Festival Square 2023

30 Jun - 16 Jul 2023

Photo of people chatting on deck chairs
30 Jun - 16 Jul 2023

Accessibility features available for this event: BSL Interpreting Wheelchair Access

The buzzing heart of MIF returned with a new riverside home.

Manchester's favourite summer hangout returned for MIF23 with a free programme of live music and performances. From late-night DJ sets and family-friendly fun, to spoken word and bands, Festival Square’s all about showing off the best talent from the city and beyond.

For the first time ever, Festival Square took over the banks of the River Irwell – Manchester’s newest outdoor space. We caught up with friends, watched new acts and picked from enough street food to keep you full all summer. Whatever you’re into, Festival Square was the place to kick back and discover what makes Manchester special.

With over 190 artists on the bill, there was truly something for everyone. Post-punk legends A Certain Ratio, disco-flavour indie rockers The Orielles and leftfield dance producer (and dancefloor-filler) Planningtorock all repped the North – alongside international heavyweights from the euphoric pop of South Africa’s Nakhane to Jools Holland favourites The Joy.

26 artists were selected from our open call – representing the next gen of Greater Manchester talent, alongside our bright and buzzing Factory Sounds cohort. And with takeovers from some of the city’s best promoters, club nights, collectives, venues and radio stations – think Band on the Wall, Brighter Sound, Reform Radio and more – the Square was a real Manchester love-in. Plus every lunchtime Tuesday to Friday, we played host to experimental classical concerts from the likes of Vulva Voce, Bothy Project, The Untold Orchestra and K'in Ensemble. It was the perfect excuse to take your lunch break and come and chill out.

The all-important food and drink came from a smorgasbord of super-talented providers. Super Serve previewed their Middle Eastern inspired menu alongside Caribbean delights from ARMR, Indian and Pakistani cuisine from Zouk, chippy teas galore from Hip Hop Chip Shop plus Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and their mouthwatering selection of ice-creams and sorbets.

Summer starts at Fezzy Square.

Factory International would like to thank Bruntwood for their sponsorship of Festival Square stage and Hawkins\Brown for their design of Festival Square. 

Image: Lee Baxter


Get to know the line-up

  • Friday 30 June

    A certified Manchester love-in – with post-punk legends A Certain Ratio topping a bill presented by Dave Haslam
  • Saturday 1 July

    Joy was on the menu with multitalented South African superstar Nakhane, local star B!TEZ and Homoelectric
  • Sunday 2 July

    A jam-packed kids morning plus special programming presented by Brighter Sound and Band on the Wall
  • Tuesday 4 July

    From Vulva Voce to Hip Hop Hustle-Hers, we celebrated women taking up space and taking the stage.
  • Wednesday 5 July

    Peaches touched down in Manchester for a special talk – followed by a set from leftfield dance icon Planningtorock
  • Thursday 6 July

    Our friends at TransCreative took over Festival Square for one night in Trans Vegas
  • Friday 7 July

    We went international with The Two Stubborn Nigerians podcast, uplifting pop from South Africa’s The Joy and a Piano in the City takeover.
  • Saturday 8 July

    We transported you across continents to South America, West Africa and South Asia – plus a party for the little ones
  • Sunday 9 July

    A wild Sunday of family rock ‘n’ roll fun before a headline set from disco post-punk outfit The Orielles, all presented by iconic Manchester venue YES
  • Tuesday 11 July

    A genre-hopping celebration of women, non-binary and queer talent headlined by Heartworms
  • Wednesday 12 July

    Discover the sounds of the African continent and diaspora – with a closing party from Homecoming Festival
  • Thursday 13 July

    We dived into the world of talent behind Manchester-based Reform Radio before partying the night away with club favourites SHEwillprovide
  • Friday 14 July

    Feel good this Friday with our Feel Good Club takeover – plus an unmissable night with Dutch Uncles playing live and DJ Paulette on the decks
  • Saturday 15 July

    We embraced the avant-garde with our Kusama Fashion Show then partied till late with British South Asian collective Daytimers
  • Sunday 16 July

    We put on our dancing shoes for Northern Soul DJ legend Colin Curtis – plus a chance to make connections at our Artist Social and We Gather

The soundtrack to your summer


Access information

Here you can find access information for Aviva Studios, our access performances and advice on content. For more information about the different types of access performances we offer, please visit our Access page. If you have specific access needs that aren’t yet addressed, please email access@factoryinternational.org prior to the event and we’ll do our best to help.

This year Festival Square is located in the outdoor spaces at Aviva Studios. The full address is Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester M3 4JQ and what3words is chop.feeds.chase.


There is step-free access to all areas of Festival Square. There will be a range of seating options around the space. The bars will have a lowered accessible service area.

Events on stage at Festival Square will predominantly be set up as standing gigs. There will be a dedicated accessible viewing platform with ramped access for wheelchair users and those requiring access seats, as well as a dedicated space on the flat floor close to the stage. Access to both of these areas will be available on a first come, first served basis. A member of our front of house team will be able to show you to these when you arrive.

There are accessible toilets on all public levels of the building.

A mixture of wheelchair accessible toilets with right- or left-hand transfer as well as ambulant accessible cubicles with grab rails are located in the brick arches in the Social.

There are additional accessible toilets in both Hall Foyers.

You do not need a key to use the accessible toilets.

Assistance dogs are welcome at Festival Square, and we can provide mats and water bowls on request. If you are bringing your assistance dog to Festival Square, please be mindful that there will be high noise levels at some events.

There will be BSL interpretation for selected performances on the stage in Festival Square.

BSL interpretation will be provided for the following performances:

Saturday 1 July, 5–5.30pm Cariss Auburn

BSL interpreter: Samantha Vanterpool

Sunday 2 July, 6.15–6.45pm Community Arts Northwest presents Force of Nature feat Sarah Yaseen, Emmanuela Yogolelo & Meduulla

BSL interpreter: Emma Jane Heap

Tuesday 4 July, 5–5.30pm Karis Jade

BSL interpreter: Emma Andrews

Wednesday 5 July, 5–5.30pm Chrysalid Homo

BSL interpreter: Emma Andrews

Wednesday 5 July, 7.15–8pm In Conversation with Peaches & Cheddar Gorgeous (talk)

BSL interpreter: Emma Jane Heap

Thursday 6 July, 5–5.30pm JK (spoken word)

BSL interpreter: Emma Jane Heap

Thursday 6 July, 6pm – 1am Trans Vegas Festival Square Takeover
BSL interpreter: Russ Andrews

Thursday 13 July, 3–4.30pm Reform Radio presents Mutalism (talk)

BSL interpreter: Tony Redshaw

Thursday 13 July, 5–5.30pm Nxdia

BSL interpreter: Tony Redshaw

Friday 14 July, 5–5.30pm iamkyami

BSL interpreter: Karl Llorca

Saturday 15 July 4–4.45pm Balmy Army: A Movement and Call to Action

BSL interpreters: Lizzie Wharton and Leo Freeman

Saturday 15 July 5–5.30pm Shaq Rayes

BSL interpreter: Samantha Vanterpool

Sunday 16 July 10am–1.30pm We Gather

BSL interpreters: Anthony Redshaw and Leo Freeman

Travel information

Below you can find information on how to get to Festival Square.

Festival Square can be approached along Water Street (coming from Quay Street) or along Liverpool Road (coming from Deansgate or Castlefield).

The Water Street route is the quickest way to arrive at our City Square entrance (the main entrance for Festival Square).

Our closest stations are:

Salford Central station: 0.4 miles

Deansgate station and Deansgate-Castlefield tram: 0.6 miles

St Peter’s Square tram: 0.6 miles

Manchester Victoria station is approximately one mile from Aviva Studios

Manchester Piccadilly station is approximately 1.3 miles from Aviva Studios

Click on the links above to find detailed access information for each station.

Free bus services stop at all city-centre stations, and near to Aviva Studios along Deansgate, Bridge St and Quay St. Buses on these free routes are wheelchair accessible. For full details of the free bus routes, please visit the TfGM website.

There is a car park approximately 0.6 miles from the event entrance at Water Street Car Park, New Elm Rd, Manchester, M3 4JH.

There is also a NCP car park (Manchester Spinningfields) approximately 0.5 miles away from the venue at Spinningfields, New Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3BE. It has 35 accessible bays.

There are a small number of Blue Badge spaces along Water St and Quay St. Otherwise head towards Liverpool Road, Great John St and Lower Byrom St – close to our neighbours, the Science and Industry Museum where there are a small number of additional Blue Badge spaces.

For a list of other parking bays available in the area, visit Manchester City Council website.

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