International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF)

Stevie Mackenzie-Smith

Nestled beneath the chimney stacks on Cambridge Street, in one corner of an old mill, is the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, a modest museum dedicated to one of Manchester’s greatest and most prolific writers. It’s an intimate place, with a gem of a reading room, an extensive archive – of books, manuscripts and correspondence – and staff who are as blooming lovely as they are knowledgeable. A detour from the bustle of Oxford Road can suddenly turn into an afternoon wiled away in a small but perfectly formed cornucopia of literary history.

Although best known for A Clockwork Orange, Burgess’s creative output was astonishingly productive. During his career he penned 33 novels, 25 pieces of non-fiction and two volumes of autobiography. And that’s even before touching on his three symphonies and hundreds of musical works; for his love of the piano was as great as that of his typewriters (five of which are on display at the foundation). He once remarked “I wish people would think of me as a musician who writes novels, instead of a novelist who writes music on the side.” Three of Burgess’s pianos are housed within the collection – sadly missing is the Gaveau upright previously belonging to the famous American performer Josephine Baker; it disappeared around the time of Burgess’s death in 1993.

There are no glass cabinets here, no key-locked cupboards

Go past the café, through the mill’s old engine room, now filled with assorted mahogany dressers – all belongings of Burgess – and down the stairs and you’ll find yourself in the small exhibition space. A fishbowl sits fatly, full of matchbooks that Burgess picked up from hotel bars around the world. Close by, a photograph shows the author happily in holiday mode; suntanned, scruffy, with cigar faithfully in hand.

The reading room is the highlight of the centre. Visitors need to call ahead for access, but once you’re in you’ll feel right at home. The loud orange floor and matching chairs are a nice touch; a nod to Burgess’s most infamous work. The space is disarmingly personal. Burgess’s paintings hang from the walls, while his books and records consume the shelves. Other knick-knacks lie along the way; a wooden whale puzzle sits alongside three volumes of Bernard Shaw’s collected letters. These items, the hallmarks of a familial sitting room, feel as though they have been lifted quite seamlessly from Burgess’s home life. There are no glass cabinets here, no key-locked cupboards: the chance to sit and ponder the groaning contents is a real treat.

Given the nature of the collection, a member of staff is always present in the reading room, though they are never overbearing. You can either be left to your own devices or happily bend their ears for stories. The Tiger Beer anecdote, for example, is a good one to ask after. Burgess apparently contacted the manufacturers of the Singaporean brand after naming his first novel “Time For A Tiger.” His request? A free Tiger-branded clock in exchange, please. He was politely declined, but heard back from them years later – once he was famous, of course.

If the reading room is a haven for distraction-free study, then the centre’s events programme is better suited to an evening’s socialising. Chuck Palahniuk stopped off on a recent book tour, while poetry readings and spoken-word nights are regular features.

After all of the leafing through and poking and prodding, a stop at the café is recommended. The ceilings are high, the brick walls exposed and the light is abundant. Good, strong coffee, loose leaf teas, soups, sandwiches and cakes are all available. But faced with the offer of a “Chockwork Orange” pint, Brentwood Brewery’s chocolaty malty beer? Well, it would be rude to the great man not to.

Engine House, Chorlton Mill,
3 Cambridge Street
ManchesterM1 5BY
View map
Telephone: 0161 235 0776 Visit Now

Services and Facilities

Library, archive, cafe, bookshop and performance venue

Opening Hours

  • Monday10:00am - 4:00pm
  • Tuesday10:00am - 4:00pm
  • Wednesday10:00am - 4:00pm
  • Thursday10:00am - 4:00pm
  • Friday10:00am - 4:00pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

What's on near International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF)

From England with Love at HOME
From England with Love at HOME

With stunning choreography and an inventive score, the ambiguities at the heart of England take centre stage in Hofesh Shechter’s compelling new dance work.

from £10.00
DJ Gym at Hatch

Learn some DJ and production skills with DJ Gym Manchester, based in the culturally infused surrounds of Hatch.

from £269
Students playing in an orchestra
MusicOxford Road
RNCM Symphony Orchestra at RNCM

With June comes one of the RNCM’s annual highlights, as the College’s Symphony Orchestra takes to The Bridgewater Hall stage.

from £12.00

Where to go near International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF)

Café or Coffee Shop
Burgess Cafe Bar

Small but perfectly-formed café – which also serves as the in-house bookstore, stocking all manner of Burgess-related works, along with recordings of his music. It’s a welcoming space, with huge glass windows making for a bright, welcoming atmosphere.

Bar or Pub
Black Dog Ballroom NWS

Black Dog Ballroom is a three-level bar, club and restaurant complete with roof terrace covered to provide protection during Manchester’s rainy season.

Dog Bowl bowling alley and restaurant Manchester.
Bar or Pub
Dog Bowl

A bar and 10-pin bowling alley combined, Dog Bowl is a neon-lit venue that serves up cocktails and Tex-Mex food to go with your time on the lanes.

The Ritz Manchester live music venue
Music venue
The Ritz

The Ritz was originally a dance hall, built in 1928, has hosted The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and The Smiths and is still going strong as a gig venue now.

Gorilla, Whitworth street Manchester
Bar or Pub

Gorilla is a good choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. From a hearty full English to meaty burgers via good vegan and veggie options. It also hosts some of the best gigs and events in Manchester.

HOME Manchester
HOME Manchester

Offering a packed schedule of events and things to do, HOME Manchester is one of the city’s leading hubs for arts and culture.

Indian Tiffin Room, Manchester

Indian Tiffin Room is a restaurant specialising in Indian street food, with branches in Cheadle and Manchester. This is the information for the Manchester venue.

Manchester District Guides

Culture Guides

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
Cinema in Manchester and the North

From the latest installment in the Mad Max franchise, to silent movie masterpieces we highlight the best new releases and big screen classics showing near you this month.