Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

Lockdown may be looming large, but Live Literature Land has you covered: from book launches and literary salons to online open mics and full-on festivals, activities and events continue virtually.

As January draws to a close, Manchester Poetry Library hosts poet Valerie Bloom and illustrator Ken Wilson-Max as they launch their illustrated children’s poetry book Stars With Flaming Tails on 26 January. Scots Makar Jackie Kay raise a toast for Burn’s Night on the 28th while Libby Tempest doffs her bonnet to Elizabeth Gaskell the day before in an online talk, Cranford for Beginners. Friday 29 January sees No Matter’s Nell Osborne join the line-up helping poets Kyle Lovell and Maria Sledmere as they co-launch their new pamphlets into the world at Each Sharper Halo.

Word Central is back on 4 February, with guest poet Elizabeth McGeown and a compliment of open mic acts, while the Write Out Loud Open Mic Poetry online Zoom edition is beaming out of Wigan on 11 February for the second time this year. Manchester publisher Comma Press has two events to bolster its Protest and Resist collections of stories – with Christopher Eccleston on 9 February and Maxine Peake on 10 February – while Carcanet Press continues its online events programme for 2021 with the launch of Judith Willson’s new poetry collection, Fleet, reading from the work and chatting about it with fellow Carcanet poet Helen Tookey on 10 February.

The annual Manchester In Translation conference this year heads online for three days 16 to 18 February, preceding Manchester City of Literature’s fourth International Mother Language Day, on 21 February. From the Confucius Institute to the new Manchester Poetry Library, IMLD activities include a multi-language mushaira night of song and poetry and the creation of a special Manchester Audio Cookbook by artist Sumay Wu.

Festival wise, Kendal Poetry Festival has a full-to-bursting online programme and runs 19 to 28 February, while March sees both Lancaster Litfest (12-21 March) and Huddersfield Literature Festival (18-28 March) taking place virtually.

Be sure to check back for news of some upcoming literature festivals heading into the ether and 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 LiverpoolLeeds, 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

  • 1. Cranford For Beginners Online Talk with Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

    Elizabeth Gaskell's House.
    Elizabeth Gaskell's House.

    Cranford For Beginners Online Talk with Elizabeth Gaskell's House, online, 27 January 2021, from £4 - Book now

    Join Libby Tempest, Chair of The Gaskell Society, for an introduction to the novel Cranford, a well-loved classic of Victorian literature all about life in a picture-perfect Cheshire village. The talk, complete with question-and-answer session, takes place on 27 January.

  • 2. 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, 28 January 2021, free entry - Find Out More

    This online show mixing poetry, music and chat, headed by the Scots Makar, or National Poet of Scotland, Jackie Kay, had a successful 16-week run during the UK’s initial Lockdown and now it’s back on 28 January with another seasonal special to celebrate Burns Night.

  • 3. Each Sharper Halo double book launch online

    Poet Maria Sledmere.
    Poet Maria Sledmere.

    Each Sharper Halo double book launch online, online, 29 January 2021, free entry - Find Out More

    Join poets Kyle Lovell and Maria Sledmere on 29 January as they co-launch their new pamphlets, alongside readings from four guest readers, including Nell Osborne of Manchester’s very own premier avant reading series No Matter and contributor to Manchester Review of Books.

  • 4. Protest: Stories of Resistance with Christopher Eccleston and Maxine Peake

    Maxine Peake
    Maxine Peake.

    Protest: Stories of Resistance with Maxine Peake, online, 10 February 2021, from £3 - Book now

    Radical bookshop Housmans has joined forces with Comma Press to host two online events featuring readings from the publisher’s Protest anthology, with renowned British actors Christopher Eccleston on 9 February and Maxine Peake on 10 February.

  • 5. Manchester In Translation 2021 online conference

    Arunava Sinha
    Translator Arunava Sinha.

    Manchester in Translation, online, 16–18 February 2021, free entry - Find Out More

    Running 16 to 18 February, this year’s Manchester In Translation conference heads online with panels featuring industry experts including Man Booker International Prize shortlisted Sophie Hughes, workshops with the likes of Anjum Malik, senior lecturer at Manchester Writing School, and a keynote speech from multi-award-winning translator Arunava Sinha.

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.

shared reading live stream
Activity Until 23 February 2021, FREE

Shared reading live with The Reader

Join The Reader for their free sessions of lockdown-inspired literature every Tuesday from 1pm, and every first Thursday of the month at 7pm – it’s free and anyone can join in.

Genevieve Pegg HarperNorth
Literature Until 31 January 2021, FREE

Northern Lights Writers’ Conference 2020: Digital Edition

The seventh consecutive Northern Lights Writers’ Conference presents a series of free online events for emerging and established writers, with recorded events still available to watch online via the Diverge digital hub.

Families 21 January 2021 6:00 pm, FREE

Little Bee online bedtime story with the People’s History Museum

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.

Writer Michelle Green.
Literature 21 January–1 April 2021, from £75

Online Short Story Course with Michelle Green

Here’s a great idea for a Christmas present – or perhaps it might be something to go on your New Year’s Resolutions list – an online course from Manchester’s Comma Press all about the short story, led by writer Michelle Green.

Families 30 January 2021 11:00 am, from £10

Creative Writing Workshop: Space Odyssey

Join Lauren and Stephanie from the Children’s Literature unit at Newcastle University, as they launch into space in search of your creative writing skills.

Elizabeth Gaskell's House garden. Photo by Chris Tucker
Literature 11 April–12 December 2021, FREE

Book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and award-winning garden is a must-see, with the famous book sale scheduled (assuming Lockdown is lifted at the end of March) as follows: 11 April, 9 May, 13 June, 11 July, 8 August, 12 September, 10 October, 14 November and 12 December 2021, 11am-4pm.

Culture Guides

Cinema in Manchester and the North

Our guide to cinema features brand new streaming films, classic favourites and a look back at the year’s cinematic highlights.

Dark Days, Luminous Nights at The White Hotel, Salford

Exhibitions

A highly immersive audio-visual experience from Manchester Collective, an outdoor festival about the simple act of loitering, and an exhibition of paintings that upend our sense of order.

Family Things to do in Manchester

Families

Need some inspiration for online activities and creative family fun? Look no further than our top picks online for families across Manchester and the North.

Music

Discover the best upcoming music events taking place on a stage or a screen near you.

Theatre in Manchester

Theatre

Our guide to theatre in Manchester and the North features stand-out online performance and all the best streamed theatre events to enjoy at home.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Pizza Punks

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

For the December guide, we’re looking at the best delivery options in Manchester, whether it’s for alcohol or food.

Isolation Broadcast

Online events

Discover the best things to do online from the organisations we love in Manchester and the North.

Tours and Activities

Embrace your creative side or find the time to unwind your mind in this month’s guide of Tours and Activities.