Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

Many of the city’s institutions and organisers are taking the difficult decision to cancel or postpone events and festivals as a precaution in light of recent developments surrounding the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Not Quite Light has been rescheduled to tie in with the clocks going back on 24 October; Altrincham Word Festival has moved its third instalment to 20 September-4 October.

We’ll update the Literature Guide to reflect cancellations, but check out the previews nonetheless for news of books just out and books worth revisiting – whether you’re self-isolating or simply taking advantage of the chance to slow down a bit, it might be an opportunity to increase your reading repertoire and stock up your home library. Check out our Guide To Bookshops In Manchester; some will order your tomes for you. And follow local legend @SavidgeReads, who has instigated an indie bookshop pile-on so you can find out places that will deliver books to your door.

You might not be able to hear from Manchester writers Sarah Butler and Okechukwu Nzelualso in person this March, but you can still get hold of their new novels, Jack & Bet and The Private Joys Of Nnenna Maloney, respectively. Poetry more your bag? Man Met lecturer Jean Sprackland’s launch was rescheduled and then postponed for a second time, but her latest collection, These Silent Mansions, is still available to buy – same for Carol Ann Duffy’s guests Andrew McMillan and Ella Duffy, and Frances Leviston and Kirsty Logan.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, too, for links to podcasts and online publications – Manchester City of Literature’s post-Poets & Players tree-planting ceremony with poets John McAuliffe and Aisha Mirza might be off, but instead we’ll be celebrating World Poetry Day on Saturday 21 March from the comfort of our own home by listening to some of the Poetry Exchange’s Poems As Friends, chosen by you on the recent International Mother Language Day organised by the UNESCO City of Literature.

The special Poets & Players commission Altered Nature with Jane Burn, Mary Jean Chan, Isaiah Hull and David Wheatley, due to take place on 21 March, will hopefully be rescheduled, as will the annual prize-giving ceremony with judge Sinead Morrissey – keep coming back and we’ll keep you posted on new dates.

Meanwhile, a fabulous new exhibition, Carcanet, all about the independent poetry publisher, is opening this week at The John Rylands Library and runs for the next six months – and the newest library in town is just around the corner in Spinningfields. The monthly secondhand book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is due on 12 April; but if it’s cancelled, it’ll be back later in the year, along with the chance to catch the Ruskin exhibition, on until July.

Don’t forget to Read More: scroll down for our More in Literature stories, information on the weekly Poetry Walk at The Reader’s recently revamped Mansion House in Liverpool’s Calderstones Park, and get more tips for trips with our literary guides to LiverpoolLeeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Carcanet Exhibition at The John Rylands Library

    Carcanet exhibition: Carcanet poets Michael Schmidt and Michael Symmons Roberts.
    Carcanet poets Michael Schmidt and Michael Symmons Roberts.

    Carcanet exhibition at The John Rylands Library, City Centre, Until 13 September 2020, free entry - Visit now

    The Carcanet 50th anniversary celebrations continue with a special exhibition sneaking a peek into the archive of the Manchester-based poetry publishing house, usually behind the scenes at the magnificent John Rylands Library on Deansgate but for six months taking centre stage.

  • 2. SOLD OUT – Hilary Mantel at RNCM

    Author Hilary Mantel. Photo by Els Zweerink copy
    Author Hilary Mantel. Photo by Els Zweerink.

    An Evening with Hilary Mantel Hosted by Kamila Shamsie at Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester, 19 April 2020, from £16 - Book now

    Spend An Evening with Hilary Mantel (or 80 minutes, at least) at this Manchester Literature Festival Bookend event as author Kamila Shamsie talks historical fiction and The Mirror & The Light, the concluding book in the Man Booker Prize-winning Tudor Trilogy.

  • 3. Secondhand book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

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

    Secondhand book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell's House at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Manchester, 10 May 2020, from £5 - Find Out More

    Mrs Gaskell would be proud – a regular book-buying opportunity literally on her doorstep. Peruse the secondhand tomes then perambulate around the rather pleasant RHS award-winning gardens and soak up the atmosphere of the North & South author’s Plymouth Grove villa. Check out the Ruskin exhibition too – on until July 2020. The next book sale is 12 April…

  • 4. 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.

  • 5. Poetry Walk at The Reader in Liverpool

    The Mansion House Calderstones Park.

    Poetry Walk at The Mansion House Calderstones Park, Calderstones Park, 26 May 2020, free entry - Find Out More

    Every Tuesday morning you’re invited to join the Poetry Walk with The Reader in Liverpool’s lovely Calderstones Park. Get into the great outdoors and escape the everyday, while exploring poetry and making the most of the beautiful surroundings.

More in Literature

Children sat on cushions in Toddler Tales session
Families Until 4 June 2020, FREE

Toddler Tales at John Rylands Library

Find a cosy corner, pull up a cushion and listen to fun stories.

Families Until 27 May 2020, FREE

Little Reads Online from Manchester Literature Festival

Manchester Literature Festival is bringing the Little Reads storytime to Facebook every Wednesday morning. A perfect way to help children aged 2-6 develop their language skills from home.

Families 10 April–29 May 2020, FREE

Storybarn Live!

Join The Storybarn online for classic stories, family favourites and nursery rhymes through storytelling and sing-a-longs.

Literature 23 April 2020 8:00 pm, FREE

Translated Fiction Online Book Club – Thirteen Months of Sunrise

Comma Press will discuss Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun with translator Elisabeth Jaquette as part of their new online book club.

Festivals 30 April–19 May 2020, from £00.00

Leeds International Festival 2020

Leeds International Festival, the UK’s leading metropolitan festival of new ideas and innovation, is back for its third year.

Aerial Festival
Festivals 24–27 September 2020, from £12

Aerial Festival

This event has been postponed due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19

Culture Guides


Cinemas might be closed but independent venues and distributors need any help they can get. We look at some films you can stream and places to donate.

Phoebe Davies: Points of Rupture at Site Gallery in Sheffield


Art and women’s wrestling, Ancient Akkadian gravesites and invented artefacts – check out this month’s pick of exhibitions from across the north.

The elves and the shoemaker. Two green puppets with a male and female actor either side of them.


Need some inspiration for fun and creative family days out? Look no further than our top picks for families across Manchester and the north.


Discover the best live music coming up in Manchester and the north this spring and, dare we say it, summer!

Theatre in Manchester


Bringing opera, dance, fierce experimental performance and new writing, there’s much to enjoy in our guide to the best theatre in Manchester and the North.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester.

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

It’s time to find the best restaurants for the weeks ahead. Here’s our guide to the best Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

tours and activities

Tours and Activities

Expect thrills, informative discussion, politically charged tours and wobbly towns in this month’s guide of Tours and Activities.

Because of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, we are unable to bring you our usual recommendations for things to do in Manchester and the North. Our thoughts at this time are with our readers and with the organisations and businesses who make the North of England a great place to live and visit. We hope you stay well and look forward to sharing more unmissable events and places with you later in the year.

Here’s our guide to supporting organisations in Manchester and the North.

Please note – many of the venues on our site will be closed and events either postponed or cancelled. Please check the venue website for details.