, open Wednesday to Sunday, 10.00am – 4.00pm, FREE ENTRY.

Discover what’s new at the national museum of democracy.

Explore new exhibitions and objects, a major loan from the British Museum, and a brand new cafe & bar offering a delicious all day menu for museum visitors.

Visit the headline exhibition, More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox and explore Jo’s life and legacy.  See the Jo Cox Memorial Wall, on public display for the first time since Jo’s murder in June 2016, alongside a specially commissioned virtual Wall of Hope to add your personal tribute message.  Take the self-guided trail, specially developed for families, to discover Jo’s story and the issues it raises through younger eyes.

Find the first of a series of new exhibitions for 2021 exploring and celebrating migration and the diverse and multicultural history of Britain, and from Saturday 29 May 2021 see a British Museum Spotlight Loan, Crossings: community and refuge, featuring the Lampedusa cross, on its first tour around the UK.

The whole museum is open to explore the past, present, and future of ideas worth fighting for, throughout two Family Friendly galleries, exhibitions, an archive and shop.

Enjoy hands-on activities and digital interactives for all ages, connecting you and your family with PHM’s unique collections and stories.  Visit the suffragette kitchen to play the Pank-a-Squith board game, see how fast you can work at the Bryant & May match factory through an arcade style game, go back in time at the Co-op shop, and play your favourite songs on a vintage jukebox.

This award winning, Family Friendly museum has created fun ways to encourage younger visitors to discover the people who have shaped our democracy.  Pick up and play I Spy, a free self-guided trail, or enjoy activities designed for using your imagination creatively to move and shake throughout the museum spaces.

And don’t miss Open Kitchen Cafe & Bar!  Enjoy a sustainable, ethical and delicious new food experience.

Science and Industry Museum

Family in puzzle zone in Top Secret Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

The Science and Industry Museum will reopen on Wednesday 19 May with a new must-see exhibition, Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security.

Explore Manchester’s rich legacy of innovations, discoveries and ideas that changed the world in the Revolution Manchester gallery and find out how the city’s heritage is interwoven with the cotton industry in the Textiles Gallery.   

See science brought to life in front of your eyes in Experiment and meet expert Explainers at Science Stops around the museum.  Step out into the cobbled Upper Yard to enjoy a beautiful new garden and uncover stories of the museum’s historic site.

Don’t miss incredible special exhibitions. Delve into the remarkable world of codebreaking, ciphers and secret communications in Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security.  From Saturday 19 June, visit Use Hearing Protection to discover more about the early years of Factory Records, and find out how this independent record label played an influential part in Manchester’s transformation from an industrial powerhouse to a beacon of art and culture.   

The cafe will be open, serving hot and cold drinks, snacks, sandwiches and cakes to eat in or take away.  The museum shop will also be open selling a wide range of gifts, books, games, toys and science kits.  Every purchase you make supports the museum.

There will be lots for you to do, see and discover at the Science and Industry Museum, however, certain areas remain temporarily closed while a multi-million-pound restoration programme continues.  Find out more information in the museum’s We are changing pages.

From Wednesday 19 May, the Science and Industry Museum will open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10.00am – 5.00pm during term time and Monday to Sunday, 10.00am – 5.00pm during school holidays.

The Whitworth

Re-opens from 19 May, Wednesday to Sunday, 11.00am – 4.00pm

From Wednesday 19 May to Thursday 1 July  The Whitworth is open for film screenings of its new exhibition, Imran Perretta: the destructors.

The Whitworth Café, Art Garden and Collections Care Centre are also open from Wednesday 19 May to Thursday 1 July.  The rest of the gallery remains closed while the next exhibitions are installed, following COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The Whitworth looks forward to welcoming you back again when the gallery reopens fully on Friday 2 July with new exhibitions, and extended opening times, as part of Manchester International Festival, #MIF21.  

Cloud Studies | Forensic Architecture
Part of #MIF21, Friday 2 July to Sunday 18 July
From Palestine to Beirut, London to Indonesia and the US–Mexico border, Forensic Architecture investigate, explore and expose how power reshapes the very air we breathe in this urgent and compelling exhibition. 


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