Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

We can almost feel summer in the air, and summer wouldn’t be summer without a festival or two. To start with, there’s the first-ever Altrincham Word Fest, kicking off with a workshop by Kate Feld of  The Real Story and running for just over a fortnight until Sunday 27 May and a workshop by flash fiction expert David Gaffney (who also crops up in our new guide to Literary Places in Cumbria here). Aiming to get you writing and not just reading, there will be performance, publishing talks and plenty of workshops – from flash fiction and poetry to blogging and scripts. From Thursday 17 to Sunday 20 May, the Not Quite Light Weekend is back, and this year includes literature event In The Half-light: the premiere of some specially commissioned stories from five award-winning women writers, including Burgess Fellow Joanna Walsh, carefully curated by connoisseurs of fine creative non-fiction The Real Story.

The Rainy City is also brought into focus as Neil Campbell launches the second novel in his ‘Manchester Trilogy’, following up Sky Hooks with Zero Hours, musing on McJobs and the changing skyline. Meanwhile, ten years on from going In Search Of the North in Pies & Prejudice, Stuart Maconie went on The Long Road From Jarrow, and will be telling more about how he followed in the footsteps of the famous protestors last year at a special event at Waterside.

Off down the busiest bus route in Europe, Man Met’s Manchester Writing School is having a special International Literature Week, when it hosts the poet Hera Lindsay Bird, over from New Zealand and one of Carol Ann Duffy’s Laureate’s Choices. She’ll also be reading from her new pamphlet Pamper Me To Hell & Back at the fourth outing of the Murmur reading series – another addition to the city’s burgeoning experimental poetry scene (No Matter joins us in June – more on that later this month).

The University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing’s Jeanette Winterson has been chatting to various guests, including former guitarist of The Slits and star of (for example) Joanna Hogg-directed artsy movie Exhibition Viv Albertine about her latest memoir To Throw Away Unopened, launched as part of Manchester Literature Festival’s special Spring Programme, while tickets are now on sale to see best-selling author Kate Atkinson at MLF when it’s back in full in October.

And don’t forget to scroll down to our More in Literature stories, where we’ve been bringing you news of a debut pamphlet from poet Amy Kinsman which launched at Kraak Gallery in Manchester and the Gardener’s Rest in Sheffield (and check out our brand-new guide to Literary Places in Sheffield here) and WoWFest 18 in Liverpool (ooh, there’s a new guide to Liverpool here). Regularly updated, keep watching this space for all the gen on the likes of Poets & Players at the Whitworth, Bad Language at Gullivers and BL co-host Fat Roland’s new one-man spoken word show at The Lowry, and Zarf at Wharf Chambers over the hills in Leeds.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Altrincham Word Fest at various venues

    Blogger Kat Horrocks. Photo by Georgie Glass.
    Blogger Kat Horrocks. Photo by Georgie Glass.

    Altrincham Word Fest at altspace, Altrincham, 12–27 May 2018, from £5.00 - Book now

    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.

  • 2. Hera Lindsay Bird at Murmur and Manchester Writing School

    Poet Hera Lindsay Bird. Photo by Rachel Brandon.
    Poet Hera Lindsay Bird. Photo by Rachel Brandon.

    Writers at Manchester Met: Hera Lindsay Bird, 21 May 2018, free entry - Find Out More

    Critically-acclaimed Carol Ann Duffy favourite Hera Lindsay Bird is over from New Zealand to launch new Laureate’s Choice pamphlet Pamper Me To Hell & Back. Catch her at Murmur #4 or at the Manchester Writing School International Literature Week.

  • 3. Stuart Maconie at Waterside

    Stuart Maconie. Photo by Andy Hollingworth.
    Stuart Maconie. Photo by Andy Hollingworth.

    Stuart Maconie: Jarrow; Road to the Deep South at Waterside Arts Centre, Manchester, 23 May 2018, from £13.00 - Book now

    The broadcaster and writer walked the route of the famous Jarrow March to find similarities with Brexit Britain and material for his latest tome and the show that accompanies it.

  • 4. Zarf #11 at Wharf Chambers in Leeds

    Poet Caitlin Doherty.

    Zarf #11 at Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 31 May 2018, free entry - Find Out More

    We head over the hills to Leeds and Zarf magazine’s regular live literature night. Zarf #11 features readings by poets Caitlín Doherty, Ollie Evans and Azad Ashim Sharma, all up from London.

  • 5. Kate Atkinson at Royal Exchange Theatre

    Author Kate Atkinson. Photo by Euan Myles.
    Author Kate Atkinson. Photo by Euan Myles.

    An Afternoon with Kate Atkinson at Royal Exchange Theatre, City Centre, 21 October 2018, from £10.00 - Find Out More

    Join the multi-award-winning author behind the Case Histories crime series as she chats to Guardian critic Alex Clark about her tenth novel, Transcriptions, out in September on Transworld. Part of Manchester Literature Festival 2018.

More in Literature

Beautiful Monsters at The Portico Library, Manchester
Exhibitions 17 May–30 June 2018, FREE

Beautiful Monsters at The Portico Library

Inspired by Conrad Gessner’s 16th century encyclopaedia of actual and imaginary animals, Beautiful Monsters at The Portico examines the idea of the monstrous within the context of history, mythology and 21st century life.

Seek, Find, Speak; A Conjuring Told in Gold
Families 6–8 July 2018, from £15

Seek, Find, Speak; A Conjuring Told in Gold at Timber Festival

The language of the natural world is brought to life in the world premiere of the outdoor theatre companion to the bestselling book The Lost Words.

Literature 23 June 2018, from £20

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah at the RNCM Theatre

One of the country’s leading poets, Benjamin Zephaniah visits the RNCM as part of his first tour in eight years, to mark the publication of his autobiography. Expect insightful stories from throughout his remarkable life, as well as a selection of his favourite poetry.

Culture Guides

Women Hold Up Half the Sky by Ekua Bayunu at Alexandra Park, Manchester


The revolutionary fervour of the May ’68 Paris uprising, the seismic impact of the Dutch Golden Age on western art history, and notions of ‘the monstrous’ in 21st century life are just some of the themes explored within this month’s hand-picked selection of must-see exhibitions from across the north.

Theatre in Manchester and The North Guide


Vibrant, varied and fearless – there’s a real wealth of performance on offer in Manchester and the North – we’ve rounded up the best in our theatre guide.

Telling Tales


Silent films, documentaries and revolution! Find out what’s going on in the cinemas of Manchester and the North.


Out of this world free festivals of making, maritime magic in Liverpool and theatrical adventures for all the family this May.


From a series of folk sessions at the Mechanics’ Institute, via Brazilian Tropicália legends and a fresh look at the Whitworth’s gallery collection, the musical calendar for Manchester and the North is packed to the rafters.