An Escape to Freight Island for Headstock opener

It feels like there’s precious little to look forward to or enjoy at the moment (yes Debbie Downer at your service), but much of what we have had to look forward to in Greater Manchester has been courtesy of the brilliant platform United We Stream.

And so, this Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 October, Headstock Weekender storms into our lives with a two day programme, marking World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10 October).

The event will feature two days of live music, including the likes of UK chart-topping rock band Nothing But Thieves along-side some of Greater Manchester’s most exciting bands including Larkins and The Slow Readers Club.

There are also exclusive talks, and immersive wellbeing experiences. Anyone can access the event for free, with donations encouraged to raise much needed funds for Headstock’s charity partners Help Musicians and Manchester Mind, as well as raising awareness for text support service Shout 85258.

Additionally a cracking night of comedy will be streamed, curated by Nodding Dog Comedy, as recorded at Escape to Freight Island on Tuesday night, which is where I found myself – and readers, never has a night out felt more escapey.

Escape to Freight Island near Manchester Piccadilly, is Manchester’s brand new open air entertainment space at Mayfield Depot. Due to its alfresco set-up, the venue is certainly as near perfect for socialising as dammit. Cue being able to see two friends outside (as permitted) not only safely, but comfortably. And happily!

Out in the open air, there’s a myriad of different seating areas and bars; picnic benches, booths, all canopied and covered where one can happily recline and watch the torrential rain come down from our wonderful Manchester skies. Masks adorned once you leave your seat, there is sanitiser aplenty, a one way system for the many loos and basins, and what I deem to be one of the few good things to come out of this whole sorry mess – an app ordering system for food and drink.

Speaking of which, behold the largest pizza known to mankind from Voodoo Ray’s (and bloody good to boot). We really are blessed with great pizza in this fair city we call Manchester.

An old freight depot, the place has a real festival feel (again – in a non-crowded non-covidy way) and along with the theatrical lighting around the venue, non-moreso than the showstopper installation in the middle, there’s a sense that you’re not only there for the food and drink, but a real event of which hopefully will become realised sooner rather than later as live performance fully returns.

There’s still much to open up at Escape to Freight Island but for now, this, the first stage (called Platform 15 – get it?) shows a little light at the end of the tunnel for somewhere to relax, meet friends (groups of 6 people, groups of 6) and remember what it was like to feel a little normal.

And to Tuesday night, and the jokes, ‘lols’ and ‘bantz’ were free-flowing, sharp, witty and top drawer. And that was just our booth (oh how you laugh).

Nodding Dog Comedy brought us two hours of stand up comedy from the likes of Brennan Reece (Live at the Apollo), Mike Newall (BGT – no not the acclaimed 90s Blackburn Rovers player, you sillies – don’t tell anyone but he was my favourite. The comedian, not the footballer. Maybe both), Bexie Archer, Isma Almas and Vince Atta. Freddy Quinne, Lindsey Davies, Phil Chapman, Matt Stellingwerf and Hayley Ellis.

There’s always that fear that you’re going to be ridiculed, picked on, flogged, hung drawn and quartered when you attend a live comedy gig. Well, you lucky people, as you’ll get to see this two hours of comedy online this Saturday night from the comfort of your own homes, you’re safe from the spotlight.

Freddie Quinne

In fact from my well positioned booth at the back at ‘Island (yes, this is what we’re calling it now, deal), I too was safe from torture to listen and laugh along as I negotiated a pizza box that was too big for the table.

For the full programme of events during the Headstock Weekender which culminates Sunday night with a four-hour party from seminal night club series The Warehouse Project, click here.

Viewers can tune in to the event for free on United We Stream HERE.

Festivalgoers are encouraged to buy a virtual ticket for the event or donate an amount they can afford HERE.  Alternatively viewers can donate £5 by texting HEADSTOCKLIVE to 70085. All proceeds from the event will go to Headstock’s charity partners Help Musicians and Manchester Mind.

Donations will help support vital emotional and practical services for young people and musicians.

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