Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

October wouldn’t be October without Manchester Literature Festival, including: Poet Laureate Simon Armitage chatting to Elbow frontman Guy Garvey; David Baddiel talking about his new book for young readers; Manc faves Dave Haslam reading from the second in his ‘Art Decades’ series with Didsbury publishers Confingo, We the Youth: Keith Haring’s New York Nightlife, and Lemn Sissay talking to Henry Normal about his Sunday Times number-one bestselling memoir My Name Is Why; Booker Prize shortlist readings including indie press Galley Beggar author Lucy Ullmann (Ducks, Newburyport), and previous Booker Prize shortlistee Deborah Levy.

Burnley Literary Festival runs the first weekend of October and includes a short-short fiction showcase in a caravan – Flash In The Van, natch, on Saturday 5 October, featuring our very own Literature Editor alongside Michael Conley, Kate Feld, David Gaffney, Tania Hershman and Fat Roland. It’s also the seventh Lakes International Comic Art Festival, the seventh Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival and the seventh Gothic Manchester Festival (more below). Thursday 3 October is busy, with the special one-off Dancing With Words showcasing a trilogy of new performances for National Poetry Day, an evening with bestselling author Jojo Moyes, and the relaunch of the Centre For New Writing’s Literature Live programme at Martin Harris Centre following the academic break, starting with Paul Muldoon and Alice Oswald, recently named as taking on the prestigious role of Oxford Professor of Poetry. Meanwhile, big names in town include Bill Bryson at the Palace Theatre on 5 October and Armistead Maupin at The Lowry on 8 October.

October is über-scary this year as a result of the looming Brexit deadline – but also because there’s lots of spooky goings-on in Live Literature Land in the run-up to Halloween. Gothic Manchester Festival runs all month, and we’re excited about 15 October’s Writing Manchester Gothic: An Audience with Tania Hershman (Writer-in-Residence at Southern Cemetery – keep your ears open for a related BBC Radio 4 broadcast coming soon) and Rosie Garland – also donning her Writer-in-Residence hat on 17 October (6pm, free) and reading for the first time from the brand-new novel she’s been working on while holed up at The John Rylands Library.

On 19 October, head Peer Hat-wards for Rural Eerie, exploring the strange countryside through sounds and words with Helen Darby, Sarah Hymas, Emily Oldfield, Mark Pajak, Richard Skelton and Andrew Michael Hurley – recently seen at Rewriting The North (back on 31 October, this time with Anita Sethi and Paul Evans). Andrew is popping up again on 24 October for an evening of folk horror with Water Shall Refuse Them (Dead Ink) author Lucie McKnight Hardy at Blackwell’s (preview here). The University Green flagship bookstore also welcomes Jenn Ashworth and Lee Rourke – authors of new tomes Notes Made While Falling and Glitch respectively – on 29 October and, a week before, a special Slovak literature event, featuring Ivana Dobrakovová, Uršuľa Kovalyk and Balla in conversation with Glen James Brown (whose debut novel Ironopolis has just been announced on the Portico Prize list).

One of our favourite regulars, No Matter, is back on 23 October, this time at The King’s Arms (7.30pm, free), with New Matter #4 from Bhanu Kapil plus performances from Sascha Aurora Akhtar, Sarah Crewe and Callie Gardner. The following evening, 24 October, sees a special Manchester appearance by the editors and critically acclaimed contributors to literary journal Ambit, launching the latest edition plus an exhibition marking sixty years of the highly regarded publication. Readers at the one-off at No 70 Oxford Street (6pm, free but ticketed) will include editor Briony Bax and poet Liz Berry, who will be presenting the three winners of the 2019 Ambit Poetry Prize, Yvonne Roddick, Jane Lovell and Ella Duffy, plus Jade Cuttle and Maryam Hessavi.

Before you get back to your books, 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 and the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, Chet’s. Our updated Guide To Bookshops In Manchester is here, and there’s a regular secondhand book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House; combine with a look at the new Ruskin exhibition on until July 2020. Fancy heading out of town? Our tips for trips include must-go Literary Places in Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Writing Manchester Gothic: Tania Hershman and Rosie Garland at Man Met

    Writer Rosie Garland. Photo by Absolut Queer Photography.
    Writer Rosie Garland. Photo by Absolut Queer Photography.

    Writing Manchester Gothic: An Audience with Tania Hershman and Rosie Garland at MMU Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester, 15 October 2019, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm, free entry - Find Out More

    Part of the seventh Gothic Manchester Festival, this evening brings together friends and Writers-in-Residence Tania Hershman (Southern Cemetery) and Rosie Garland (John Rylands Library), to read from and discuss their work – both poetry and prose – with a Gothic slant.

  • 2. Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival

    Author Hanna Jameson.
    Author Hanna Jameson.

    Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival, 14–21 October 2019, from £3.00 - Book now

    Not just literature – and ideas! – the seventh festival has on offer drama, comedy, poetry, spoken word, visual arts plus children’s and young people’s shows and events to get you reading and thinking. Guests include bestselling and award-winning authors plus well-known broadcasters and acclaimed illustrators.

  • 3. Rural Eerie at The Peer Hat

    Writer Mark Pajak. Photo by Robert Peet
    Writer Mark Pajak. Photo by Robert Peet.

    Rural Eerie: Explored Through Sounds and Words at The Peer Hat, Manchester, 19 October 2019, 7:30 pm–10:00 pm, from £5 - Book now

    Part of the Gothic Manchester Festival VII, running the month of October, Rural Eerie seeks to explore the “uncanny countryside” rather than the “rural idyll” through spooky soundscapes and spoken word from authors and poets Andrew Michael Hurley, Sarah Hymas, Mark Pajak and more.

  • 4. Jenn Ashworth and Lee Rourke at Blackwell’s

    Author Jenn Ashworth
    Author Jenn Ashworth.

    An evening with Lee Rourke and Jenn Ashworth at Blackwell’s Manchester, Manchester, 29 October 2019, 7:00 pm–8:30 pm, free entry - Find Out More

    Join author Jenn Ashworth as she reads from her new collection of essays Notes Made While Falling and chats about the book at this special evening with Lee Rourke, launching his own most recent title Glitch, and Richard V Hirst, asking the questions.

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

    Elizabeth Gaskell House. Photo by Maddie Farris Photography
    Elizabeth Gaskell's House. Photo by Maddie Farris Photography.

    Secondhand book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell's House at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Manchester, 10 November 2019, 11:00 am–4:00 pm, 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 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.

More in Literature

Head and shoulders shot of David Baddiel.
Families 20 October 2019, 1:30 pm–2:30 pm, FREE

An Afternoon with David Baddiel at the RNCM

Manchester Literature Festival brings you comedian and author, David Baddiel. In this family event he’ll talk about the power of stories and introduce his hot off the press, new book for young readers, The Taylor Turbochaser.

Author Andrew Michael Hurley.
Literature 24 October 2019, 7:00 pm–8:30 pm, FREE

Lucie McKnight Hardy and Andrew Michael Hurley at Blackwell’s

Lucie McKnight Hardy and Andrew Michael Hurley read from and discuss their brand-new spooky novels, out just in time for Halloween.

Writer Kirsty Logan. Photo copyright Simone Falk.
Literature 1 November 2019, 8:45 am–5:45 pm, FREE

National Creative Writing Industry Day 2019 at Man Met

Back for a fifth year, the National Creative Writing Industry Day is a conference with panel discussions, workshops and pitching opportunities designed for all new writers aspiring to publication.

Literature 7 November 2019, 7:30 pm–10:30 pm, from £15

Roger McGough at Liverpool Playhouse

Roger McGough launches his new collection joinedupwriting in his home town of Liverpool. Described as ‘exuberant’, the poems within range from forgotten friendships and the idiosyncrasies of family life to the trauma of war and contemporary global politics.

Culture Guides


October sees the launch of Manchester’s newest cinema, some first class new releases and plenty of Halloween fun.

Peer to Peer at Open Eye Gallery & St. George's Hall, Liverpool


Sci-fi, football, China and Venice collide in our latest pick of exhibitions from across the north.

Autumn at Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens -with plenty of family things to do.


Avoid the post summer holiday blues with our latest top picks of family things to do. Enjoy some quality family time together this autumn.


Looking ahead to Manchester’s Autumn gig calendar, our new music guide ranges from contemporary singer-songwriters to pioneers of electronica.

Theatre in Manchester


You’ll find an eclectic fusion of dance, contemporary performance and top-notch new writing in our theatre guide this month.

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

Discover the best food and drink that the North has to offer in our expert guide to food and drink in Manchester and beyond.

tours and activities

Tours and Activities

Find alternative nights out, decadent afternoons and fun new ways to explore the city in this month’s guide of things to do in Manchester.

Things to do right now

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Gay tours
Activity 11 October–28 December 2019, from £15

Manchester Gay Tours with Sí Manchester

tours and activities
Activity 12 October–23 November 2019, from £14.5

Silent Adventures Silent disco tours

Hedda Tesman at The Lowry.
Theatre 4–19 October 2019, from £24.50

Hedda Tesman at The Lowry