What a day! The first ever Festival of Manchester had the crowds buzzing with laughter, excitement, and wonder during a day that saw more than 10,000 flock to Platt Fields Park for a late summer fiesta to showcase the very best of Manchester.
For one day only the brand new festival brought together more than sixty different community groups, with each of them showing off their own culture and traditions in a fantastic carnival of culture, colour, and creativity.
An action packed programme of free family-friendly cultural activities and performances had the crowds buzzing from midday until well after sunset.
In true festival style the park was full to bursting with an eclectic mix of the ever so slightly weird and the downright wonderful.
With bee hives full of bees as you’ve never seen them before, an allotment full of carefully tended beds of fruit and vegetable ‘babies’, pop-up chat with over the garden fence gossip, rickshaw rides, and a ‘hat’s off’ parade – the festival was a feast for the eyes at every turn.
Stunning music and dance performances from community groups representing cultures from around the globe kept the carnival atmosphere going under blue skies and the warm late summer sun.
Jet Black Dance, Colibri Mexican Folkdance, Lithuanian folk dance, Bhangrasize and plenty more kept festival-goers on their toes, trying out the moves and dancing along with them.
Music lovers were also spoilt for choice as different sounds spilled out from across the festival site. With African drummers from Amani Creative, Manchester School of Samba, Soul Beats, Backchat Brass, Baked A La Ska, and Manchester Malayalee Association’s drum ensemble the Chenda Melam demonstrating their very own unique traditional art of drumming Keralan style, the festival didn’t miss a beat.
Sports fans were well catered for too, with everything from jaw-dropping displays in BMX and Taekwondo, to try out sessions in American football, rugby, dodgeball, cricket, netball, tennis, and skateboarding.
Also on the menu at the day-long festival was a mouth-watering array of food and drink - from refreshing smoothies and the coolest of ice creams, to the hottest of curries. Queues for the ever popular Spanish sweet treat proved of course that everyone loves a churro, but also cooking up a storm amongst festival-goers was a feast of street food from every corner of the world.
The non-stop programme of fun activities and free things to do lasted until well after sunset. Have-a-go workshops in dance, design, crafts, and sports, walkabout theatre, poetry slams and debates, made sure there was something for everyone.
No festival would of course be complete without a grand finale finish - and the Festival of Manchester finished in spectacular style with an amazing show on the lake in the middle of the park.
'Swan Song' was specially created for the festival by Walk the Plank and featured the proudest of peacocks and the most elegant of swans, who sought each other out as night fell to join together in a fleeting moment of fiery magic on the lake.
As the giant-sized illuminated swan made her way gliding elegantly over the lake across the moonlit water to where the peacock stood calling for her, fires burned on the shore-line, and musicians skimmed the surface of the lake around the swan in boats lit up with coloured lights and fire.
In a magical and mesmerising display accompanied by a haunting soundtrack played live by musicians from Manchester International Roots Orchestra, the swan briefly found her peacock, before disappearing again in a magnificent shower of lights back across the lake.
Moments later the mood was changed again one final time when, in complete contrast to the serene swan and now calm stillness of lights on the water, the crowd’s rapturous applause was broken by the frenetic high energy drumming of the amazing illuminated drummers of Spark as they came into view at the water’s edge, working the crowds into a frenzy of excitement as they led them in a final fiesta fanfare around the lake.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure, Manchester City Council, said: “This was our first ever Festival of Manchester and was a brilliant success. People turned out in their thousands to celebrate the many different cultures that make up our fantastic hometown.
“Behind all the fun is a recognition of the serious contribution that culture makes to Manchester, and especially the value brought by all the many different communities that together make our diverse and vibrant city such a great place to live, work and play.”