Literature Events in Manchester and the North

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

As the land of live literature tentatively opens the door a crack, we have some talks and walks IRL to flag up and a whole host of online dates for your diary this May, including a virtual trip to the capital and a jam-packed month of festival readings, digital book launches and spoken word showcases…

The month starts with the tailend of Queer Contact on 1 May, when Dean Atta will be reading from his debut novel The Black Flamingo and chatting about it with the UK’s LGBT History Month Poet Laureate Adam Lowe, and also running a creative writing workshop. WoWFEST also gets underway and runs all month – Liverpool’s longest-running writing and literary festival this year welcomes the likes of international bestselling My Name Is Leon author Kit de Waal and poet, performer and novelist Salena Godden.

Manchester’s Word Central, in conjunction with Flapjack Press and hosted by Tony Curry, returns to our Zoom rooms on 4 May, welcoming poet Chanje Kunda alongside a packed open mic, and Liverpool’s A Lovely Word brings The Repeat Beat Poet to the airwaves on 6 May. Also on 6 May, Flapjack Press launches Henry Normal’s new book The Distance Between Clouds with Manchester Libraries, while Emma Jane Unsworth presents her new non-fiction work After The Storm at Salon London.

Seán Hewitt introduces the Poets and Players 2021 competition online reading on 4 May, while the next night offers a choice: Adam Roberts’ Dystopian Dialogue #1 online from the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and Ben Harker’s latest book launch at the Working Class Movement Library.

Comma Press introduces readers to The New Abject: Tales of Modern Unease on 11 May, while fellow Manchester-based  publisher Carcanet Press hosts three launches this month – first up, John Gallas’s The Extasie on 5 May followed by Iain Crichton Smith’s Deer On The High Hills on 11 May and Jenny King’s Moving Day on 19 May. Carcanet-published poet Suzannah V Evans (New Poetries VIII) reads from her new Guillemot Press pamphlet Brightwork on 6 May alongside Liverpool’s Eleanor Rees, whose next collection is out with Guillemot next year. More here.

The Elizabeth Gaskell’s House book sale is back on 9 May, so get your place booked as soon as possible, and there’s a fascinating talk on DH Lawrence and Philip Larkin beaming out live on 26 May – online tickets available now.

Also on 26 May, in association with Manchester Poetry Library, Andrew McMillan launches his third poetry collection pandemonium with an online reading and chat with his Manchester Metropolitan University Manchester Writing School colleague Malika Booker. On 20 May, Man Met’s Professor Emeritus Poetry and Art Allen Fisher joins the line-up for the latest in the Spring 2021 Safe Readings Series organised by Ágnes Lehóczky of University of Sheffield’s Centre for Poetry and Poetics – the other readers are Tim Atkins, Carrie Etter and Ulli Freer.

The Manchester Literature Festival spring programme continues on 20 May with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and translator Jhumpa Lahiri in conversation with Women’s Prize For Fiction winner Kamila Shamsie. As with all MLF spring events, this will be captioned and available to watch for seven days after first broadcast. We’re also heading, virtually, to the Brockley Max festival in London for a showcase of Arachne Press talent, with readings and discussion about poetry and flash fiction from Laura Besley, Manchester’s David Hartley and Rob Walton. Festival fever continues as we look forward to the first-ever Festival Of Libraries – the programme runs 9 to 13 June, but is yet to be revealed, so be sure to check back for more…

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. WoWFEST 2021

    Salena Godden. Photo © Olivia Rutherford

    WoWFEST 2021, online, Until 31 May 2021 - Book now

    WoWFEST, Liverpool’s longest-running writing and literary festival, is running throughout May with a packed programme of online events, welcoming the likes of author of international bestseller My Name Is Leon Kit de Waal, poet, performer and now novelist Salena Godden, writer and editor Nikesh Shukla, local poetry face Roger McGough, children’s author Michael Rosen and Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri.

  • 2. Suzannah V Evans online book launch with Eleanor Rees

    Poet Eleanor Rees. Photo by Elly Lucas.

    Book Launch - Suzannah V Evans, with Eleanor Rees, online, 6 May 2021, free entry - Find Out More

    On 6 May, Liverpool-based Eleanor Rees is the guest poet reading at the online launch of Suzannah V Evans’ brand-new pamphlet Brightwork, out with Guillemot Press, who are publishing Eleanor’s own next collection in 2022.

  • 3. Jhumpa Lahiri and Kamila Shamsie online at Manchester Literature Festival

    Writer and translator Jhumpa Lahiri.
    Writer and translator Jhumpa Lahiri.

    Jhumpa Lahiri & Kamila Shamsie in Conversation, online, 20–27 May 2021, free entry - Find Out More

    The latest spring guest to be welcomed by Manchester Literature Festival 2021 is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Jhumpa Lahiri, who will be in conversation with Women’s Prize For Fiction-winning novelist Kamila Shamsie on 20 May and available for seven days after.

  • 4. Andrew McMillan online book launch with Malika Booker

    Poet Andrew McMillan. Photo by Ursula Soltys.

    Andrew McMillan 'pandemonium' book launch, online, 26 May 2021, free entry - Find Out More

    Poet Andrew McMillan will read from his third collection, pandemonium, out with Cape this month, and chat about the new themes and approaches with his Manchester Writing School colleague, Forward Prize-winning Malika Booker. Introduced by Manchester Poetry Library director Becky Swain, there will also be an audience Q&A at this online event on 26 May.

  • 5. Sons and Mothers online talk with Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

    Poet Philip Larkin. Photo: Philip Larkin Society.

    Sons and Mothers: Lawrence, Larkin and the Maternal Muse, online, 26 May 2021, from £4 - Book now

    Join poet Philip Watts on 26 May to explore the work of two of the finest English writers of the 20th century in what promises to be a fascinating talk looking at how the relationship of DH Lawrence with his mother influenced his work and how that, in turn, affected Philip Larkin’s poetry some years later.

  • 6. An online evening with Arachne Press featuring Laura Besley, David Hartley and Rob Walton

    Writer David Hartley.

    An evening with Arachne Press featuring Laura Besley, David Hartley and Rob Walton, online, 31 May 2021, free entry - Find Out More

    Indie publishers Arachne Press invite you online on 31 May as three of their writers – Manchester-based David Hartley plus Laura Besley and Rob Walton – read new work and discuss the differences between short stories and flash fiction, and flash and poetry as part of London’s Brockley Max festival.

  • 7. Festival Of Libraries in various venues

    Lemn Sissay
    Poet Lemn Sissay.

    Festival of Libraries at Manchester Central Library, Manchester, 9–13 June 2021, free entry - Find Out More

    Save the date for the new Festival Of Libraries, a five-day multi-venue celebration of Greater Manchester’s libraries happening 9 to 13 June and featuring a vibrant programme of digital art commissions, artist residencies, dance, performance, panel talks and walking tours.

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.

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

Book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

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Streets of Poetry for MINDSCAPES
Literature Until 16 May 2021, FREE

MINDSCAPES: Streets Of Poetry – Elten Kiene and Sjaan Flikweert with Young Identity

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Literature Until 24 June 2021,

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Literature 19 May 2021 7:00 pm, from £2

Carcanet online book launch: Jenny King

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Families 17 June 2021 6:00 pm, FREE

Online bedtime story with the People’s History Museum

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Activity 4 August 2021 7:00 pm, from £4

Sir Walter Scott and Elizabeth Gaskell

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Activity 8 September 2021 7:00 pm, from £4

Children’s Literature: With Prof. Kim Reynolds

Professor Kim Reynolds will be exploring the world of children’s literature that Elizabeth Gaskell may have read to her own four daughters and the influence this may have had on her own writings.

Literature 15–17 October 2021, from £14.00

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