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The Essentials

Everything you need to know about working as an actor in Manchester including available training, how to find auditions, and the local cost of living

There was a time when training at a London drama school, getting an agent and living in the capital to pursue an acting career was the status quo. Over the years, the industry has evolved, and while most castings are in London, we now have a more flexible audition process – meaning actors don’t have to live in London if they don’t want to.

Technology allows us to shoot a self-tape from the comfort of our homes without the need to fork out for an expensive last-minute train ticket. This gives us the freedom to choose where we want our base to be, and today, there are many cities across the UK with a thriving arts scene and a growing community of actors.

Manchester is a popular choice for performers, with lots of castings for film, TV and theatre, and direct access to London in just two hours. If you’re living in Manchester or thinking of moving, this guide will cover what you need to know.

Actor training in Manchester

Full-time training

If you want to do a three-year acting course, the Manchester School of Theatre at the Manchester Metropolitan University or the Arden School of Theatre are two great options. Both have produced some impressive alumni and are eligible for student loans.

Part-time training

If you want to hone your craft while auditioning, prepare to be spoiled for choice. ActUpNorth offers courses focused on acting for camera and is also Spotlight-accredited – meaning once you complete two consecutive years of study, you will be eligible to join Spotlight.

The Manchester School of Acting hosts a variety of courses from renowned acting coach, Mark Hudson. Past students include Michelle Keegan and Nico Mirallegro.

Act4tv develops skills actors need at auditions and is run by casting director, Michael Jackson, who works at Beverley Keogh Casting – one of the region’s top casting houses with credits such as Happy Valley and Shameless.

Many of these classes are in the evening and are a great way to brush up your skills, meet people, and keep up to date with Manchester castings.

What type of acting work is in Manchester?

Coronation Street and its famous cobbles are synonymous with Manchester, and actors such as Sarah Lancashire, Suranne Jones, and Katherine Kelly have achieved huge success after leaving the show. Genie Radcliffe is the casting director at Coronation Street and is often casting for new characters. Shameless actor Sally Carmen revealed she auditioned for countless roles before landing the role of Abi Franklin, and Georgia Taylor said that her iconic role as Toyah Battersby was not the first part she auditioned for.

If you have an unsuccessful Corrie audition, try not to be disheartened, as the casting team is known to keep people in mind for future roles.

BBC North, based in MediaCityUK, produces hours of television, radio and online content from its Salford Quays base, which provides many opportunities for actors in the area.

Manchester has quickly become a global go-to filming location, and its skyline has stood in for New York for Hollywood blockbusters such as Captain America and Spider-Man. The Northern Quarter has been the backdrop for Peaky Blinders, and parts of the city were transformed into 80s/90s London for the smash hit show, It’s a Sin.

Many of these huge productions will use local actors, so if you have a base in Manchester, it will put you at an advantage in the casting process.

How to find auditions in Manchester

Wherever you live in the UK, sourcing auditions is a similar process. Casting platforms like Spotlight are a fantastic tool to find auditions – whether you have an agent or not. Notable casting directors based in and around Manchester include Sonia Allam CastingMichelle Smith CastingBeverley Keogh Casting, and David Shaw Casting.

Manchester is also home to a fantastic and diverse theatre scene. The Royal ExchangeHope Mill Theatre, and the Octagon are renowned for using local talent, and may post castings on their websites. If you’re based in Manchester and looking for representation, research which kind of agent will suit you. If you want to focus on castings in Manchester, look for an agent in the area who does that.

Cost of living in Manchester

Manchester is one of the top 10 most affordable cities in the UK and is 28% cheaper than London. The average rent in Manchester is £1,040 per month – but this depends on where you live, and you can find more affordable options.

If you want to live in the city centre, the average price for a one-bedroom flat is £924pcm. There are plenty of cheaper spots, and Stockport – less than a 10-minute train ride to Manchester city centre – has one-bedroom flats on Rightmove starting at £550pcm. You can also find a room in a houseshare on SpareRoom for under £500pcm at the time of writing.

Transport is very affordable, and an any-bus ticket costs £5 a day or £21 a week. A 1-day tram ticket in Zones 1 & 2 is £4.30 or £17.60 for the week.

Manchester is home to several TV and film production companies – along with a thriving theatre scene providing many acting opportunities. The city is a popular filming location with a constant flow of exciting projects, giving local actors a chance to be a part of them, and the small creative community makes it easier to network and meet with other like-minded artists. Manchester is also a much more affordable option to cities like London, with rent, travel, and day-to-day costs relatively lower, and the location allows quick and easy access to the rest of the UK. Therefore, Manchester-based actors can benefit from a better quality of life for less, freeing up more time to pursue their careers.

Sarah Ridgway trained as an actor and has dabbled in stand-up comedy. Sarah is now a freelance writer, and her credits include Backstage and Actors Pro Expo; she is also passionate about empowering solo female travel.

Headshot credit: Sarah Ridgway

Main image credit: BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire