Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

Things are hotting up again on the UNESCO City of Literature circuit after the traditional summer slowdown and the countdown is well and truly on for Manchester Literature Festival, with the programme now announced for its return 6-21 October (and beyond!). Selling like hot cakes are Kate Atkinson, on 21 October, and An Evening with Tony Walsh at The Dancehouse, on 17 October, so get on it if you haven’t already! A city-wide favourite thanks to his poem This is the Place, Tony, aka Longfella, will read from his first collection, Sex & Love & Rock & Roll, and eagerly awaited new collection Work. Life. Balance. You can also hear his brand-new piece Mightier Than War at the Imperial War Museum North every day at noon and 2pm, part of the Lest We Forget? season, which continues into 2019.

We’ll bring you more on our pick of this year’s MLF events, but for now check out the programme, starting with the likes of Centre for New Writing’s Beth Underdown leading a promenade around the Quarry Bank estate reading specially commissioned Love makes as many ghost stories, and culminating in an evening of Ted Hughes poems read by the likes of Zaffar Kunial and Andrew McMillan. You can also catch Andrew at the Manchester Literature Festival, Penguin Books and Gay Times event Penguin Pride Manchester at Z-arts, when he will be part of an inspiring line-up of LGTBQ+ authors and poets, including one of our favourite short story writers, Kirsty Logan.

Another MLF initiative is the Calder Valley literature trail in association with Northern – download the illustrated map and head for the hills from Victoria Station, where you can see Helen Mort’s specially commissioned poem there & back. Read more about that and our trip to Hebden Bridge with the Northern Poetry Train here.

If you’re more on track with avant garde and experimental poetry, then next stop No Matter, in the former Other Room slot at The Castle with headliners Sarah Bernstein, Carl Gent and Linda Stuart; irregular lazy Sunday evening outing Murmur at Common, this time round featuring Holly Pester, Vala Thorodds and James Davies, plus bi-monthly Peter Barlow’s Cigarette, all back in August, as is Bad Language, featuring headliner Kerry Hadley-Pryce.

September promises a return to form for prose, with a night at the Metropolitan in Didsbury to launch Michael Conley’s new fiction collection, Flare and Falter, on 6 September, featuring support from Sarah-Clare Conlon, Kate Feld, Tania Hershman, Abi Hynes and Steve Smythe. Meanwhile, 14 September sees the launch of a Joy Division-themed anthology – We Were Strangers: Stories Inspired by Unknown Pleasures – edited by Richard V Hirst, and featuring readings by David Gaffney, Zoë Lambert, Nicholas Royle and Sophie Mackintosh – longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize for her novel The Water Cure!

There’s also a professional development day for scribes, the Northern Lights Writers’ Conference at Waterside, plus an exhibition dedicated to Banned Books, at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. And remember to check out our “More in Literature” stories at the bottom of the main guide, and, of course, our must-go Literary Places in Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.

Here are our picks

  • 1. No Matter #2 at The Castle

    Writer Sarah Bernstein.
    Poet Sarah Bernstein.

    No Matter #2 at Castle Hotel, Manchester, 15 August 2018, free entry - Visit now

    Following a popular launch event in June, brand-new bi-monthly experimental and avant-garde poetry performance series No Matter is back with another three headliners, this month Sarah Bernstein, Carl Gent and Linda Stuart, all visiting from further afield.

  • 2. Penguin Pride Manchester at Z-arts

    Writer Kirsty Logan. Photo copyright Simone Falk.
    Writer Kirsty Logan. Photo copyright Simone Falk.

    Penguin Pride Manchester at Z-arts, Manchester, 23 August 2018, from £8 - Book now

    Penguin Pride is a special UK tour celebrating LGBTQ+ writing and bringing the likes of award-winners such as short storyist and author Kirsty Logan and poet Andrew McMillan to this North West leg in association with Manchester Literature Festival.

  • 3. Launch of Michael Conley’s Flare and Falter at The Metropolitan

    Writer Abi Hynes.

    Michael Conley book launch at The Metropolitan, Didsbury, 6 September 2018, free entry - Find Out More

    Shortlisted for the prestigious Manchester Fiction Prize last year, Michael Conley has brought that story together with a number of others for a new prose collection, Flare and Falter, just out. The launch features readings from Michael and fellow writers Sarah-Clare Conlon, Kate Feld, Tania Hershman, Abi Hynes and Steve Smythe.

  • 4. Northern Lights Writers’ Conference 2018 at Waterside

    Writer Sarah Schofield.

    Northern Lights Writers' Conference 2018 at Waterside Arts, Manchester, 8 September 2018, from £30 - Book now

    The Northern Lights Writers’ Conference returns for a fifth outing, offering you a veritable pick and mix of writing and performing masterclasses, publishing industry talks, panel discussions and networking opportunities, including with keynote speaker Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame.

  • 5. Murmur #5 at Common

    Poet Vala Thorodds.

    Murmur at Common Bar, Manchester, 9 September 2018, free entry - Find Out More

    Start your week as you mean to go on, with some quality poeting, courtesy the fifth outing of Murmur, with three readers in the shape of Holly Pester, Vala Thorodds and James Davies. There’s also a film by David Bailey and music, from Virginia Wing DJs.

  • 6. We Were Strangers launch at Waterstones

    Writer Nicholas Royle. Photo by Danny Moran.
    Writer Nicholas Royle. Photo by Danny Moran.

    We Were Strangers launch at Waterstones Manchester Deansgate, City Centre, 14 September 2018, from £3 - Book now

    Almost 40 years since the release of Joy Division’s debut album, Unknown Pleasures, new short story anthology We Were Strangers from Manchester-based indie publisher Confingo brings together 10 writers to respond to the 10 tracks. The launch event brings together four of them to read their commissions.

  • 7. Banned Books at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation

    Anthony Burgess.
    Anthony Burgess.

    Banned Books: Anthony Burgess and Censorship at International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF), Manchester, 20 June–30 September 2018, free entry - Visit now

    Exhibition ‘Banned Books: Anthony Burgess and Censorship’ displays some apparently mucky literary works – avert your eyes from the covers of novels by the likes of Kingsley Amis, Angela Carter and DH Lawrence, seized and destroyed in the 60s when the author of A Clockwork Orange went off on his travels.

  • 8. Northern Poetry Train

    Helen Mort. Photo by Jonathan Pow
    Poet Helen Mort. Photo by Jonathan Pow.

    Northern Poetry Train at The Book Case, Hebden Bridge, 1 June–31 October 2018, free entry - Visit now

    Manchester Literature Festival and Northern have teamed up to take a literary trip around the city centre and up the Calder Valley, with two special trails and a newly commissioned poem about the train journey to Hebden Bridge by Helen Mort.

More in Literature

Dan Hays, Spring Snow, 2009. BIBLIOTECH: from bookshelf to big data at The Portico Library, Manchester
Exhibitions 6 July–18 August 2018, FREE

BiblioTECH: from bookshelf to big data at The Portico Library

LAST CHANCE. Do you prefer to hold a Kindle in your hands or a book? ‘BiblioTECH: From bookshelf to big data’ at The Portico Library uses art to examine the opportunities and challenges that arise when we adapt to new technological formats for storing and sharing information.

Cinema 5 August–4 September 2018, from £7

The Dark Page at HOME

The Dark Page reviews the literary background of film noir and the influence of key writers such as Raymond Chandler but also the impact of black authors such as Walter Moseley and female writers, in a traditionally male domain, including Patricia Highsmith and Dorothy B. Hughes.

Royal Academy Readers: Image through Text & Text through Image with Dr. Mariana Casale at Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Exhibitions 5 September 2018, FREE

Royal Academy Readers: Image through Text & Text through Image with Dr. Mariana Casale at Salford Museum & Art Gallery

Join author, bibliotherapist and founder of the Manchester and Buenos Aires based Reading Rooms project, Dr. Mariana Casale, for a unique reading experience centred around an important selection of artworks on special loan from the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Literature 27 September 2018, from £8

One Mic Stand at Band On The Wall

Join Manchester’s finest young spoken word performers Young Identity, working in partnership with Contact for the last 10 years, for a boisterous night of poetry and music.

Elmi Ali: Water Seeds Not Stones at the STUN Studio, Z-Arts
Literature 20–23 October 2018, from £7.00

Elmi Ali: Water Seeds Not Stones at the STUN Studio, Z-Arts

A new show from Elmi Ali, one of the most exciting artists to emerge from Manchester’s vibrant and diverse spoken word scene.

Author Kate Atkinson. Photo by Euan Myles.
Literature 21 October 2018, from £10.00

Kate Atkinson at Royal Exchange Theatre

The first of this year’s Manchester Literature Festival events announced is multi-award-winning novelist Kate Atkinson, chatting about her latest tome, Transcription, to Guardian and Observer writer Alex Clark.

Culture Guides

Julian Opie, Julian (2013). Part of Heads Roll at Graves Gallery, Sheffield


A remarkable journey to unpick the secret behind one of the world’s most popular and enduring art genres, a fresh look at the idea of First World War remembrance, and a city-wide takeover in honour of the Royal Academy’s 250th birthday; check out our latest pick of exhibition highlights and must-go events.

Figs in Wigs: Often Onstage at HOME


Everything has been a little sedate in Theatreland over the summer…but now it’s time to yawn and stretch and get ready for the eclectic new season. Make a brew and check out our packed guide to performance in the North.


Pop-up cinemas, outdoor screenings and essential retrospectives — we’ve got it all this summer.

Just So Festivalgoers courtesy Teneight


Wild Worlds, Lost Castles, Journeys of the Imagination, ALL the best festivals. We’ve got this folks.


This month’s music guide features some of the country’s most exciting jazz artists, as well as a cutting-edge events series wherein music, art and science collide.