Manchester Day: EUREKA!
For the seventh successive year we were commissioned by Manchester City Council to produce Manchester Day, the city’s biggest day out and a celebration of all things Mancunian.
Key deliverables were the parade itself as well as a programme of outdoor arts across four of the city’s main squares, and along the way we needed to engage with community groups, artists, volunteers and Manchester City Council’s press, marketing and events management teams.
Although we now consider ourselves dab hands at producing this massive one day celebration, we always start each new planning phase with a new sheet of paper and some detailed notes from both the successes and learning moments from the year before.
Each year Manchester Day is based on an over-arching theme which helps both artists and community groups respond creatively, in whatever way they feel fit, to the brief. With Manchester chosen as the European City of Science 2016, Manchester Day simply had to celebrate the city’s global reputation as a city of invention. From the first steam engine and the early mechanisation of the textile industry to Alan Turing’s computing and the very recent discovery of Graphine, clearly there was no shortage of subject matter.
Embracing this within a parade that has 1,700 participants from 70 community groups, working with a collection of leading artists and creative practitioners, is no small feat – which is why planning started back in November 2015.
At the very heart of Manchester Day is our belief that communities from all sections of the city should have the opportunity to be part of something that is visible, engaging and memorable. To achieve this we made a call out to interested community groups in early 2016. The number of applications always exceeds the number of groups we can include, so our selection process is based on a range of factors, such as creative ideas and ability to commit to the whole process, as well as ensuring that we represent as broad a spectrum of Manchester communities as possible.
The actual delivery of Manchester Day involves a fascinating mix of processes. This includes matching artists up with community groups to help them realise their creative vision; mapping out the marketing and promotional strategy with the city council; recruiting teams of volunteers and stage manager placements; and weaving in our hugely popular Elevate training programme (funded by Arts Council England) which provides emerging artists with the opportunity to learn from leading practitioners on a range of artistic skills and techniques.
With an estimated audience of 90,000 or more, Manchester Day is a fantastic example of how something as celebratory as a city parade can give communities, artists and the visiting public such a sense of pride, a sense of place and a great collective, shared experience. Social media evidence alone proves time and time again that Manchester Day is now a much loved feature of the civic calendar. And this year, the Council’s newly appointed Lord Mayor Carl Austin-Behan actually followed the procession for its entire route with his two dogs.
Other features for 2016 were: a mass choreography 4-move Eureka! Moment, designed by Ruth Jones, designed to celebrate the birth of a brilliant idea, a giant mobile orrery showing the alignment of the planetary system; and a massive four wheel disco ball sound system carrying Manchester’s very own legendary King of Rave, Graham Massey.
Yes it rained, but I suppose it had to one year, and at least we had time for a great parade and some performances. My highlight has to be the parade finale which...worked so well to a massive crowd. I thought the Massey mobile looked amazing."