UNESCO City of Literature: Manchester

Ben Williams

In October 2017, Manchester joined such illustrious alumni as Milan, Barcelona and Melbourne as it became the 26th UNESCO City of Literature. Recognised as home of the great novelists Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Burgess, and the city where Friedrich Engels lived and worked alongside a visiting Karl Marx, UNESCO also highlighted the work of The Pankhurst Centre in celebrating the writings of Suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, as well as the city’s thriving contemporary literature scene, from the Lemn Sissay inscribed streets of the Northern Quarter to the Manchester Literature Festival.

Here are our picks of some of the city’s literary landmarks. For the latest live events and literary happenings in Manchester and the North, check out our regularly updated Literature Guide.

Here are our picks

  • 1. The John Rylands Library

    The historic Reading Room in John Rylands Library
    Image courtesy of John Rylands Library.

    The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 3EH - Visit now

    The John Rylands Library houses a collection of rare books that spans five millennia – including an original Gutenberg Bible – in a neo-Gothic building that took nine years to build.

  • 2. Chetham’s Library

    Chetham’s Library in Long Millgate in Manchester

    Chetham’s Library, Long Millgate, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 1SB - Visit now

    Chetham’s Library is the oldest free public reference library in Britain. Visitors can browse beautiful medieval shelving and an internationally rated collection of books.

  • 3. Manchester Central Library

    Manchester Central Library
    Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 5PD - Visit now

    Central Library re-opened in 2014 after a £48m restoration, bigger and brighter, and the new home of the city’s archives and local history collections.

  • 4. International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF)

    International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF), Engine House, Chorlton Mill,
    3 Cambridge Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 5BY - Visit now

    The International Anthony Burgess Foundation comprises of a library and archive of Burgess’ manuscripts, photos and correspondence.

  • 5. Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

    Image courtesy of Marketing Manchester / © Joel-Chester-Fildess

    Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M13 9LW - Visit now

    Elizabeth Gaskell’s House has been lovingly restored; you can now sit at her desk, see where Charlotte Brontë hid behind the curtains, and have tea in the downstairs café.

  • 6. The Portico Library

    The Portico Library, Manchester
    Creative Tourist

    The Portico Library, 57 Mosley Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 3HY - Visit now

    Take tea in the refined, 19th century surrounds of the diminutive Portico Library.

  • 7. The Pankhurst Centre

    By Kurt Adkins (WebHamster) (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    The Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson St, Manchester, M13 9WP - Visit now

    Houses a small museum and heritage centre that remains as a legacy to the Pankhurst family and the Suffragette movement born in this city.

  • 8. Working Class Movement Library

    Richard Rogerson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    Working Class Movement Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 4WX - Visit now

    The Working Class Movement Library is a real gem: the personal collection of labour historians Ruth and Edmund Frow, it’s a veritable treasure trove of fascinating material dating back to the 1760s – from pamphlets containing the testimony of child millworkers to the rabble-rousing folk songs of Salfordian Ewan MacColl.

Things to do right now

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Manchester Folk Festival
Music 18–21 October 2018, from £6.00

Manchester Folk Festival 2018

Death of a Salesman at Royal Exchange
Theatre 11 October–17 November 2018, from £10.00

Death of a Salesman at the Royal Exchange

Contact at STUN Studio, Z-Arts
Theatre 16–27 October 2018, from £6.00

CONTACT at STUN Studio, Z-Arts

The Royal Exchange Autumn Winter SeasonThe Royal Exchange Autumn Winter Season
Theatre 21 September 2018–12 January 2019,

The Royal Exchange Autumn / Winter Season

Music 11 October 2018–22 May 2019,

The Hallé 2018-19 Season

Poppy, Esme, Oleanna, Gracie and Kate, 2014. Personal Feeling is the main thing - Chantal Joffe at The Lowry, Salford
Exhibitions 19 May 2018–24 February 2019, FREE

Salford Royal Academy Takeover

Families 5 May–28 October 2018, from £Quarry Bank admission prices apply (free for National Trust members)

Journeys of the Imagination at Quarry Bank

Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival
Festivals 15–22 October 2018, from £3.00

Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival