Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

January, February, March, April… we’ve plenty for you to look forward to live literature wise in 2019 and pop into the unsullied pages of that just unclingfilmed diary.

Soon-to-be-stepping-down Poet Laureate and head of Manchester Writing School Carol Ann Duffy is back at the Royal Exchange with her & Friends performance and chat series. Joining Carol Ann are students and alumni, House Poets and Laureate’s Choice pamphleteers John Fennelly and Mark Pajak (winner of the Bridport Prize), and a variety of special guests: on 14 January, it’s The Glass Aisle, aka Paul Henry and Brian Briggs with a collaboration of poetry and music; on 11 March, it’s BBC radio regular and ‘stand-up poet’ Kate Fox.

Another regular fixture on the Manchester scene is Poets & Players, bringing poets Colette Bryce, Kit Fan and Martin Kratz to the wonderful light-flooded galleries of The Whitworth at 2.30pm on 19 January, with music performed by the Kell Wind Trio, and a morning poetry workshop with Colette, who’s been shortlisted for the likes of the Forward Prize for Best Poetry Collection, The Costa Poetry Award and The Roehampton Poetry Prize.

There’s more acclaimed poetry chalked up for the PN Review Winter Launch on 23 January at Castlefield Gallery (celebrating 35 years in 2019 with some amazing exhibitions planned to mark the occasion – check out their latest show, The Ground Beneath Your Feet, while you’re there). It’s free (but you’ll need to book a ticket!) and features readings from Jonathan Catherall, Suzannah V Evans, Richard Gwyn, Jamie Osborn and Claudine Toutoungi, and Man Met visiting teaching fellow and Ambit poetry editor André Naffis-Sahely.

André’s colleague Andrew McMillan is appearing at the second Poetry Pop Jukebox Co-op on 24 January (venue under wraps until we tell you otherwise). Expect snippets of his new collection playtime, recitals of influencing poets, pop lyrics, plus work by fellow writers Emily Oldfield and Jae Lythgoe.

Rounding off January will be Verbose (at new home Fred’s Ale House in Levenshulme on the fourth Monday) and Bad Language (at The Castle on the last Wednesday), and the crowning of the Word War Champion of Champions at Eagle Inn on 26 January, with fighting talk from Liv Barnes, Dominic Berry, Bróccán Tyzack-Carlin, Rose Condo, Hannah Davies, Joy France, David Jarman, David Judge, Ciarán Hodgers and Serin Thomasin.

February gets underway on Friday 1st, when The Manchester Prizes for Poetry and Fiction will be announced at a gala ceremony at Chet’s Library. The poets on the all-female shortlist are Zillah Bowes, Katie Hale, Libby Hart, Maggie Millner and Molly Underwood; the prose shortlist has yet to be announced (rest assured, we have our ears glued groundwards and will let you know). There will be a drinks reception, readings and a return of the inimitable double act James Draper and Matthew Frost, of Manchester University Press.

Next day sees a gathering of the North’s finest independent presses at the second Manchester Indie Book Fair organised by Manchester-based publishing house Dostoyevsky Wannabe. If you’re after some new reading matter for spring, head on down to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation from noon until 6pm, and don’t forget your Christmas money. Other ideas for avoiding the high-street book-buying bunfight are covered with our guide to independent outlets – Chorlton Bookshop, Magma Books and HOME are all included, and some even stock anthologies and graphic novels featured here throughout the last year.

Thursday 7 February sees That’s What She Said back in Manchester for its first show of 2019 – showcasing fantastic new writing and performance by women and non-binary writers and following sell-out events at Edinburgh Festival and the London’s Albert Hall, this month welcomes BBC Poetry Slam Champion Jess Green, and we recommend you snaffle tickets quick sharp. Also back is Outspoken, marking LGBT History Month with an afternoon of poetry and spoken word performance on 9 February, hosted by Mandla-Rae and featuring poets Ella Otomewo, Billie Meredith, Maz Hedgehog and Bryony Bates.

Manchester Literature Festival and the Centre for New Writing have Tracey Thorn in conversation with Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester Jeanette Winterson on Tuesday 26 February (with more events lined up for the rest of the year to be announced), and tickets are on sale for Matt Haig, presenting his latest memoir Notes On A Nervous Planet at HOME on 15 April.

And before you go, scroll down to our “More in Literature” stories and check out our guide to the UNESCO City of Literature, where you’ll find some bookworm-friendly go-tos, including the oldest public library in the English-speaking world Chet’s – check out the tours on 17 January and 14 February.

And if you fancy venturing further afield, then our tips for trips include must-go Literary Places in Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.

Here are our picks

  • 1. PN Review Winter Launch at Castlefield Gallery

    Poet André Naffis-Sahely.

    PN Review Winter Launch at Castlefield Gallery, Castlefield, 23 January 2019, from £0.00 - Book now

    Manchester-based poetry and criticism magazine PN Review celebrates its latest issue with a special launch event showcasing six of its talented contributors, including poet, critic and translator André Naffis-Sahely, currently visiting teaching fellow at Manchester Met’s Writing School.

  • 2. Poetry Pop Jukebox Co-op at The Old Abbey Taphouse

    Poet Andrew McMillan. Photo Ursula Soltys.
    Poet Andrew McMillan. Photo Ursula Soltys.

    Poetry Pop Jukebox Co-op at The Old Abbey Taphouse, Manchester, 24 January 2019, free entry - Find Out More

    The Poetry Pop Jukebox Co-op is back for a second get-together, welcoming some of Manchester’s finest writers to read poetry and pop lyrics – this time round, headliners include multi-award-winning poet Andrew McMillan. (Check back for confirmation of venue.)

  • 3. Manchester Indie Book Fair at Burgess Foundation

    Dostoyevsky Wannabe Editor Victoria Brown
    Dostoyevsky Wannabe Editor Victoria Brown.

    Manchester Indie Book Fair 2 at International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF), Manchester, 2 February 2019, free entry - Find Out More

    Manchester-based publishers Dostoyevsky Wannabe organises a second pop-up of lovely stalls where you can pick up lots of lovely books, pamphlets and zines by the North’s finest indie presses, from And Other Stories to ZimZalla.

  • 4. That’s What She Said featuring Jess Green at Tribeca

    Writer and performer Jess Green.
    Writer and performer Jess Green.

    That's What She Said at Tribeca, Manchester, 7 February 2019, from £3 - Book now

    Critically acclaimed showcase of the best new writing by women and non-binary writers, That’s What She Said returns to Manchester with its first show of 2019, featuring performances from BBC Poetry Slam Champion Jess Green and spoken word artist Roz Weaver.


  • 5. Matt Haig at HOME

    Author Matt Haig.

    Matt Haig: Notes on a Nervous Planet at HOME Manchester, Manchester, 15 April 2019, from £15.5 - Book now

    Join Reasons To Stay Alive author Matt Haig for an evening of positive and insightful discussion about the modern world, offering a closer look at the challenges posed by our ever-changing technological landscape and his advice on how best to navigate it, as outlined in his latest memoir, Notes On A Nervous Planet.

More in Literature

Activity 15 December 2018, FREE

Spanish Story Time at Central Library

Through the story and pictures from a well loved children’s book, Maria will explore a theme in Spanish letting her love of the language inspire young minds.

Living Library: A self-guided tour behind the scenes at Chetham's Library
Activity 13 January 2019, from £10

Living Library: A self-guided tour behind the scenes at Chetham’s Library

Chetham’s Library is opening it’s doors to visitors for a self guided behind the scenes tour. Discover this medieval gem in the heart of Manchester in your own time.

Literature 14 January 2019, FREE

Book club – D’après une histoire vraie by Delphine de Vigan at Alliance Française

Take part in an informal discussion with like minded literature enthusiasts at Alliance Française. Their monthly book club is a great place to share ideas on a given text.

Literature 9 February 2019, from £8

QC 19: Outspoken at No 70

Outspoken is back for LGBT History Month, with an afternoon of poetry and spoken word performance hosted by Mandla-Rae, Manchester poet and former young programmer, and featuring Ella Otomewo, Billie Meredith, Maz Hedgehog and Bryony Bates.

Families 5–7 July 2019, from £70

Timber Festival 2019

An extraordinary new festival where music, art, philosophy and sustainability weave together into an exhilarating weekend in the heart of the National Forest, one of Britain’s boldest environmental projects.

Culture Guides


It’s almost that most wonderful time of the year and there’s all kinds of festive programming and counter-programming in the cinemas of Manchester and the North.

Ren Hang: Wake Up Together at Open Eye Gallery


Tubism, pottery, same-sex intimacy and art education; this month’s Exhibitions Guide has it all. (Even a tentative mention of Christmas.)

Chinese dragon, Manchester


Christmas, Chinese New Year, A World Inside A Book … we are dreaming of the best things to do with kids this winter, half-term and even summer holidays already. Yep


This month’s music guide features some of the most exciting underground artists from around the world, as well as homegrown Manchester talent.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


Contemporary circus, slapstick comedy, burlesque and immersive dining. Our theatre guide spans the festive season and beyond.

Tours and Activities

This month we are highlighting some of the top multilingual tours and activities Manchester has to offer.

Things to do right now

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