Top 5 Manchester Punk Fest Survival Tips

Article by Sarah Williams.

Now in its fourth year, Manchester Punk Festival 2018 is bigger than ever. It maintains the atmosphere of a small festival, however there are over 1,000 attendees and multiple venues to navigate. A lot of people are visiting the festival for the first time this year, so I thought I’d share my top tips for getting the most out of the weekend.

Last week, someone asked my friend who he was was most excited to see at the festival and he couldn’t tell them. “I haven’t even looked at the line-up yet. I just follow Sarah around every year, she’s like a walking program.” I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are my top tips as a festival veteran:

#1: Prepare!

I’m a massive advocate of semi-obsessive organisation. Sure, it’s potentially the least ‘punk’ thing in the world, but lending some time to prepare for the festival means you’ll get more out of it. This is especially true at MPF, where there are multiple venues to navigate and so many incredible bands that you’ll struggle to find 10 minutes to inhale a falafel wrap while jogging between stages.

The MPF organisers have gone into meticulous detail to make it as easy for you to plan as possible. They’ve provided all the following:

  • A new MPF app where you select your favourite bands (in the line-up section), so that you receive a notification 15 minutes before their set begins, plus a map and regular updates
  • The famous Clashfinder, giving you the clearest view of the line-up, including a printable version
  • A detailed website with descriptions of every single band plus Bandcamp links
  • Free Bandcamp compilations and a Spotify playlist
  • A very detailed free program which you can download, or pick up in hard copy at the festival, including a detailed description/FFO for every band

We’ve also gone to quite a bit of effort here at Shout Louder. We’ve recorded a podcast with heaps of hints and tips to get you through the weekend, plus a run-down of the line-up. We’ve selected our Top 10 International Bands To Discover at the festival and run a series of ‘band spotlight’ interviews. Check out the full series here.

#2: Get There Early!

The festival has slightly increased the number of tickets this year, however capacity at the individual venues is still limited. If there is a band you desperately want to see, make sure you get there early (well before the set is due to start). This might require a bit more forethought than you’re used to having to invest in a festival, but it’s harder to fit everyone in when you’re not in a grassy field!

Some people have pointed out that there are quite a few clashes on the line-up, but this is a necessary evil. You might be a fan of both Iron Chic and Propagandhi, or Culture Shock and The Stupids (all of whom clash on Saturday night) but they’ve got to be booked at the same time to avoid any of the venues being too overwhelmed. The alternative is to have 500 people happily watching Propagandhi, while the other 500 stand grumpily outside Gorilla, wondering why they didn’t bother to turn up earlier.

The clashes are the price we pay for having a quality and diverse line-up hosted in such a wonderfully unique array of venues. MPF is a celebration of Manchester as much as it is a celebration of punk – the festival wouldn’t have the same charm in a different format.

#3: Play The Long Game!

Make sure you don’t peak too early! Don’t overdo it on drinking, partying and running around between venues at the expense of wearing yourself out and missing the after party.

The after party is traditionally the most raucous, exciting and unmissable element of Manchester Punk Festival. In previous years I’ve wound up crowd-surfing in Matilda’s Scoundrels’ inflatable dinghy and surprisingly injuring my crotch during Riggots, although I was flagging pretty hard by the time it got to Clowns‘ insane set. There is no shortage of drunken debauchery, either. Two years ago, my mate G and I suddenly realised it was time to go home when he noticed that he was so drunk he was seeing double… and there were two of Danny from Fair Do’s on stage.

Traditionally the after party features bands who either a) hugely popular in the DIY scene, b) a proper party band or c) both. This year you can enjoy the spectacle of watching Pizzatramp (a band renowned for being wasted) attempt to play at 1am, Slovenian skate-punks Start At Zero and hot-pants-wearing mullet-loving Brighton punkers Rotten Foxes. The moment I’m most excited about out of the whole festival is the triumphant return of skacore/metal genre-smashers Beat The Red Light, followed by more ska-core from Chewing On Tinfoil or math-punks Egos At The Door, ending the weekend with grizzly Scottish pop-punk from Uniforms. It’s definitely worth pacing yourself and staying up for.

#4: Eat!

You’re going to need your strength and your sobriety to take down this killer line-up, so many sure you get some grub in you. Manchester has heaps of incredible vegan options, some of whom are offering discounts as part of the festival. The Font, Tea Time Collective, 8th Day Cafe and The Thirsty Scholar will all be offering grub to festival goers throughout the weekend. I almost don’t want to tell you about the mushroom and sage rolls that they have in the deli upstairs at 8th Day or their incredible vegan cake in the downstairs café, as I don’t want them to run out before I get there.

My Manchester Punk Festival food staples over the past 3 years have been the following:

  •         Wraps from Spar (the Oxford Road one runs out quick, but there’s another nearby on Princess Street)
  •         Changos on Oxford Road. They put crumbled tortilla chips in their burritos!
  •         Breakfast from Odd Bar in the Northern Quarter: incredible veggie option featuring vegan black pudding (sooooo good) which PETA rate as one of the best vegan breakfasts in the UK. There’s plenty of omni dishes too.
  •         Frustrating dashes around Sainsburys, who I always forget have really limited vegan food-to-go options. Skip that one.
  •         Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodle hastily inhaled at 3am in my hotel where the only amenity was a kettle (abandoned halfway due to tongue-burn and eaten cold for breakfast).
  •         Excessive quantities of Red Stripe and Guinness. Guinness counts a meal, right?

For non-vegans I would also strongly recommend Archie’s, the lurid pink burger joint on Oxford Road. It’s pretty incredible.

#5: Protect Your Hearing

Don’t forget your eeeeeeeeeeeeearplug: no one likes tinnitus. Also in the theme of playing the long game, remember that you want to continue doing this for years to come. You’ll be exposed to a lot of (awesome) loud noises during the festival so make sure you protect your hearing: wear your earplugs.

Permanent hearing damage can happen almost instantly and I can promise you that, although you may think you’re fine at the moment, you’ll seriously regret it if you don’t. If you’re not currently an earplug-fan, this is the perfect time to try them. Many gig venues will have them for free behind the bar, or you can pick up a set of foam ones from Sainsburys/any pharmacy for £2ish. If you want something a little better, for £10-15 you can get music-specific attenuated plugs with a little carry cannister. I recommend the Alpine Pro or QT10s which you can get online, or at good music shops (Dawsons on Portland St or Johnny Roadhouse on Oxford Road will stock them).

You will feel better in the morning if your ears aren’t ringing and quite often you can hear the definition between instruments better with them in. I’ll say it again: wear earplugs!


Enjoy the sweltering heat, a cold pint and all the noises you could possibly ask for. Most importantly, make time to catch up with all your friends. That’s the best part of MPF: the wonderful people that surrounding.

Check out our full series of Manchester Punk Festival related articles:

In the past, we have also interviewed all of these awesome MPF acts: Lightyear, Random Hand, Ducking Punches, Waterweed, Beat The Red Light, Stand Out Riot, PMX, Darko and Lucinda Livingstone of Kamikaze Girls.

Article by Sarah Williams.

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