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 and Libby Tempest doffs her bonnet to Elizabeth Gaskell on Wednesday 27 January in an online talk, with more Cranford action chalked up for February. 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, and Liverpool’s A Lovely Word is on, hosting queer poet Sam Grudgings, 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 GC Waldrep’s The Earliest Witnesses on 3 February and 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, plus the launch of a brand new Chinese Language poetry collection at Manchester Poetry Library on 16 February with Jennifer Lee Tsai, Kit Fan and Natalie Linh Bolderston.

In Liverpool, The Reader kicks off a series of exciting author events on 18 February with Chocolat author Joanne Harris. The Sefton Borough of Culture: An evening with… returns on 11 March with poet Kei Miller and on 25 March with novelist Max Porter.

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. 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.

  • 2. 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.

  • 3. 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.

  • 4. Kendal Poetry Festival

    Hafsah Aneela Bashir
    Poet and performer Hafsah Aneela Bashir.

    Kendal Poetry Festival, online, 19–28 February 2021, from £5 - Book now

    For its fifth appearance in our calendars, Kendal Poetry Festival heads online and international from 19 to 28 February, featuring nine days showcasing workshops, talks and performances by over 50 writers, from Hafsah Aneela Bashir to Michael Symmons Roberts.

  • 5. Cranford Online Talks with Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

    Cranford illustrations by Hugh Thomson 1898
    Cranford illustration by Hugh Thomson.

    Cranford Online Talks with Elizabeth Gaskell's House, online, 24 February 2021, from £4 - Book now

    Find out more about the novel Cranford, a well-loved classic of Victorian literature all about life in a chocolate-box Cheshire village, in the spring series of online talks from Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, the perfect way to discover or rediscover both its words and its pictures. The next talks, complete with question-and-answer session, take place on 3 and 24 February.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Activity Until 12 February 2021, FREE

Writer’s Bloc: Patrice Lawrence

Award-winning author Patrice Lawrence will join Writing on the Wall for four Writer’s Bloc events, starting with ‘In Conversation’ on Monday 25 January 2021.

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.

Literature 3 February 2021 7:00 pm, from £2

Carcanet online book launch: The Earliest Witnesses by GC Waldrep

American poet and historian, GC Waldrep launches his first UK poetry collection, The Earliest Witnesses, with Manchester’s Carcanet Press.

Judith Willson by Lucy Cartwright
Literature 10 February 2021 7:00 pm, from £2

Carcanet online book launch: Fleet by Judith Willson

Judith Willson celebrates the launch of her second poetry collection, Fleet, with an online reading and discussion with fellow Carcanet Press poet Helen Tookey. 

Child attends Creative Writing Workshop with Seven Stories
Families 13 February 2021 11:00 am, from £10

Creative Writing Workshop: It’s a Wonderful (Magical) World

There’s no place like home? Boring! Join Seven Stories (The National Centre for Children’s Books) on their Creative Writing Workshop: It’s a magical (wonderful) world for a journey into literary discovery. Your tots will become budding writers for the morning and learn about world-building, harness their creativity, and turn out-of-this-world ideas into pen-on-paper stories.

Literature 18–28 March 2021, FREE

Huddersfield Literature Festival

Huddersfield Literature Festival is an annual celebration of books, authors, poetry and performance, spanning 20 venues across Huddersfield.

Culture Guides

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Isolation Broadcast

Online events

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Things to do right now

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shared reading live stream
Activity Until 23 February 2021, FREE

Shared reading live with The Reader

Activity Until 12 February 2021, FREE

Writer’s Bloc: Patrice Lawrence

Empty with HOME
Theatre Until 31 January 2021, Pay-What-You-Decide

Empty with HOME

Swimming Home
Theatre Until 20 February 2021, from £5.00

Swimming Home – online