Watch out Edinburgh... Manchester is quickly becoming the festival capital of theatre, comedy and performance.
While the Manchester International Festival 2013 (MIF) has just come to another triumphant end (4-21 July), the independent fringe festival which has sprung from it - The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival - continues to delight and entertain right through to the end of the July.
Already audiences have enjoyed a fantastic mix of over 100 pieces of cutting edge theatre, original comedy, poetry and literature at a host of wonderful sites throughout both Manchester and Salford. (Venue list and guide here).
There is a lack of pretentiousness to the Manchester Fringe Festival that appeals to a much broader audience than the sophisticated and often very pricey MIF (Manchester International Festival). The good news is that there is room for both. And the more Manchester is put on the map the better, I say.
Indeed, being Manchester the feistier the better seems to be the spirit of the MFF (Manchester Fringe Festival) with its almost total absence of rules on what can be performed. Great.
For £10 theatre companies, writers, artists, poets, actors and street performers can submit their production idea and be registered. The organisers seem a very democratic bunch and there is a welcomed sense of the organic 'let it grow in its own way' approach to everything.
Most of the tickets are equally affordable (about £5-£10 or free) making attending lots of shows possible and keeping the buzz in the city alive in the process.
Interestingly, the festival is proving popular for established acts wanting to preview their stand-up or Edinburgh shows and this year some big names, including comedian Phil Jupitus and Justin Moorhouse, have graced the pubs, bars and pop-up theatres at various venues.
As a Mancunian I am pleased to see that Manchester City Council is now supporting the event and recognising that while it may not be bringing in the bucks of the International Festival, MFF is doing something more grass-roots - supporting independent theatre and venues and inspiring an audience who may not normally attend arts events in the process.
The accessibility and affordability of MFF is truly encouraging for those who are keen to make the arts available to everyone (myself included) and to nurture new talent, so a big well done to all involved, including private sponsor, the Outstanding Beers Company in Bury, Lancashire.
It will be no time before the Manchester Fringe Festival is making headlines of its own and enticing the ever-enthusiastic Edinburgh Festival and Fringe audiences to make a detour to Manchester. Bring it on!
To find out more, to sponsor or to book tickets go to http://www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk/