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 taken to online activities and events like the proverbial duck to water. Verbose were among the first in Manchester, taking the monthly night into the ether at the start of May and again in June, with Liverpool regulars A Lovely Word following suit. The format seems to work, with Word Central regularly hitting our living rooms while the libraries remain shut (a partial and phased re-opening takes place from Saturday 4 July, with 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), hosting the likes of Henry Normal and Shirley May. Even entire festivals are going virtual: Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, the UK’s longest running annual festival of Arab arts and culture, heads online in July, while save the date for Lakes International Comic Arts Festival (LICAF), back – online – at the start of October. Bradford Literature Festival is online on Thursday 2 July with an all-day selection, including “astro poet” Dom Conlon, of offerings for primary (ages 5-11) and secondary (11-18) school pupils.

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. Carcanet Press has been holding online book launches (next up: Rebecca Watts then Sasha Dugdale follow by Chris Beckett, hosted by Daljit Nagra), while Comma Press has been gifting us its Morphologies Masterclasses. Commonword are still looking for your Verses Against The Virus, while Manchester Poetry Library are collating submissions to Carol Ann Duffy’s WRITE where we are NOW project, and hosting events; more here. Up the road, if you’re aged 16 to 25, you’re invited to join the University of Manchester and Manchester Museum virtually, by signing up for the Radical Reading Group, while younger readers might enjoy the Summer Reading Challenge with the Silly Squad – Read Manchester and Manchester Libraries are running a programme of online activities from 1 July.

As doors start to reopen in coming months, rest assured the fabulous exhibition all about Manchester’s independent poetry publisher Carcanet will await you at The John Rylands Library while the newest library in town (for now – Manchester Poetry Library follows hot on its heels!) is just around the corner in Spinningfields. There are online talks, including Russia Is Burning on 8 July, from “one of the most unusual libraries in the world”, the Working Class Movement Library, a plethora of Polite Literature activities during The Portico Library lockdown, and a new From Home page courtesy “the oldest public library in the English speaking world”, Chetham’s Library, including a series of  activity packs, inspired by the collection, for younger library learners. And while most of our favourite literary venues can’t have visitors, their websites can – Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is running online reads and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation has a virtual exhibition and other visual and aural goodies to enrich your lockdown experience – talking of which, check out the new Anthony Burgess episode of The Hook via the new website for Manchester City of Literature, the UNESCO-funded initiative, and IABF’s new Earthly Powers reading group, starting 23 July.

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. Read More: scroll down for our More in Literature short stories, and get more tips for trips, as lockdown loosens, with our literary guides to LiverpoolLeeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.

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 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

    Launching on 1 July, Manchester Libraries invites younger readers to a feast of Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge daily activity stretching over nine weeks – 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 fortnightly, with a sign-up-in-advance open mic and a guest poet at each event, including Shirley May, Gordon Zola and Henry Normal and – upcoming – Michael Wilson on Thursday 9 July.

  • 4. Online events at Liverpool Arab Arts Festival

    Spoken word performer Lisa Luxx.
    Spoken word performer Lisa Luxx.

    Writing the Palestinian City at Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, online, 13 July 2020, free entry - Find Out More

    Liverpool Arab Arts Festival goes online from 9 to 18 July, with various free events, including discussion Writing The Palestinian City, in association with Comma Press, and an evening featuring spoken word artist and LAAF’s artist-in-residence for 2020 Lisa Luxx and performance poet pal Tayna Ash.

  • 5. Carcanet book launch online: Sasha Dugdale in conversation with Kathryn Maris

    Poet Sasha Dugdale. Photo by Zima Zima
    Poet Sasha Dugdale. Photo by Zima Zima.

    Deformations by Sasha Dugdale: Online Book Launch with Kathryn Maris, online, 22 July 2020, from £2 - Book now

    Forward Prize-winning poet Sasha Dugdale heads online on 22 July to launch her fifth Carcanet collection, Deformations, which she will discuss with fellow poet and critic Kathryn Maris, and answer audience questions about.

  • 6. Ribka Sibhatu and André Naffis-Sahely in conversation

    Poet and translator Andre Naffis-Sahely.

    Aulò: Ribka Sibhatu and André Naffis-Sahely in conversation, online, 23 July 2020, free entry - Find Out More

    Manchester Poetry Library and the Poetry Translation Centre are delighted to celebrate the publication of Aulò! Aulò! Aulò! in English, with a special reading on 23 July from poet Ribka Sibhatu and a wider discussion about Italian and Eritrean poetry with translator André Naffis-Sahely.

  • 7. Carcanet book launch online: Tenderfoot by Chris Beckett

    poet Chris Beckett
    Poet Chris Beckett.

    Tenderfoot by Chris Beckett Launch, online, 29 July 2020, from £2 - Book now

    Join poetry publisher Carcanet online for another of their popular lockdown launches, this time of Chris Beckett’s new collection, Tenderfoot, which he’ll be reading from and chatting about with poet and broadcaster Daljit Nagra.

  • 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. Carcanet Exhibition at The John Rylands Library – postponed until libraries reopen

    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 – once the building reopens to the public, of course.

  • 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.

  • 11. 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…

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