Manchester After Hours

Manchester’s After Hours Festival goes from strength to strength.  From poetry in Chethams Library to drawing sessions in Manchester Museum to a musical steam train tour at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester’s cultural venues open their doors to top quality, fascinating and at times quirky events.

It’s impossible to do it all.  There are too many events (23 are listed) and it’s spread over the whole of the city centre, including Salford.  But that’s one of the joys of the event.  Your paths cross with people who have seen different performances and you can compare your experiences.  You can plan your evening to the minute, or remain flexible.  You can experience complete sessions, or dip in and out.

IMG_1733My evening starts at the beautiful John Rylands library, where RNCM are performing Neon Sonnets, a collection of music and spoken word based around Shakespeare. We witness the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene on the historic main staircase.  There is a presentation about the first folio of Shakespeare’s plays from 1623, one of the library’s greatest treasures.

IMG_1734All around there is music coming from the rooms above – trumpets, flute.  In the Historic Reading Room itself, there is Beethoven from the Marvelo String Quartet, an arrangement of Sonnet 116 for mezzo-soprano (Joanna Harries) and harp (Kathryn Mason), and spoken excerpts from Twelfth Night.  The climax is a stunning vocal performance of Song for Athene in front of one of the main stained glass windows, the evening sun setting behind to silhouette the singers.

IMG_1741Then on to the Portico Library, another gem from Manchester’s architectural history.  Performing in the main room (having paused to admire the dome) are poet Andrew McMillan and dancer Joshua Hubbard.  Andrew reads from his powerful collection, Physical, whilst around him Joshua’s dancing is sensual and seductive.  It’s an atmospheric setting.

IMG_1751Across in the Northern Quarter, Manchester Camerata musicians Caroline Pether (violin) and Hannah Roberts (cello) are performing in Common.  Set up by the main window, passers-by peer in to see what is happening.  It’s a noisy bar but as soon as the musicians play, the room is quiet; the acoustics are excellent.  The set is well chosen, ranging from Bach to Layla.  This is an audience any performance group in Manchester would die for.

IMG_1764Finally ten minutes on the bus and I’m out at the Whitworth Gallery watching D’Arts – darts in the Grand Hall.  Slightly surreal, the pub culture of darts blending with the grandeur of the art gallery, darts are thrown at boards surrounded by works of art.  It’s a fine ending to a superb night.

Manchester After Hours took place on Thursday 12th May 2016.  It’s an annual event supported by Creative Tourist and Arts Council.  Im already looking forward to the next one in spring 2017!

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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