Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

Those darling buds are coming back to life in live literature land as 2019 gets properly underway…

Wednesday 20 February sees the fifth No Matter – five already! – welcoming poets Pratyusha, Sophie Robinson and Maria Sledmere to The Castle. Thursday 21 February marks the annual International Mother Language Day, supported by Manchester City of Literature, with free events and activities taking place across the city. Saturday 23 February sees Poets & Players welcoming Lavinia Greenlaw (of the Manchester International Festival 2011 commission Audio Obscura) and Daljit Nagra to the wonderful light-flooded galleries, plus musicians Blind Monk, and a morning workshop from Daljit; March brings in Cumbrian poet Jacob Polley, Oedipa creator Amy McCauley and Bridport Prize-winner Mark Pajak, curator of the most recent Radość Pisania: Manchester Polish Poetry Festival and step-in co-host (while Helen Mort is on mat leave) of the new literary podcast coming out of Man Met, Two Minute Stories, with Chris Neilan. Check it out here; you might recognise some names and voices!

Mark is also one of the House Poets and Laureate’s Choice pamphleteers (alongside John Fennelly) at the regular Carol Ann Duffy & Friends performance and chat series at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Joining the head of Manchester Writing School and soon-to-be-stepping-down Poet Laureate on 11 March is BBC radio regular and ‘stand-up poet’ Kate Fox. Also on 11 March, Manchester Literature Festival and the Centre for New Writing have rising star Max Porter chatting to lecturer Luke Brown, while down the road at the all-new Blackwell’s, headline-hitters Nicole Flattery and Daisy Johnson will be touting their wares on 26 March.

Hot on the heels of February’s packed-out Peter Barlow’s Cigarette (back at Waterstones on 6 April, btw), Gareth Twose is headlining the launch of the next Mid-life Crisis zine, Flora & Fauna, edited by Sally Barrett, with an event at Dulcimer on 30 March; the same day Neil Campbell launches his latest pamphlet, In The Gemini Café (out on Knifes, Forks & Spoons) at the Burgess Foundation.

Tickets are on sale for Joanne Harris’ #Storytime show and to hear from Matt Haig, presenting his latest memoir Notes On A Nervous Planet at HOME on 15 April. The line-ups of various festivals are also being announced, including the first-ever Leeds Lit Fest 6-10 March, the 40th Lancaster Litfest (the third oldest literature festival in England) 8-31 March, the second Not Quite Light Festival 28-31 March, complete with literary talks and commissions, the European Poetry Festival 13 April, Storyhouse Women 26-28 April, the second annual Altrincham Word Fest 11-26 May and the inaugural Weekend of Words at Victoria Baths 7-9 June.

And before you go, scroll down to our More in Literature stories and don’t forget to check out our guide to the UNESCO City of Literature, where you’ll find some bookworm-friendly go-tos, including John Rylands Library – where Rosie Garland has just started in her role as new writer-in-residence – and the oldest public library in the English-speaking world Chet’s – check out the tours on 14 February.

And if you fancy venturing further afield, then our tips for trips include must-go Literary Places in Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.

Here are our picks

  • 1. International Mother Language Day 2019 at various venues

    Poet Lemn Sissay.
    Poet Lemn Sissay.

    International Mother Language Day at Manchester Central Library, Manchester, 21 February 2019, free entry - Find Out More

    Joining in the celebrations around the globe, Manchester marks this year’s International Mother Language Day with a number of exciting events taking place in various venues around the city, including a multi-language Mushaira poetry performance event and a discussion featuring poet and author Lemn Sissay.

  • 2. Poets & Players with Lavinia Greenlaw and Daljit Nagra at The Whitworth

    Writer Lavinia Greenlaw. Photo by Isaac Hargreaves.

    Poets & Players at The Whitworth, Manchester, 23 February 2019, free entry - Find Out More

    Poets & Players is back at the Whitworth Art Gallery, with this month’s poetry coming courtesy Forward Prize winners Lavinia Greenlaw and Daljit Nagra, and music from Thelonious Monk-inspired Blind Monk Trio.

  • 3. Max Porter at the Martin Harris Centre

    Author Max Porter.
    Author Max Porter. Photo by Lucy Dickens.

    An Evening with Max Porter at Martin Harris Centre for Music & Drama, Manchester, 11 March 2019, from £5 - Book now

    Described as a rising star of British literature, Max Porter’s multi-award-winning debut novel Grief Is The Thing With Feathers has been followed up with the equally dark and funny Lanny, which he will read from and chat about with Luke Brown, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Centre for New Writing.

  • 4. An Evening with Nicole Flattery and Daisy Johnson at Blackwell’s

    Writer Nicole Flattery.
    Writer Nicole Flattery.

    An Evening with Nicole Flattery & Daisy Johnson at Blackwell’s Manchester, Manchester, 26 March 2019, from £3 - Book now

    Head to the boxfresh new Blackwell’s Manchester to hear Irish writer Nicole Flattery introduce her debut short story collection Show Them A Good Time, just out on Bloomsbury, and Daisy Johnson read from and chat about her 2018 Man Booker Prize shortlisted first novel Everything Under.

  • 5. Matt Haig at HOME

    Author Matt Haig.

    Matt Haig: Notes on a Nervous Planet at HOME Manchester, Manchester, 15 April 2019, from £15.5 - Book now

    Join Reasons To Stay Alive author Matt Haig for an evening of positive and insightful discussion about the modern world, offering a closer look at the challenges posed by our ever-changing technological landscape and his advice on how best to navigate it, as outlined in his latest memoir, Notes On A Nervous Planet.

  • 6. Storyhouse Women at Chester Storyhouse

    Author, actor and activist Rose McGowan.

    Storyhouse Women at Storyhouse, Chester, 26–28 April 2019, from £10 - Book now

    Feminist activist, actor and Brave author Rose McGowan and best-selling writer, journalist and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party Catherine Mayer have been announced as headlining the second annual Storyhouse Women Weekend festival taking place at the city arts venue 26 to 28 April.

More in Literature

Ra Page.
Literature 21 February 2019, FREE

Manchester In Translation at Z-Arts

Join Comma Press for a special day of free workshops and talks offering advice and insight into the world of translation; part of the annual International Mother Language Day celebrations.

Literature 1 March 2019, from £12.5

Joanne Harris presents #Storytime at Waterside

Sale Waterside welcomes back Chocolat author and NLWC18 keynote speaker Joanne Harris, this time bringing along her #Storytime show for an evening of live readings, music and projections.

Macbeth at the Epstein Theatre
Literature 7–16 March 2019, from £16.00

Macbeth at the Epstein Theatre

After two critically acclaimed seasons of Shakespeare, Daniel Taylor Productions will return to the Epstein Theatre with Macbeth.

Set in the aftermath of a ruinous civil war in Scotland, this new production explores the damaging psychological effects of war, betrayal and destructive political ambition by those who seek power for it’s own sake.

Brought to life with the same brilliance that has made Daniel Taylor’s shows a highlight of the city’s cultural calendar.

Much Ado About Nothing at The Lowry
Literature 7–11 May 2019, from £23.00

Much Ado About Nothing at The Lowry

Love is war as Northern Broadsides present Much Ado About Nothing at The Lowry – Shakespeare’s glorious romantic and chaotic comedy.

Poet Tom Jenks. Photo by Gwen Riley Jones
Literature 11–26 May 2019, from £5.00

Altrincham Word Fest at various venues

A twist on the usual literature festival, Altrincham Word Fest aims to kindle your own creativity by inviting some of the North West’s most talented writers to share their secrets to success in a series of hands-on workshops and events.

Old Tools >New Masters ≠New Futures
Literature 12 June 2019, from £10.00

Contact Young Company + Young Identity: Old Tools >New Masters ≠New Futures

Tunde Adefioye joins forces with the Contact Young Company and Young Identity to explore the decolonisation of public culture. This event takes place at a secret location which has yet to be announced.

Families 5–7 July 2019, from £70

Timber Festival 2019

An extraordinary new festival where music, art, philosophy and sustainability weave together into an exhilarating weekend in the heart of the National Forest, one of Britain’s boldest environmental projects.

Culture Guides


Valentine’s ideas, hard-to-see queer cinema and the best in new releases — we’ve got it covered.

Kimsooja, To Breathe. Photo © Jaeho Chong


Inspired by the meditative qualities of space and eastern notions of the Void, Kimsooja’s mesmerising installation at YSP’s historic chapel heads our top pick of exhibitions this month.

Big Up! Courtesy Theatre Rites / Helen Murray


See Mer-folk in a Human Aquarium, experience Trouble at t’Mill and the world of nocturnal animals after dark. Then break all the rules in new show Big Up!


We have some hotly anticipated gigs coming up in Manchester and the north over the next few months! Read about them here!

Theatre in Manchester and the North


A Salford leisure centre, a city centre library and a Manchester museum – theatre can happen anywhere. Here’s our guide to the best performances popping up across Manchester and the North.

Tours and Activities

In this month’s roundup of best Tours and Activities in Manchester and the North, we highlight the pottery and craft workshops giving you some cathartic and creative opportunities to get making.

Things to do right now

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The Lowry - Spring Summer Season. Image courtesy of Ed Waring.
Festivals 1 January–11 May 2019,

The Lowry Spring Summer Season

Fancy Pants at The Portico Library, Manchester
Exhibitions 1 February–25 March 2019, FREE

Fancy Pants at The Portico Library

Cinema 8–22 February 2019, from £5.50

If Beale Street Could Talk at HOME

Festivals 1 January–31 December 2019,

HOME 2019 Season