Event Destination: We're all off to... Manchester

Practically every UK-wide brand activation and live event has Manchester in its sights - and with good reason.

Manchester attracts a huge number of events and brand activations (Credit: Piccadilly Partnership)
Manchester attracts a huge number of events and brand activations (Credit: Piccadilly Partnership)

What's it known for?

Those dark satanic mills may still litter the horizon, but Manchester is a city that's leading the northern backlash against the behemoth of London. Its music scene is one of the most reliable in the UK for churning out modern classics, and the city will transform into an artistic Mecca for 18 days when the Manchester International Festival returns in July.

Add to this three universities, a booming economy and a football scene that needs no introduction, and you're left with the third most-visited city in the UK after London and Edinburgh.

Famous sights

The Northern Quarter is the region's less pretentious answer to Shoreditch, filled with a distinctive mix of winding alleys and warehouses that house a mixture of bars, art galleries, record stores and event spaces.

Soap opera stalwart and continual documentary of life in Manchester, Coronation Street, is brought to life through The Tour, which promises 'some exciting new elements' from 20 March onwards.

Further traditional sights to be found across the city include green space Piccadilly Gardens, the imposing Manchester Town Hall, the Quays on the waterside border of Salford and the latest addition to the skyline - Beetham Tower.

A hotspot for brands

Almost every UK-wide activation seems to target Manchester. The list of brands that selected it last year as a main experiential destination is long, with highlights including Virgin Trains' Traindeer reveal, ITV's Fever Pitch for the 2014 Fifa World Cup and Netto's giant Lego dog stunt.

This year, Prostate Cancer UK is set to turn one of Manchester's many pubs into the 'Men United Arms' as part of its latest awareness-raising campaign, while Coors Light will be bringing its week-long Ice Bar experience to the metropolis from 13 March.

Stefan Maciejewski, managing director of Smart Hospitality Manchester, says the city is accommodating almost every sector's activation needs, given the diversity of industry both in it and the surrounding regions. "However, we have definitely noticed a rise in retail-led experiences and product launches, especially within larger spaces," he adds. "There has also been an upsurge in the number of automotive events in Manchester, rivalling Birmingham, with whom we compete in terms of road infrastructure. Manchester has an incredible music heritage, so concerts and club nights play an important role in the events scene up here."


Smart Hospitality Manchester is joined by agencies Journey 9, Rapport and Fresh on the roster of experiential and event agencies based in the city. Venue-finding company Hire Space also launched in Manchester at the end of 2014, alongside self-service ticketing platform Eventbrite, which opened an office there in November last year.

"We've seen tremendous international growth in the past couple of years and believe in the power of having local, authentic presence in key markets," says Eventbrite's co-founder Renaud Visage. "Our data shows this to be a market with an entrepreneurial spirit and vibrant culture, so we are thrilled to help the community develop its live experiences market."

WRG has foregone the lure of the capital and chosen to base its head office in Manchester. "The company was formed eight years ago as the result of the merger of two businesses, both of which happened to be based in the North West," explains Carol Smith, strategic business development director at WRG. "Being based in Manchester has many advantages, particularly with the explosion of media-related enterprises and initiatives such as Media City and The Sharp Project. There is also a cost consideration - it helps us to add value to our clients."

Where to host an event

Victoria Warehouse is located in the heart of Manchester and represents both the industrial past - with the venue's 100-year history and exposed brickwork - and its future, by hosting brand events with Gap, BMW and Vevo. EventCity offers 28,000sqm of space for conferences, exhibitions, concerts and other large events, while 'renovation project' Antwerp Mansion provides a quirky solution for music, art and photography bookings from Thursday to Saturday.

Unusual spaces to hire for events include Manchester Central Library, Concorde Hangar, the National Football Museum and Manchester Art Gallery. TV fans are also offered the option of four event spaces at Old Granada Studios, including the 2,430-capacity Bonded Warehouse.

And another thing...

Manchester will play host to the Red Bull Music Academy, which is set to take place on 16-19 April. Following residencies in Glasgow, Bristol and London, the brand selected the city for the finale of its UK tour. Club nights from international DJs such as Zed Bias, Omar-S and Todd Edwards will be complemented by a range of exhibitions, speaker sessions, workshops and live broadcasts.


After months of rescheduled openings, Hotel Football opened on 2 March. The venue, which is the brainchild of former Manchester United players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, counts an 11th-floor rooftop football pitch - 'Heaven' - among its venue spaces. It will be able to accommodate up to 200 people for parties or post-event kickabouts.

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