As the land of live literature tentatively opens the door a crack, we have some talks and walks IRL to flag up and a whole host of online dates for your diary this May, including a virtual trip to the capital and a jam-packed month of festival readings, digital book launches and spoken word showcases…
The month starts with the tailend of Queer Contact on 1 May, when Dean Atta will be reading from his debut novel The Black Flamingo and chatting about it with the UK’s LGBT History Month Poet Laureate Adam Lowe, and also running a creative writing workshop. WoWFEST also gets underway and runs all month – Liverpool’s longest-running writing and literary festival this year welcomes the likes of international bestselling My Name Is Leon author Kit de Waal and poet, performer and novelist Salena Godden.
Manchester’s Word Central, in conjunction with Flapjack Press and hosted by Tony Curry, returns to our Zoom rooms on 4 May, welcoming poet Chanje Kunda alongside a packed open mic, and Liverpool’s A Lovely Word brings The Repeat Beat Poet to the airwaves on 6 May. Also on 6 May, Flapjack Press launches Henry Normal’s new book The Distance Between Clouds with Manchester Libraries, while Emma Jane Unsworth presents her new non-fiction work After The Storm at Salon London.
Seán Hewitt introduces the Poets and Players 2021 competition online reading on 4 May, while the next night offers a choice: Adam Roberts’ Dystopian Dialogue #1 online from the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and Ben Harker’s latest book launch at the Working Class Movement Library.
Comma Press introduces readers to The New Abject: Tales of Modern Unease on 11 May, while fellow Manchester-based publisher Carcanet Press hosts three launches this month – first up, John Gallas’s The Extasie on 5 May followed by Iain Crichton Smith’s Deer On The High Hills on 11 May and Jenny King’s Moving Day on 19 May. Carcanet-published poet Suzannah V Evans (New Poetries VIII) reads from her new Guillemot Press pamphlet Brightwork on 6 May alongside Liverpool’s Eleanor Rees, whose next collection is out with Guillemot next year. More here.
The Elizabeth Gaskell’s House book sale is back on 9 May, so get your place booked as soon as possible, and there’s a fascinating talk on DH Lawrence and Philip Larkin beaming out live on 26 May – online tickets available now.
Also on 26 May, in association with Manchester Poetry Library, Andrew McMillan launches his third poetry collection pandemonium with an online reading and chat with his Manchester Metropolitan University Manchester Writing School colleague Malika Booker. On 20 May, Man Met’s Professor Emeritus Poetry and Art Allen Fisher joins the line-up for the latest in the Spring 2021 Safe Readings Series organised by Ágnes Lehóczky of University of Sheffield’s Centre for Poetry and Poetics – the other readers are Tim Atkins, Carrie Etter and Ulli Freer.
The Manchester Literature Festival spring programme continues on 20 May with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and translator Jhumpa Lahiri in conversation with Women’s Prize For Fiction winner Kamila Shamsie. As with all MLF spring events, this will be captioned and available to watch for seven days after first broadcast. We’re also heading, virtually, to the Brockley Max festival in London for a showcase of Arachne Press talent, with readings and discussion about poetry and flash fiction from Laura Besley, Manchester’s David Hartley and Rob Walton. Festival fever continues as we look forward to the first-ever Festival Of Libraries – the programme runs 9 to 13 June, but is yet to be revealed, so be sure to check back for more…
Don’t forget to scroll down for more events and activities. Check out our Guide To Bookshops In Manchester – many of the indies will order books for you and deliver locally while the libraries are shut – plus our literary guides to Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.
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.
Here are our picks
WoWFEST 2021, online, Until 31 May 2021 - Book now
WoWFEST, Liverpool’s longest-running writing and literary festival, is running throughout May with a packed programme of online events, welcoming the likes of author of international bestseller My Name Is Leon Kit de Waal, poet, performer and now novelist Salena Godden, writer and editor Nikesh Shukla, local poetry face Roger McGough, children’s author Michael Rosen and Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri.
Book Launch - Suzannah V Evans, with Eleanor Rees, online, 6 May 2021, free entry - Find Out More
On 6 May, Liverpool-based Eleanor Rees is the guest poet reading at the online launch of Suzannah V Evans’ brand-new pamphlet Brightwork, out with Guillemot Press, who are publishing Eleanor’s own next collection in 2022.
Jhumpa Lahiri & Kamila Shamsie in Conversation, online, 20–27 May 2021, free entry - Find Out More
The latest spring guest to be welcomed by Manchester Literature Festival 2021 is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Jhumpa Lahiri, who will be in conversation with Women’s Prize For Fiction-winning novelist Kamila Shamsie on 20 May and available for seven days after.
Andrew McMillan 'pandemonium' book launch, online, 26 May 2021, free entry - Find Out More
Poet Andrew McMillan will read from his third collection, pandemonium, out with Cape this month, and chat about the new themes and approaches with his Manchester Writing School colleague, Forward Prize-winning Malika Booker. Introduced by Manchester Poetry Library director Becky Swain, there will also be an audience Q&A at this online event on 26 May.
Sons and Mothers: Lawrence, Larkin and the Maternal Muse, online, 26 May 2021, from £4 - Book now
Join poet Philip Watts on 26 May to explore the work of two of the finest English writers of the 20th century in what promises to be a fascinating talk looking at how the relationship of DH Lawrence with his mother influenced his work and how that, in turn, affected Philip Larkin’s poetry some years later.
An evening with Arachne Press featuring Laura Besley, David Hartley and Rob Walton, online, 31 May 2021, free entry - Find Out More
Indie publishers Arachne Press invite you online on 31 May as three of their writers – Manchester-based David Hartley plus Laura Besley and Rob Walton – read new work and discuss the differences between short stories and flash fiction, and flash and poetry as part of London’s Brockley Max festival.
Save the date for the new Festival Of Libraries, a five-day multi-venue celebration of Greater Manchester’s libraries happening 9 to 13 June and featuring a vibrant programme of digital art commissions, artist residencies, dance, performance, panel talks and walking tours.
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.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and award-winning garden is a must-see, with the famous book sale back on 18 April and scheduled thereafter for 9 May, 13 June, 11 July, 8 August, 12 September, 10 October, 14 November and 12 December 2021, 11am-4pm.
Streets Of Poetry is produced by Young Identity, Manchester’s spoken word and arts organisation, bringing together poets and communities to create new work written on the pavements of Moston, Harpurhey and Manchester city centre.
Every Thursday morning you’re invited to join the Poetry Walk with The Reader in Calderstones Park. Get into the great outdoors and escape the everyday, while exploring poetry and making the most of the beautiful surroundings in a safe and socially distanced way.
Jenny King launches her debut collection, Moving Day, with readings and chat with fellow Carcanet Press poet, and co-director of The Poetry Business, Peter Sansom.
Head on over to the Little People’s History Museum without leaving your own home… get ready for bed and settle in for a livestreamed story.
Join Dr. Diane Duffy for a look into the literary works of Sir Walter Scott and his relationship to Elizabeth Gaskell in our literary canon.
Professor Kim Reynolds will be exploring the world of children’s literature that Elizabeth Gaskell may have read to her own four daughters and the influence this may have had on her own writings.
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is back in the Cumbrian town of Kendal, bigger and better than ever, and with plenty of storytelling treats in both words and pictures.
It’s the March edition of the Food and Drink Guide to Manchester and the North and things are slowly starting to feel more promising. Spring is here, the weather is mostly warming up and in just a few weeks we’ll be allowed to eat and drink outside at venues with outside space.