Literary places in Liverpool

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor

From bookshops to poetry performances, the Liverpool literature scene is alive and kicking. The Mersey Sound anthology launched poets Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri into “considerable acclaim and critical fame” in 1967, and Scouse spoken word is still going strong. Regulars are a-plenty, and, at the time of writing, include A Lovely Word, Blast!, dead good poets society (new details: the third Thursday at MerseyMade cafe on Paradise Street), Give Poetry A Chance, Liver Bards and Speakeasy. The Dreaming is now a fixture at The Reader’s new city-centre venue The Reader Bar & Restaurant, and head to The Reader’s Mansion House HQ in south Liverpool’s Calderstones Park for a bookshop and the weekly Poetry Walk. Across the water, there’s Limoncello and The River Poets in Birkenhead, and Testify continues apace in Chester. One of the original members of the Northern Fiction Alliance radical publishing collective, the publishing arm of Dead Ink Books is in the trendy Baltic Triangle while its indie bookshop is up Allerton way on Smithdown Road. For cheap reads, head to Oxfam Bookshop on Bold Street or the expensively renovated Central Library, rubbing shoulders with the Walker Art Gallery and the World Museum. From mainstream to experimental, you’ll find it here.

Our top picks

Dead Ink Books

Dead Ink Books, 375 Smithdown Road, Liverpool, L15 3JJ - Visit now

A relative newcomer to the Liverpool literary scene is this indie bookshop on Smithdown Road in Liverpool, exclusively stocking books from indie publishers, including their own. Keep an eye on the Dead Ink socials and Creative Tourist‘s very own Literature Guide for regular events, including readings and talks by authors and poets. You can even snaffle a coffee and a cake while you peruse the spines…

Michael Lacey / Dead Ink Books

The Reader Bar & Restaurant

The Reader Bar & Restaurant, 103 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5TB - Visit now

The Reader Bar & Restaurant was established in Liverpool city centre in 2023 by leading national charity The Reader, whose headquarters is based in south Liverpool’s Calderstones Park. Profits from every meal bought at The Reader Bar & Restaurant support the life-changing literacy work of the organisation and there are regular events, including The Dreaming open mic.

The Reader

Liverpool Everyman Theatre

Liverpool Everyman Theatre, 5-9 Hope Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 9BH - Visit now

The Everyman has a long literary history and Liverpool’s “most eclectic open mic poetry and spoken word evening” A Lovely Word takes place on the second Monday of every month in the Everyman Bistro. With a guest headliner each time, the open mic welcomes first timers and non-newbies – sign up for a five-minute slot from 7.30pm.

Everyman Theatre
Liverpool Everyman / Philip Vile

Liverpool Central Library

Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L3 8EN - Visit now

Pop along to the refurbished library as much to gape at its features – the colonnaded façade on William Brown Street, the “Literary Pavement” book title entrance, the four-storey-high inspirational quotations wall, and the Grade II-listed Picton, Hornby and Oak Reading Rooms – as to borrow a book. Check out the room dedicated to John James Audubon’s amazing Birds of America, or take a coffee and a tome onto the terrace and gaze over the roses of St John’s Gardens.

Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool Central Library reading room. Image by Austin Smith Lord

Waterstone’s Liverpool One

Waterstone’s Liverpool One, Liverpool One, 12 College Lane, Liverpool, L1 3DL - Visit now

The biggest bookshop in Liverpool holds regular book launches with both big and small name authors, and both on and off site, including at “secret space” Oh Me Oh My on Water Street near the Cavern Quarter.

Waterstone's Liverpool One
Waterstone's Liverpool One

LEAF on Bold Street

LEAF on Bold Street, 65-67 Bold Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 4EZ - Visit now

The original LEAF in Liverpool city centre has always prided itself as being an arts-friendly venue, with readings from the likes of Dave Haslam and performances during the annual Liverpool literature festival, WoWFest, curated by Writing on the Wall, Liverpool’s longest running writing and literary organisation. It’s also a great place to pick up flyers for events elsewhere.

LEAF on Bold Street

Bluecoat

Bluecoat, Bluecoat Chambers, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX - Visit now

Alongside the art offer (not to mention a sun-filled garden extension to the cafe), the Bluecoat has historically been a haven for poetry performances, writing workshops and book fairs, and right next door is Kernaghan Books, for all your secondhand and antiquarian book needs.

Image courtesy of The Bluecoat

Where to go in Liverpool

Liverpool Central Library
City Centre
Library
Liverpool Central Library

The final building in the World Heritage Site of William Brown Street to be revamped, the wonderfully restored Central Library takes pride of place in Liverpool’s architecturally stunning Cultural Quarter alongside St George’s Hall, Walker Art Gallery and World Museum.

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