It’s October already! This month in Manchester England, from the 12th to the 23rd of October, is Design Manchester 2016. This means, for anyone in Manchester, you get to go and see some incredible talks, exhibitions, designers, tours, workshops. If you’re not in Manchester, like me, you will have to live vicariously through social media, and Design Manchester’s website to follow the activity. Sad but true.

manchester city skyline

Design Manchester is in its fourth year. It started as a way to create a strong ‘design voice’ in Manchester.

“We celebrate the part design plays in making Manchester and other cities great to live in. Not just our architecture, culture and world-class media, but the growth of start-ups and studios in creative tech, shops for a design-conscious generation and the return of craft in everything from beer to print in the new culture of making.”

Sign me up! Let’s face it. When we think of the UK, we probably think of London first. But, dear reader, London is not the be all and end all. When I went to Manchester it blew me away. There is a huge creative movement in the city. Mostly pulsating around an area called the Northern Quarter. Here you will find all sorts of creatives hard at work. This is also where Design Manchester takes place. It’s well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in that part of the world.

manchester craft and design centre

Manchester Craft and Design Centre, Northern Quarter, Manchester UK.

So, if I was attending Design Manchester 2016 these are some of the things that I would do.

Hand Craft – Manchester Craft and Design Centre

This exhibition is inspired by the design of a packable, refillable, paper-topped modular table by British design studio HAND (it’s basically like a table with a big drawing pad attached to the top so you can sketch, doodle, write your ideas and have them on hand all the time). The Manchester Craft and Design Centre (MCDC) is a space much like The Woodstock Exchange in Cape Town. Resident creatives rent space and work and sell their products to the public. For this exhibition, each resident had to create a mural on the paper-topped table created by HAND.  The exhibition brings together each resident’s design to form one big mural of tables.

hand studio uk

I love collaboration and seeing how everyone can come up with something completely different. I’ve also been to the MCDC and it’s got to be one of my favourite places on earth to shop for unique treasures made by up and coming designers.

Alan Kitching – A Life in Letterpress – Manchester School of Art

Alan Kitching is one of the world’s foremost practitioners of letterpress typographic design and printmaking. This exhibition shows his life’s work but also his process, inspiration and techniques he has used across his lifetime.


The exhibition will also hold a workshop by Alan himself. Throughout the exhibition, Alan will be making bespoke pieces of art one can buy. I mean… for any typography lover, this is a dream. The fact that the exhibition includes Alan’s process is a win (well would’ve been if I was actually going!) I always find it more interesting to see how a designer got to the final piece than the final thing itself.

Street Art Tour – Northern Quarter

The Northern Quarter used to be a grungy, down and out area of the city. But, through a redevelopment program, the area is now home to most of the city’s designers and creatives. The tour explains the history of the area and why so much street art ended up being there. It also takes a look at the current resurgence of street art all over the area. Hopefully, they will film the tour and put it online!?


Design City Fair – London Road Fire Station

Two days, 100 creatives, thousands of unique artwork to buy! The fair will host many creatives who will be selling affordable pieces of their work. It will also include workshops like screen-printing, bookbinding and origami with some of the creatives themselves. There is also a courtyard where music, food and drinks will keep everyone happy. By the way, London Road Fire Station is not in London, it’s a road called ‘London’ in Manchester. Right opposite the main train station. So it’s the first and last thing you see if you come to Manchester by train. It’s exceptionally old and is a grade II listed building, which means it has historical and architectural significance.


Manchester Moleskin – Old Granada Studios

Who can resist a good Moleskin? Nobody, including Jon Massey and Adam Stanway. These two have spent two years documenting the creative space of Manchester with nothing but an A5 Moleskin. During these two years they have captured the narrative of Manchester and catalogued over 50 visionaries and creatives living within in it.


This event will see the final version of the Moleskin exhibited for the first time. Moments before this Jon Massey and Adam Stanway will still be accepting and cataloguing final submissions which will be projected live at the event. This is actually the closing of Design Manchester 2016 so the event will include music, food and drinks from local craft breweries in the area. Serious, serious FOMO.

So that is how I would spend my imaginary trip to Design Manchester 2016. Design, collaboration, vision and startups are so inspirational. And this festival seems to capture all that in a city that has turned itself into a hub of creativity and design.

All images copyright © 2016 Design Manchester 2016 website.