Free events in Manchester are helping families across the city beat the credit crunch blues by offering entertainment and activities for the increasing numbers of people choosing to holiday at home.
Manchester City Council's events programme is offering a budget-friendly alternative to holidays abroad with a summer jam-packed full of festivals, carnivals, music, theatre and sport. It is also part of Manchester's Proud Of campaign, which celebrates the city in which we live.
The summer of fun gets underway over the May bank holiday, Friday 1 to Monday 4 May, when the Mediterranean comes to Manchester. Discover Majorca-Menorca-Ibiza-Formentera is a brand new festival celebrating Mediterranean life. With horse dressage from Menorca, parades of giants, street theatre, circus skills, children's activities, music, fabulous flamenco dancing and the spectacle of the 'fire devils', the festival in Albert Square is a free family event not to be missed.
The spring bank holiday weekend sees the Hungry Pigeon fly in for the Northern Quarter Festival 22 - 25 May. The Hungry Pigeon is another new festival featuring a large outdoor stage in Piccadilly Gardens on Saturday 23 May. The acts and music guarantee a family-friendly atmosphere and, once again, it's for free.
Manchester International Festival makes a welcome return to the city, kicking off with a free and uniquely Mancunian parade on Sunday 5 July. Aptly titled Procession, it will travel along Deansgate celebrating local life, with members of Greater Manchester communities taking centre stage on a variety of colourful and unusual floats.
The Festival also offers the Great Indoors, a two-day action packed extravaganza of live events and interactive activities aimed at children and families from a host of international performers. Taking place at Manchester Town Hall 11 - 12 July, it is suitable for children aged between 3 and eleven, but there's plenty to appeal to grown ups too.
Busy city-centre workers aren't forgotten in the midst of the free events either. Lunchtimes take on a relaxing style of their own when the Manchester Jazz Festival rolls into town between 24 July and 1 August in St Ann's Square.
For one day only on the 2 August, the Exodus Festival will take place at Urbis and in Cathedral Gardens. An original family-friendly and free event featuring world music and dance, workshops, children's arts activities and international stalls, all created by Greater Manchester's diverse refugee communities.
And it's not just in the city centre where families can make the most of free events.
Platt Fields Park will host the ever-popular Feast! Picnic by the Lake, which returns 5- 7 June with its pic 'n' mix programme of free shows, activities and dreamy evening illuminations for the whole family, closely followed by The Manchester Summer Mega Mela, a colourful celebration of South Asian culture 25 - 26 July.
Meanwhile the Caribbean Carnival of Manchester takes place 18 - 19 July in Alexandra Park, Whalley Range. The carnival on Saturday 18 July will see steel bands, DJs, carnival queens, princesses and folklore characters winding their way through and delighting the crowds.
Many of this summer's events offer special deals for families right around the city from sports activities to outdoor theatre to keep all the family happy, busy and entertained. Young film lovers and aspiring movie-makers will love the Family Friendly Film Festival, where all the events are either free or under £5. It includes spooky nighttime screenings, behind the scenes tours of museums, filmmaking workshops and the best in world family cinema. It runs between 7 and 16 August at various venues around the city so log on to http://www.familyfriendlyfilmfestival.org.uk/ to find out more.
Councillor Mike Amesbury, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure at Manchester City Council said: "We have put a great deal of work into bringing new and exciting events to the city that are either free or offer good value to help families enjoy their leisure time while on a budget. The range and quality of events on offer is phenomenal and I'm sure local people and visitors will not be disappointed."
To view the full programme of all Manchester City Council's summer events visit www.eventext.com or collect a brochure from Manchester Visitor Information Centre.
For more information on the Be Proud campaign visit http://www.poudlovemanchester.com/
For more Manchester City Council information visit http://www.manchester.gov.uk/