Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

Live literature land welcomes in 2023 with lots lined up in Manchester and beyond, from book launches to prize-winning poets and award-laden authors sharing their secrets and stories.

Blackwell’s bookshop co-hosts poet Dan Paterson at Central Library on 25 January and The Portico reopens in February. Carcanet have a number of online launches lined up in the New Year if the cold and dark means you don’t want to move far from the fluffy socks and duvet, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House starts a new online Mary Barton season in 2023. Also keep an eye out for city-wide events marking International Mother Language Day, officially on 21 February, but with activities both before and after the date itself.

On to the regulars… Speak Easy’s bumper open mic is at Dulcimer in Chorlton every first Thursday of the month, Beatification takes over the first floor at Fuel in Withington the third Wednesday of the month, Saboteur Awards Best Regular Spoken Word Night Verbose is at the King’s Arms in Salford last Monday of the month (and under new management as of 30 January, when headliner is Royal Society of Literature and Sky Arts Award for Poetry winner Zainab Imran), Word Central can usually be found in Central Library’s events space on the last Tuesday and the next Crime Central takes place 16 February. Check out The Other every two months at the Old Monkey (back on 9 March), Peter Barlow’s Cigarette, back on 28 January and entering its tenth year, and Poets & Players at the Burgess Foundation, back on 25 February.

In Liverpool, don’t forget to look up the regulars like A Lovely Word, Blast!, dead good poets society, Give Poetry A Chance, Liver Bards, Speakeasy and The Reader’s Spoken Word night at the Mansion House and its weekly Poetry Walk in south Liverpool’s Calderstones Park. Across the water, there’s Limonello and The River Poets, both Birkenhead, and in Chester, Testify is back. The Poet Laureate Simon Armitage is also stopping by on his library tour, visiting Gladstone’s Library and also Ellesmere Port Civic Centre Library in March.

Over the Pennines, keep an eye out for Resonance and Nine Lives Poetry in Sheffield (and, en route, Glossop Bookfest’s monthly open mic, next one on 2 February); in Huddersfield, try Ink Spill at The Grove and monthly Attic Stories at Lawrence Batley Theatre, hosted by Rose Condo; in Farsley, Tubthumping is hosted by Matt Abbott and Maria Ferguson at The Constitutional, and, in Headingley, Soundbites takes place at the Enterprise & Arts Centre. Leeds sees Chemistry enjoy its fourth bimonthly evening on 27 January with a Leeds Lit Fest special following in March, and The Leeds Library’s Chelping will be back with a fresh helping in 2023. At Leeds Central Library, meanwhile, Gwendoline Riley is in conversation about her latest novel, My Phantoms, Lemn Sissay is at Carriageworks Theatre, Ian Duhig takes over Nowt But Verse and the Radical Reading Book Group rocks up at Left Bank.

For borrowing and browsing books, check out the Manchester Poetry Library, recently marking its first birthday, plus Deansgate’s John Rylands Library, the Portico Library, Chetham’s Library, and the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. If it’s book purchases you’re after, check out new bookseller on the block House of Books & Friends on King Street (with a special launch event on 26 January) and save the date for the next Northern Publishers’ Fair, flick through our Bookshops in Manchester Guide and visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s House for the monthly book sale. If you’re venturing further afield from Manchester – celebrating five years as a UNESCO city of Literature – see our literary guides to LiverpoolLeeds, Sheffield and Cumbria, and don’t forget to scroll down for more events and activities in the land of Literature.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Carcanet online book launch: More Sky by Joe Carrick-Varty

    Joe Carrick-Varty
    Poet Joe Carrick-Varty.

    More Sky by Joe Carrick-Varty: Carcanet Book Launch , online, Until 8 February 2023, from £2.00 - Book now

    Join Eric Gregory Award winner Joe Carrick-Varty online on 8 February as he launches his debut poetry collection More Sky and chats to fellow writer and magazine editor Anthony Anaxagorou about poetry, prizes and the power of words.

  • 2. LGBTQ+ History Month Literary Salon at The Portico

    The Portico Library
    The Portico Library.

    LGBTQ+ History Month Literary Salon at The Portico Library, Chinatown and online, 11 February 2023, from £3.00 - Book now

    To celebrate LGBT History Month, join Abbi Parcell and Ruby Seddon-Wilson at the newly renovated Portico Library on 11 February to discuss some of their favourite histories and texts that have inspired and empowered LGBTQ+ people over the years.

  • 3. Crime Central at Central Library

    Author Elliot Sweeney
    Author Elliot Sweeney.

    Crime Central at Manchester Central Library, Manchester, 16 February 2023, from £2.00 - Book now

    There’s murder and mayhem in the library as Manchester Libraries’ monthly event Crime Central welcomes new guests every month at Central Library – hosted by Rob Parker, on 16 February, he welcomes the crime authors Lia Middleton, Elliot Sweeney and Sam Tobin.

  • 4. Poets & Players at Burgess Foundation

    Wayne Holloway-Smith. Photo by Robin Christian
    Wayne Holloway-Smith. Photo by Robin Christian.

    Poets & Players at International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF), Manchester, 25–24 February 2023, free entry - Find Out More

    Poets & Players has a new home as 2023 unfolds, bringing its fabulous free afternoons of words and music townwards to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, and, on Saturday 25 February, welcoming poets Clare Pollard, Wayne Holloway-Smith and Jake Morris-Campbell.

  • 5. Catriona Ward at Leeds Lit Fest

    Author Catriona Ward (via Leeds Inspired).

    In Conversation with Catriona Ward at Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds, 25 February 2023, from £8 - Book now

    As part of Leeds Lit Fest 2023, running from 25 February to 5 March, internationally bestselling author Catriona Ward talks to Dan Coxon about being the only woman to have won the British Fantasy Awards’ August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel three times.

  • 6. Ian Duhig at Nowt But Verse Leeds Lit Fest special

    Ian Duhig at Nowt But Verse Leeds Lit Fest special
    Poet Ian Duhig. Photo by Paul Maddern.

    Nowt But Verse at The Leeds Library, Leeds, 3 March 2023, free entry - Find Out More

    Poet, editor, and curator of literary events Hannah Stone talks to Ian Duhig in this special Leeds Lit Fest edition of Nowt But Verse on 3 March.

  • 7. Lemn Sissay at Leeds Lit Fest

    Lemn Sissay at Leeds Lit Fest
    Lemn Sissay. Photo Paul Crowther.

    Lemn Sissay – My Name Is Why at Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds, 3 March 2023, from £22.00 - Book now

    As part of Leeds Lit Fest 2023, poet, playwright, memoirist, performer and broadcaster (and until recently the Chancellor of the University of Manchester) Lemn Sissay OBE presents his life story My Name Is Why, at Carriageworks Theatre on 3 March.

  • 8. Gwendoline Riley at Leeds Central Library

    Gwendoline Riley. Photo by Adrian Lourie
    Author Gwendoline Riley. Photo by Adrian Lourie.

    In Conversation with Gwendoline Riley at Leeds Central Library, Leeds, 16 March 2023, free entry - Find Out More

    Prize-winning author Gwendoline Riley is on our list of favourites, with the likes of early novels Cold Water and Sick Notes featuring Manchester as a backdrop, and at this event in Leeds this March she’s talking about highly acclaimed and toe-curlingly tense tome My Phantoms.

  • 9. International Mother Language Day 2023

    Anjum Malik. Photo by Randulph Redlin
    Poet Anjum Malik. Photo by Randulph Redlin.

    International Mother Language Day at Manchester Central Library, Manchester, 21 February–31 March 2023, free entry - Find Out More

    Championing language diversity and its connection to cultural and traditional heritage, International Mother Language Day is celebrated around the world annually on 21 February, and, in our very own UNESCO Manchester City of Literature, events will be taking place beforehand with some running until the end of March.

  • 10. Northern Publishers’ Fair at Central Library

    Author Adam Farrer. Photo by Simon Buckley
    Author Adam Farrer. Photo by Simon Buckley.

    Northern Publishers' Fair at Manchester Central Library, Manchester, 29 April 2023, free entry - Find Out More

    Various independent publishing houses will be setting out their stalls at Manchester Central Library on 19 April 2023 for the latest Northern Publishers’ Fair, organised by Manchester’s own Fly On The Wall Press.

  • 11. Mary Barton season at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House online

    Elizabeth Gaskell's House
    Elizabeth Gaskell's House

    Mary Barton Season, online, Until 13 December 2023, from £5.00 - Book now

    The team at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House on Plymouth Grove has already celebrated the author’s famous novels Cranford and North And South, and in 2023 it’s the turn of Mary Barton: A Tale Of Manchester Life. The special season of events and online talks runs throughout the year.

More in Literature

Literature Until 5 February 2025, FREE

The Little Library in Spinningfields

Take your pick from The Little Library’s carefully curated collection of classics and new releases, adding a recently read book of your own as a replacement.

Activity Until 25 February 2023, from £13

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House Tour

Visit the home influential Mancunian writer Elizabeth Gaskell, with expert guides and refreshments within the home it’s a truly immersive way to learn about her life.

Ladyfriends: Writing From LGBTQ+ History at Contact
Literature 10 February 2023 5:00 pm, FREE

Ladyfriends: Writing From LGBTQ+ History at Contact

Join writer and director Clodagh Chapman for this insight into making new work from queer history, drawing on her latest production Ladyfriends.

Writer Dean Atta (credit 2015 Hussina Raja).
Literature 11 February 2023 6:00 pm, from £5.00

Queer Contact: Outspoken at Contact

A very special showcase of queer spoken word, poetry and literature in the recently renovated Contact Theatre, part of the Queer Contact season.

Sarah Autumn
Literature 22 February–1 November 2023, FREE

Radical Reading Book Group at Left Bank Leeds

Join the Radical Reading Book Group every six weeks to discuss a book from The Reading Room Library – which you can find at Left Bank Leeds in collaboration with London-based independent radical publishers Pluto Press.

Literature 23 February 2023 10:00 am, FREE

International Mother Language Day at Manchester Poetry Library

Manchester’s newest library will be celebrating International Mother Language Day on Thursday 23 February with free events and refreshments provided in the library.

Culture Guides


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Cardboard Carnival at The Edge


New year, new start, and what better way to welcome in 2023 than by planning and experiencing all sorts of exciting family events in Manchester and the North?


More brilliant gigs appear on the horizon as we inch further into 2023.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


Queer Contact Festival, stunning physical theatre and intimate in-the-round performance top our eclectic list of drama, comedy and dance this month.

Classical Music

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Food and Drink

Start 2023 as you mean to go on, with the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North.

Tours and Activities

New years are for new experiences, and we have a whole lot of ideas to inspire you as 2023 gets underway.