In Manchester in the summertime? Discover how the locals like to party at Parklife, the city’s best-known music festival. Held over two days each June, the dance weekender attracts some of the world’s best bands and DJs - and over 140,000 mad-for-it music lovers ready to dance their socks off.
The festival started life in 2010 in Platt Fields Park south of the city, but grew so big it had to relocate in 2012 to allow more attendees the chance to see dance music legends like Calvin Harris and Mark Ronson. Now the fun-filled weekend takes place in the massive Heaton Park, a location with a long musical heritage of its own, having previously hosted big concerts by the likes of Stone Roses, Oasis and the Happy Mondays.
It’s organised by Manchester promoters the Warehouse Project, and they go to great lengths to make sure their event stands out from the crowd. Each one of the eight musical arenas has its own, imaginative theme, from a giant greenhouse complete with palm trees to a temple made out of shipping containers. And if the thought of an uncomfortable night’s sleep has put you off musical festivals in the past, you’re in luck. Parklife is a no-camping festival, so you won’t feel like you’re cheating when you go back to your comfy hotel room! Luckily we offer plenty of hotels in Manchester for you to choose from, including our Manchester Heaton Park hotel, which is perfectly located for Parklife with cosy beds and, most importantly, hot showers for freshening up.
With a stellar line-up of both big name and up-and-coming acts, most people are here for the music. But if you fancy taking a break from all the stand-out performances, there are other entertainment options on offer too, from roaming entertainers to fairground rides.
Bands and DJs
The festival’s huge rise to fame means that its roster of musical legends just gets bigger and better every year. The eclectic line-up includes some of the biggest names in indie, dance, grime and electronic music, and previous years have seen performances from the likes of Stormzy, Chaka Khan, George Ezra and Fatboy Slim.
There are eight in all, each with different themes. The Elrow is always very popular with its huge inflatables and confetti cannons. The Temple stage looks impressive too - it’s made entirely out of metal storage containers, all piled on top of each other. The Parklife stage has the biggest capacity and has previously hosted the main headline acts.
Food and drink
Parklife is well-known for its vast array of food stalls from some of Manchester’s biggest restaurants. Previous years have seen Thai favourites Chaophraya and Indian street food kitchen Scene hosting micro-diners. There have also been offerings from Mexican chain Wahaca and burger joint Almost Famous. Not that hungry? Grab a cheese toastie from Big Grillie Style.
The festival is so big that it’s like a quirky city in itself. Apart from the stages, you’ll find fairground rides, funky clothes shops from some top clubbing brands and roaming street performers, from Brazilian drummers to people dressed as giant papier mache birds and butterflies. The best views over all the madness below can be had from the big wheel or log flume rides.
Trying to get out of Heaton Park at closing time can take a lot of time, with long queues of festival-goers trying to make their way through just three exit gates. Consider leaving five minutes before the end of the last performance, and check you know which exit is closest.
Made from solid, reinforced concrete, Bridgewater Hall is molded to look like a vast sculpture with a roof that almost seems to hover above. Pretty impressive from the outside, and once inside you’ll find it has all the things you need to make your concert an enjoyable experience.
The full address is Heaton Park, Middleton Road, Higher Blackley M25 2SW. Gates open at 10.30am on Saturday and 11am on Sunday with last admission at 5pm and no re-admittance allowed. The festival ends at 11pm sharp on both nights, with most festival-goers heading back into town to attend one of the official after-parties taking place at venues all over the city.
Parklife has a dedicated first aid point and welfare facilities. Medics also patrol the site. Toilets-wise, you could use the portaloos, but pay just £15 extra to get a wristband allowing you to use the VIPee facilities.These are cleaned after every use and have toilet paper and soap regularly topped up. You can buy this upgrade on the day but they do sell out, so it’s best to buy in advance.
It’s worth taking cash with you because, while there are ATMs inside Parklife, these are subject to both charges and long queues. You can recharge your phone for free (and get free WiFi) from the onsite Power Tree. You can’t miss it - it’s seven and a half metres tall and has over 50 charging ports! Even better, it’s near the dance stage so you can boogie while waiting for your phone to charge!
To grab a bargain price on tickets, make sure you’ve signed up online at the Parklife website for the presale which lets you enjoy early bird tickets at huge discounts. Top-of-the-range VIP tickets will set you back a bit more money, but they give you access to a great range of extras that’ll turn your festival visit into something extra special, such as yoga classes, retro games arcades, private luxury bathrooms and classy cocktail bars.
Parklife aims to be accessible for all, with blue badge car parking, free tickets for carers and disabled toilets all onsite. There’s a dedicated access reception and viewing platforms at all main stages. You’ll need to apply in advance to use many of the disabled access facilities, though. If you feel you could benefit, call 0161 711 0017 to speak to the Parklife Access Officer.
It all happens in Heaton Park, five miles north of Manchester city centre. There are dedicated buses laid on and you can get a weekend travel pass that lets you use both the tram and the Parklife Express shuttle bus.
Driving to Heaton Park? Put M25 2SW into your satnav but expect some congestion to and from the city centre. The Official Parklife car park has to be booked in advance will cost money.
Catch the express shuttle from Aytoun Street in the city centre to get dropped off inside the site. As well as the Express shuttle, you can reach Heaton Park by taking any of the following buses: 135, 59, 64, 484, 495, 164 and 165.
Take the Bury line and get off at the Heaton Park stop. The station closes at 6pm on both days, so if you are heading back into the city centre later you will need to walk down to Bowker Vale stop.
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