Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

The leaves are changing hue and Poets & Players is well into its autumn season at the Whitworth overlooking the park, just welcoming Deryn Rees-Jones and Sean O’Brien (also at The Portico on 11 October) to its MLF special. Next to come, on 17 November, is newly Forward Prized-up Liz Berry, performing in the afternoon and running a creative writing workshop in the morning. The Black Country poet is joined by Sophie Herxheimer, Kapka Kassobova and Tariq Latif, each performing specially commissioned work on the subject of ‘Migrations’, plus musicians Archipelago playing live in the South Gallery.

Be sure to leg it into town afterwards for an “afternoon of alternative poetries” with Peter Barlow’s Cigarette in the secret room upstairs at Waterstone’s – the most recent Saturday showcase featured Richard Barrett and Steve Hanson presenting Dostoyevsky Wannabe-published The Acts. If you missed them, they’ll be popping up at Dulcimer (Chorlton), launching brand-new Hanson and Adrian Slatcher-edited publication Some Roast Poet on 27 October (3pm, free entry), supplemented with readings from Mid Life Crisis zine, edited by Sally Barrett. Also in Chorlton is new spoken word night Big Words, which kicked off in September – next one is 18 October (7.30pm, free entry, Vinyl Fiction), then onwards as the months pass. Now confirmed for September’s gig is David Gaffney, reading from the Confingo-published Joy Division anthology We Were Strangers: Stories Inspired by Unknown Pleasures. Another We Were Strangers contributor Eley Williams, meanwhile, is delivering the keynote speech at this year’s National Creative Writing Graduate Fair.

Following a stint at Fred’s Ale House in Levenshulme with a stellar line-up of Emily Morris (whose My Shitty Twenties has just been picked up for a TV adaptation), Emma Jane Unsworth (her own Animals coming out as a feature film in the spring, starring Holliday Grainger and Alia “Search Party” Shawkat) and Nicola Mostyn (The Gods of Love) in September, Verbose is back in its old Fallowfield home on Monday 29 October, at the newly named HAUS on Landcross Road. In the meantime, head to Night & Day on Sunday 21 October (7.30pm) for the Verbose Spoken Word Showcase as part of Dave Haslam’s four-day WAM (Words and Music) Festival, featuring a plethora of readers, including James Friel, Maz Hedgehog and Rosie Fleeshman, fresh from the Fringe.

Also in October, there’s “a new writing night like no other brought to you by Powder Keg” called My Uncle Who Works For Nintendo (25 October, 7.30pm, £2 unwaged, £5 waged, £10 solidarity, The Peer Hat NQ). No Matter nipped over the street to Gullivers for its Halloween special with Nat Raha, Alice Tarbuck and more (it’ll be back at The Castle next time round), lazy Sunday evening outing Murmur returns to Common on 28 October, with readings from Alan Fielden, Honor Gavin and Aurelia Guo, and last but of course by no means least, Bad Language brings the month to a close at Gullivers NQ, with a special guest… before November gets underway with an All Saints’ Day one-off from First Draft and That’s What She Said back at Tribeca, featuring poet Louise Fazackerley.

On the festival front, Dunham Massey has hosted its first-ever weekend-long poetry festival, Women In Words, showcasing a whole host of female talents from Kate Fox to Kim Moore, Ryedale Book Festival delved into romance, true crime and witch hunts, Vital Signs checked your pulse for poetry and performance, dance and movement style, and the internationally renowned Lakes International Comic Art Festival returned to Kendal for a sixth year. Manchester Literature Festival is back for a 13th – including performances by Beth Underdown of her specially commissioned ghost stories from her residency at Quarry Bank Mill and a celebration of Ted Hughes’ poetry to close proceedings, with readings from, among others, Zaffar Kunial, newly shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. There’s also this year’s Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival, which revisits Charlotte Brontë and reappraises Emily Brontë in a Saraband special featuring Sophie Franklin and Claire O’Callaghan, and which rounds off with Simon Armitage reading from his recent Yorkshire Sculpture Park-inspired collection, among other things. The first-ever Radość Pisania: Manchester Polish Poetry Festival takes place, celebrating ours and Kraków’s UNESCO City of Literature status, and including a walking tour of Southern Cemetery with Tania Hershman; another walking tour, with Rosie Garland, takes place in the Northern Quarter. Tickets are also on sale for next month’s Chester Literature Festival.

Finally, be sure to check out our guide to the UNESCO City of Literature, our “More in Literature” stories at the bottom of the main guide, plus our must-go Literary Places in Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Cumbria.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Manchester Literature Festival 2018

    Poet Zaffar Kunial.
    Poet Zaffar Kunial

    Manchester Literature Festival at Manchester Central Library, Manchester, 6–21 October 2018, from £5 - Book now

    For its thirteenth outing, it’s lucky for all, as MLF18 brings over 80 events to venues across the city. From literary walks and spoken word to discussions and debates, there’s bound to be something in this year’s programme to pop in your diary. Read our general round-up here and keep popping back for our picks of poetry and prose.

  • 2. Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival

    Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival
    Poet Simon Armitage. Photo Paul Wolfgang Webster.

    Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival at Number One Riverside, Rochdale, 15–22 October 2018, from £3.00 - Book now

    Featuring internationally acclaimed poets, award-winning authors, crime novelists, script writers and theatre makers, the sixth annual Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival thinks outside the books, exploring philosophical and political threads, alongside plenty of fun events for all the family.

  • 3. First Draft’s Letters on Nocturnal Magic at Portico Library

    Kate Feld at Chethams Library - photo by Phil Benbow
    Writer Kate Feld reading at First Draft at Chetham's Library. Photo by Phil Benbow.

    Letters on Nocturnal Magic at The Portico Library, Chinatown, 1 November 2018, from £10 - Book now

    The witching hour is upon us, and First Draft will be haunting the atmospheric Portico Library for one night only, with a special All Hallow’s Day showcase of spooky stories and sketches. Be sure to catch the Spirited exhibition while you’re there.

  • 4. National Creative Writing Graduate Fair 2018 at Manchester Metropolitan University

    Writer Eley Williams.
    Writer Eley Williams.

    National Creative Writing Graduate Fair at MMU Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester, 2 November 2018, from £40.00 - Book now

    The fourth National Creative Writing Graduate Fair is the perfect place for up-and-coming writers to pick up top tips and inspiration from literary agents, editors, authors and other publishing industry experts – think panels, workshops and networking opportunities, pitching sessions and a keynote speech by Eley Williams.

  • 5. Manchester Dark, Manchester Light at Craft & Design Centre

    Writer and performer Rosie Garland.

    Manchester Dark, Manchester Light at Manchester Craft & Design Centre, Manchester, 3 November 2018, from £10 - Book now

    Happy Halloween – we’ve clocked two walking tours perfect for scaring you silly! First up, tour guide Emma Fox and writer Tania Hershman take a spooky spin of Southern Cemetery as part of Manchester Polish Poetry Festival on 30 October, then Anne Beswick hotfoots it round a Victorian Northern Quarter inspired by Rosie Garland’s novel The Night Brother on 3 November.

  • 6. Chester Literature Festival at Storyhouse

    Writer and performer Hollie McNish.
    Writer and performer Hollie McNish.

    Chester Literature Festival at Storyhouse, Chester, 10 November–1 December 2018, from £10.00 - Book now

    A bigger and better than ever Chester Literature Festival runs for three weeks from 10 November to 1 December, with Horatio Clare, Vanessa Gebbie, Laura Robertson and Lemn Sissay on our “Spotter’s Guide”, and plenty more events besides.

  • 7. Poets & Players featuring Liz Berry and more at The Whitworth

    Liz Berry
    Poet Liz Berry.

    Poets & Players at The Whitworth, Manchester, 17 November 2018, free entry - Find Out More

    The Poets & Players poetry and musical compositions series is back at The Whitworth on Saturday 17 November, with Forward Prize winner Liz Berry performing her work and leading a creative writing workshop, alongside three fellow poets and Archipelago performing live. Not to be missed.

More in Literature

Helen Mort. Photo by Jonathan Pow
Literature 1 June–31 October 2018, FREE

Northern Poetry Train

Manchester Literature Festival and Northern commissioned poet Helen Mort to write about the journey from Manchester to Hebden Bridge. Courtesy MLF and Northern, you can explore the Calder Valley’s rich literary heritage with a special trail and map.

Exhibitions 8 September–28 October 2018, FREE

The Tiger Who Came To Tea exhibition at Quarry Bank

Get up close to this much-loved stripey tale in a new interactive exhibition of Judith Kerr’s life and work.

Education 11 September–13 November 2018, from £35

Baby Book Club: Autumn 2018 at The Bluecoat

The Bluecoat’s popular Baby Book Club returns with a course of 10 weekly sessions for parents and carers with babies aged from 3 to 12 months.

Elmi Ali: Water Seeds Not Stones at the STUN Studio, Z-Arts
Literature 20–23 October 2018, from £7.00

Elmi Ali: Water Seeds Not Stones at the STUN Studio, Z-Arts

A new show from Elmi Ali, one of the most exciting artists to emerge from Manchester’s vibrant and diverse spoken word scene.

Festivals 27 October 2018, from £10

Ryedale Spookfest

Celebrating the eerie and the macabre, the depraved and the blood thirsty.

Cinema 30 October 2018, FREE

Book Signing/ The New Uncanny: Tales of Unease at HOME

The New Uncanny: Tales of Unease, is a new anthology of horror fiction featuring some of the best British horror authors. Matthew Holness, writer of one of the short stories Possum, will join us for a book signing before the screening.

Young identity at Manchester Jewish Museum
Literature 14 November 2018, from £5.00

Young Identity: Ode on the Road at Manchester Jewish Museum

Young Identity are holding a special evening of spoken word and poetry as part of the Festival of Leaving which runs at the Manchester Jewish Museum in November.

Exhibitions 17–25 November 2018, FREE

MACFEST 2018 – across Manchester

The brainchild of Manchester’s resident critically-acclaimed author and prize-winning peace activist, Qaisra Shahraz; MACFEST is a new 10-day celebration of art, literature, music, film, food and heritage relating to the Muslim diaspora, which will open in venues across the city this November.

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

Tours and Activities

In this month’s top picks of Tours and Activities in Manchester, we are featuring the guides who take you into the darker underbelly of the city, as well as some of the more macabre activities.

Exhibitions and art in Manchester


Autumn is festival season in the visual art world. We preview some familiar favourites alongside a brand-new addition to the scene – brainchild of Manchester’s resident prize-winning peace activist, Qaisra Shahraz.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


For this month’s eclectic theatre guide we’ve hunted out exclusive dance events, durational performance and some hair-raising Halloween hijinks.


It’s October, and the cinemas of Manchester and the North are taking the opportunity to host all manner of spooky screenings.


Spaghettify yourself in a black hole at Manchester Science Festival, experience spectaculars at the Winter Droving in Penrith, Lightpool Festival in Blackpool and Light Up Lancaster. There’s a LOT to do folks.


This month’s music guide features cutting-edge jazz, joyous disco, and singular voices in rock.

Things to do right now

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