Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

It’s all about Carcanet’s 50th birthday celebrations in November, hijacking (in a good way) the Annual Rylands Poetry Reading at John Rylands Library on the 21st, Poets & Players on the 23rd (with their annual poetry competition this year to be judged by a Carcanet poet – details coming, we’re told, around the 17th) and even the tail-end of Manchester Literature Festival on the 24th, when there are readings in Chet’s Library by the likes of Simon Armitage, Helen Mort and Zaffar Kunial, and a chat between Carcanet’s Michael Schmidt and the Guardian‘s Carol Rumens.

The month starts with another Manchester-based press, Comma, hosting this year’s National Creative Writing Industry Day and yet another, Commonword, setting up their inaugural BIQI (Black Indie Queer Indie) Book Fair in Central Library on 9 November, 11am-4pm.

The same day sees a free afternoon of poetry showcasing the work of seven writers published by the Red Ceilings Press based in New Mills. Providing readings are Tim Allen, Sally Barrett, Nikolai Duffy, Tom Jenks, Ian Seed and Rachel Sills, and James Roome, launching or perhaps even relaunching his debut collection with the exciting “underground” publisher.

Also getting underway that weekend is Chester Literature Festival, with three weeks of workshops, performances and talks running at Storyhouse until the end of the month, while the inaugural LIT Macc festival – a weekend of stories and light – takes place from Friday 22 to Sunday 24 November further down the road in Macclesfield.

Back on home turf, and Neil Campbell launches the third novel in his Salt-published Manchester trilogy at Waterstones Deansgate on 7 November – talking to Manchester Metropolitan University’s Nicholas Royle about Lanyards and how it follows up Sky Hooks (2016) and Zero Hours (2018). Writer-in-Residence at Southern Cemetery Tania Hershman, meanwhile, will be on the airwaves on 11 November – keep your ears open for a BBC Radio 4 broadcast at 4pm exploring the dead centre of south Manchester.

On 14 November, swap the Rainy City for the City of Lights as the anthology We’ll Never Have Paris is launched with readings at Blackwells. Anna Hope and newly crowned Not The Booker winner Lara Williams follow at the bookshop on 20 November, talking to Sealed author Naomi Booth about their recent novels Expectation and Supper Club, respectively, both of which take a contemporary look at feminisim and female friendships, then, on 26 November, the University Green flagship store hosts the popular local author Jonathan Swinton with his book about Alan Turing’s Manchester.

The Portico and Man Met partnership series Rewriting The North is back on 25 November, this time with Helen Mort and Blake Morrison, while the University’s Centre for New Writing collaboration with HOME, The Complete Works, sees Ellah Wakatama Allfrey talking to Kamila Shamsie about hope and resistance on 28 November. The same night Malcolm Gladwell is Talking To Strangers at the Opera House (not really; that’s the name of his book tour), then “Queens of Crime” Val McDermid and Denise Mina round the month off at the Martin Harris Centre.

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, the Portico 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 and the award-winning garden, inspired by the author.

Fancy heading out of town? Our tips for trips include must-go Literary Places in Liverpool – Roger McGough launches his latest tome joinedupwriting at Liverpool Playhouse on 7 November – plus Leeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Chester Literature Festival at Storyhouse

    Poet Imtiaz Dharker. Photo by Ayesha Dharker
    Poet Imtiaz Dharker. Photo by Ayesha Darker.

    Chester Literature Festival at Storyhouse, Chester, 9–30 November 2019, from £10.00 - Book now

    Artist-in-residence Imtiaz Dharker heads up a programme packed full of workshops, performances and talks from famous faces and best-selling writers marking Chester Literature Festival’s 30th year. From Armistead Maupin and Michael Morpurgo to Lemn Sissay and Benjamin Zephaniah.

  • 2. We’ll Never Have Paris launch at Blackwell’s

    Writer Lauren Elkin.
    Writer Lauren Elkin.

    We'll Never Have Paris at Blackwell’s Manchester, Manchester, 14 November 2019, 7:00 pm–8:30 pm, free entry - Find Out More

    New anthology of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry We’ll Never Have Paris presents a portrait of the French capital as seen through non-French eyes, exploring its enduring bohemian and literary allure, showcased in this special northern launch event with readings from eight of the contributors.

  • 3. Carcanet At 50: Poets & Players at The Whitworth

    Poet Mimi Khalvati.

    Carcanet at 50: Poets & Players at The Whitworth at The Whitworth, Manchester, 23 November 2019, 2:30 pm–4:00 pm, free entry - Find Out More

    Manchester-based poetry publishing house Carcanet marks 50 years with a ‘jubilee weekend’ of events, including the Annual Rylands Poetry Reading and a Poets & Players Carcanet special, plus a showcase of work at Chetham’s Library, featuring readings including Poet Laureate Simon Armitage.

  • 4. Kamila Shamsie at HOME

    Author Kamila Shamsie.
    Author Kamila Shamsie.

    The Complete Works: Kamila Shamsie (Year 1 – Hope & Resistance) at HOME Manchester, Manchester, 28 November 2019, 6:45 pm–8:00 pm, free entry - Find Out More

    Award-winning author Kamila Shamsie is Ellah Wakatama Allfrey’s latest guest in The Complete Works series, presented by the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing in partnership with HOME, and focusing – for the first of three years – on the theme of hope and resistance in literature and broadcasting.

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

    Elizabeth Gaskell's House garden. Photo by Chris Tucker
    Elizabeth Gaskell's House. Photo by Chris Tucker.

    Secondhand book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell's House at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Manchester, 8 December 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 RHS award-winning 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

Author Jonathan Swinton.
Literature 26 November 2019, 7:00 pm–8:30 pm, FREE

Jonathan Swinton on Alan Turing’s Manchester at Blackwell’s

Author and mathematician Jonathan Swinton talks about his non-fiction book Alan Turing’s Manchester, which explores the period when the famous codebreaker and computer expert worked at the University.

Culture Guides


There’s Ass Kicking and Animation ready to liven up your November in our latest guide to the best in cinema.

Judy Chicgo at BALTIC, Gateshead – Exhibitions in Manchester and across the North


One of the most important feminist artists of the last 50 years, Judy Chicago’s first major UK retrospective tops our pick of exhibitions this month.

Family things to do. An art installation at Lightopia.


Check out our latest top picks of family things to do and enjoy some quality time together this autumn.


From psych to soul, post-punk to electro-pop, there’s something for everyone in this month’s music guide.


With a distinctively festive feel, the temperature outside may have dropped but our theatre guide to Manchester and the North is sizzling hot with unmissable performance.

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

Looking for the best food and drink options in the North West of England? Look no further, here’s our expert guide to where to eat and drink this month.

tours and activities

Tours and Activities

Learn a new skill with November’s crafty guide to the Tours and Activities of Manchester.

Things to do right now

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Manchester Christmas Markets 2020
Families 8 November–21 December 2019, FREE

Manchester Christmas Markets 2020

Cinema 29 October–12 December 2019, from £3.30

Cities of Seven Hills at Film Unit, Sheffield

Health Walks
Activity 28 October–30 December 2019, FREE

Health Walks at Fletcher Moss Park

you feel me_ exhibition at FACT, Liverpool
Exhibitions 1 November 2019–23 February 2020, FREE

you feel me_ at FACT, Liverpool