Celebrated fashion designer turned festival creator, Wayne Hemingway MBE is leading the plans to transform Manchester’s MediaCity into a huge festival site next month. He tells AAA about the ambitious concept and how it is being delivered.
We Invented The Weekend (WITW), a free-to-attend festival expected to attract more than 150,000 people to MediaCity and Salford Quays, will make its debut on 3-4 June.
Consisting of a programme of more than 200 free activities, the festival’s co-founder Wayne Hemingway MBE says it will take place at the birthplace of the weekend, where in 1843 Salford Lyceum director and workers’ rights activist Robert Lowes successfully campaigned to win mill workers the right to leisure time on Saturday afternoons.
Among the diverse entertainment and activities on offer will be contemporary dance group Rambert, BBC radio host and DJ Craig Charles, disco boats and other water-based activity including wind surfing ans swimming. It will also include a viewing of the all-Manchester FA Cup final, with football-themed craft activities, mini-tournaments and themed music.
“We want it to be a celebration of what people do while giving people a taste of what they could do,” says Hemingway.
We Invented The Weekend was due to make its debut last year but was cancelled last minute in the aftermath of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.
“Everything was in place, and everybody involved was in their hotels ready to go,” says Hemingway. “It was going ahead until the FA pulled the Premiership matches, which was on Friday morning and then the council said, ‘we’ve got to follow suit’. The festival was literally hours away from starting. It meant that there was nothing to recover; obviously you can’t insure against that.”
Despite the turmoil that Hemingway and his team endured due to the event being pulled, he says it hasn’t impacted the scale of investment in the event’s launch. His priority has been bringing it to life as soon as possible: “The idea is so strong, I didn’t feel for one minute that it wouldn’t happen, it was just a case of how quickly.”
Hemingway’s enthusiasm to get the show rescheduled swiftly was partly fuelled by the palpable buzz surrounding its initial launch. “It’s a free festival but we know how many people are going to turn up by the number who have signed up for activities. We created a hell of a lot of publicity and didn’t want it to drift.”
His HemingwayDesign operation works across events, urban design, brand, interiors, product and graphic design. As with other festivals it is behind, We Invented The Weekend was born out of the company’s urban design work.
“As urban designers we know that free festivals help to revitalise places, so whether it’s First Light Festival or Festival of Thrift, they are all about helping a place with its identity and bringing economic stimulus. We Invented The Weekend came from us working on a set of values for MediaCity.
“We wanted it to have an ‘always on’ vibrant feel; like there was always something exciting happening there allthe time, in line with the BBC and television happening all the time. We thought, more than anything, a festival would stimulate that.”
The event’s production is being handled by ASP Events’s director Alexa Stratton-Powell and event manager Kate Richards, while key suppliers include Evolution Stages, Hollowsphere AV, Niche Event Hire and N4 Crew.
With a growing number of people working and living in MediaCity, and with it being one of the few areas in Greater Manchester to have huge open spaces, Hemingway was convinced it was the perfect location for an urban festival.
“We sat down with people from organisations, including The Lowry, Imperial War Museum BBC and Salford University, to discuss what we could do that would belong to this place. That’s when it works, when you find something that takes place at a location for a reason.”