Manchester Histories Festival: Find out what McCartney, Sex Pistols and giraffes have in common in week of events

It may be surprising to hear that Sir Paul McCartney, Emmeline Pankhurst, the Sex Pistols and a giraffe all have something in common.

The history of Manchester has been shaped by them ahead of a week of events looking back at the cities heritage.

Manchester Histories Festival (MHF) runs from March 21-30 and gives Mancunians the chance to look at the city they inhabit in a rather different way.

The festival will have a range of events and activities but a key highlight will be Belle Vue: Showground, which in its heyday attracted 2million visitors a year and was bigger than Disneyland.

Councillor Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council executive member for culture and leisure, praised the iconic venue and impact it will have on the festival.  

“Belle Vue Zoological Gardens has a rich and fascinating history that spans generations,” she said.

“The upcoming exhibition is sure to be enthralling and will provide a unique opportunity for older residents to reminisce while also opening a window to the past for the city’s youngsters.”

Belle Vue: Showground of the World will feature a series of events which run throughout the festival to highlight the huge impact the venue had on Manchester culture.

It has also joined forces with the National Fairground Archive to bring together a unique exhibition celebrating the heady days of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens.

People from all over the country flocked to the Gorton site in its prime for the zoo, circus, fair, speedway, dancing, boxing, wrestling, fireworks and music for over 140 years.

These days there is little left of the site but MHF will give people the opportunity to see photographs and film of the area as well as share the memories of those who actually visited.

This will be the third time the festival has been held, having come off the back of the success of the previous events in 2009 and 2012 and will provide people with the chance to learn, explore and discover Manchester’s history through music, film and debate.

The festival includes talks by well-known historians, walking tours through some of the city’s more colourful history, including on exploring the musical heritage of Manchester.

Other highlights of the festival include a musical tour of Stockport, a play about an imaginary meeting between Emmeline Pankhurst and Elizabeth Gaskell and a stand-up comedy night with historians as the comics.

The festival culminates with Celebration Day, an event at Manchester Town Hall with over 90 exhibitors featuring art, history, film and music from across Greater Manchester.

For more information about the festival visit

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