Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

From book launches to readings and open mics to creative writing workshops, Live Literature Land has online activities and events nailed. Verbose were among the first in Manchester, taking the monthly night into the ether at the start of May and again in June and at the end of July, with Liverpool regulars A Lovely Word following suit, and now running masterclasses plus a one-off online and socially distanced outdoor event at St James Gardens on 6 August. Word Central have been regularly hitting our living rooms (back on 6 August, so block out that evening), hosting the likes of Henry Normal and Shirley May.

Even entire festivals have been going virtual: save the date for Lakes International Comic Arts Festival (LICAF), back – online – at the start of October and a long weekend in mid or late October for Manchester Literature Festival (MLF). The full details of the programme, including unique In Conversations and Showcases, will be announced in September. The three-city Journeys Festival International, meanwhile, runs its programme virtually this year from 28 September until 18 October, when you can catch multi-award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams.

The Scots Makar, Jackie Kay, has been offering “a wee bit of company from our living rooms to your living rooms” in Makar To Makar, every Thursday night at 7pm (and available afterwards via YouTube), chatting to other poets and inviting songs from one of three resident singers. Four episodes remain: on 6 August, Peggy Seeger joins Jackie, and the penultimate episode, on 20 August, sees her chatting to US poet laureate Joy Harjo as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival programme (guests for 13 and 27 August are yet to be announced).

Also at the now fully online Edinburgh International Book Festival, on 25 August, we’re looking forward to Olivia Laing talking about the timely publication of her collecton of essays on the arts and culture, Funny Weather: Art In An Emergency, with Fiona Bradley, Director of Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery.

Poetry publisher Carcanet Press has been hosting a cornucopia of online book launches, with the launch of Katherine Horrex‘s debut collection next up, on 26 August. Fellow Manchester-based publishing house Comma Press, meanwhile, has a short story course and a sf creative writing course to sign up for – but be quick: places are filling up fast. Younger readers can still get involved in the Summer Reading Challenge with the Silly Squad – Read Manchester and Manchester Libraries are running a programme of online activities until 2 September.

Be sure to scroll down for more (including our literary guides to LiverpoolLeeds, Sheffield and Cumbria), and we’ll try and keep you posted as doors start to reopen in coming months… A partial and phased re-opening of the libraries sees Chorlton Library, City Library (at Central Library), Didsbury Library, Gorton Library, Longsight Library, Newton Heath Library, Withington Library and Forum Library, Wythenshawe open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 11am-3pm. Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is due to open again on 12 August, The Portico Library reopens on 1 September and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation is back on 8 September.

We are so grateful to National Lottery players, The National Lottery, DCMS and Arts Council England for supporting our freelance writers during this crisis. This means that, although venues remain shut and campaigns cancelled, our writers can be reengaged to help arts organisations and artists across the North of England share their online content with our culture-hungry readers.

Help us keep the Literature Guide up-to-date by letting us know if you have anything in the pipeline, and don’t forget to check out book-buying opportunities and special offers direct from the indies and your local bookshop now non-essential outlets have reopened – check out our Guide To Bookshops In Manchester.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Makar to Makar with Jackie Kay

    Makar to Makar with Jackie Kay. Photo by Jon Parker Lee, MLF.
    Poet Jackie Kay. Photograph by John Parker Lee.

    Makar to Makar with Jackie Kay, online, Until 27 August 2020, free entry - Visit now

    Weekly online “chat show” hosted every Thursday until 27 August by the Scots Makar, or poet laureate, Jackie Kay talking to another guest “makar” or maker every episode about their work and influences, with readings of both new and old poems, and music from one of three resident singers.

  • 2. Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge

    Poet and performer Dommy B (Dominic Berry)
    Poet and performer Dommy B.

    Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge, online, Until 2 September 2020, free entry - Visit now

    Manchester Libraries invites younger readers to a feast of Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge daily activity stretching over nine weeks until 2 September – from daft Draw Alongs with Nick Sharratt, not-to-be-missed poetry with Dommy B and side-splitting sessions with a host of storytellers, to supercool creativity and crafts with Archives+ and Manchester artists.

  • 3. Word Central online

    Poet Shirley May.

    Word Central, online, Until 20 August 2020, free entry - Visit now

    In association with Flapjack Press and Manchester Libraries, Word Central Open Mic Poetry and Spoken Word heads online, with a sign-up-in-advance open mic and a guest poet at each event, including, so far, Shirley May, Gordon Zola, Henry Normal and Michael Wilson. Back on Thursday 6 August…

  • 4. Olivia Laing online at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

    Writer Olivia Laing. Photo by Manuel Vazquez
    Writer Olivia Laing. Photo by Manuel Vazquez.

    Olivia Laing: Art is Political, online, 25 August 2020, free entry - Find Out More

    Olivia Laing talks about her new collection of essays about art and culture, the timely Funny Weather: Art In An Emergency, with Fiona Bradley, Director of the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, on 25 August as part of the online Edinburgh International Book Festival.

  • 5. Carcanet book launch online: Growlery by Katherine Horrex

    Carcanet book launch online: Growlery by Katherine Horrex
    Poet Katherine Horrex.

    Carcanet book launch online: Growlery by Katherine Horrex, online, 26 August 2020, from £2 - Book now

    Join Katherine Horrex online on 26 August as she launches her debut poetry collection, Growlery – reading from the new Carcanet title alongside onscreen extracts, and discussing the work with poet and critic Maryam Hessavi.

  • 6. An online evening of poetry with Inua Ellams

    Poet Inua Ellams.
    Poet and performer Inua Ellams.

    An Evening of Poetry with Inua Ellams, online, 18 October 2020, free entry - Find Out More

    Join multi-award-winning poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams for a live and interactive poetry reading taking place online on 18 October as part of the annual Journeys Festival International.

  • 7. Comma Press Online Short Story Course with CD Rose

    Comma Press Online Short Story Course with C.D. Rose, online, 19 August–28 October 2020, from £75 - Book now

    Bookings are now being taken for the latest short story-writing workshop series from Manchester-based Comma Press, with six dates led by author and editor CD Rose.

  • 8. The Little Library in Spinningfields

    The Little Library in Spinningfields.

    The Little Library at Spinningfields, Manchester, Until 5 February 2025, free entry - Visit now

    Part of a worldwide movement, open now in Spinningfields the colourful Little Library gives you the chance to swap novels, collections and other books you’ve read for ones you haven’t – or you fancy revisiting – from classics to brand-new just-hitting-the-bookshelves titles.

  • 9. Online activities at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

    Elizabeth Gaskell's House garden. Photo by Chris Tucker
    Elizabeth Gaskell's House. Photo by Chris Tucker.

    Online activities at Elizabeth Gaskell's House, online, Until 31 August 2020, free entry - Visit now

    Ahead of opening on 12 August, the Elizabeth Gaskell’s House team are inviting you to join them online for virtual tours, readalong discussions on Twitter and Facebook, and regular blogs from the award-winning garden team. Donning a bonnet is optional…

  • 10. Virtual Poetry Walk at The Reader in Liverpool

    The Mansion House Calderstones Park.

    Poetry Walk at The Mansion House Calderstones Park, Calderstones Park and online, Until 31 August 2020, free entry - Visit now

    Join The Reader online for new Lunchtime Livestream sessions every Tuesday and Thursday from 1pm, when inspiring poems and texts will be read and discussed. Meanwhile, recreate the usual Poetry Walk with The Reader in Liverpool’s lovely Calderstones Park by getting into the great outdoors and making the most of the beautiful surroundings at a safe distance.

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Carcanet exhibition: Carcanet poets Michael Schmidt and Michael Symmons Roberts.
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Poet Helen Tookey
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