Manchester is a rapidly growing city – one of the fastest growing in the UK - with the population expected to exceed 644,000 by 2025. It is also the most linguistically diverse city in Western Europe, with 200 languages spoken, and this diversity is one of the city’s most important assets.
The UK’s first free public library was opened in Manchester in 1653. Libraries continue to be a vital part of the city’s cultural provision and hubs of activity for all ages, with 2.9 million visits made to libraries during 2017/18.
Literature and free speech have been forces for change throughout Manchester’s history. For example, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx worked together on their Communist Manifesto in the Reading Room of Chetham’s Library in 1845 and Elizabeth Gaskell wrote her campaigning novels there, awakening the conscience of the nation to the experience of the poor. Manchester continues to celebrate free speech and the transformative power of literature, not least through its cultural and heritage offerings, including public access to both the Reading Room at Chetham’s and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. The museum and women’s community centre at the city’s Pankhurst Centre also celebrate the writings of suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst, who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in Manchester in 1903, beginning the suffragist movement which campaigned for women’s right to vote.
Manchester has a thriving and dynamic creative scene which created over £134 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) for the city during 2016/17. Prior to the bid for City of Literature status, it was estimated that around 800 literature events take place there each year, across a range of venues from libraries to nightclubs, with an annual audience of around 48,000.
Writers who have called Manchester ‘home’ include: Frances Hodgson Burnett, Anthony Burgess, John Cooper Clarke, Jeanette Winterson, Chancellor of the University of Manchester Lemn Sissay and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.
COLLABORATION WITH OTHER CITIES
RADOŚĆ PISANIA: MANCHESTER POLISH POETRY FESTIVAL
Manchester City of Literature and The Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University are working in partnership with Krakow City of Literature and the British Council to bring together visiting Polish poets with UK-based poets, in this festival of readings and workshops.
The Festival has been curated by Manchester poet Mark Pajak in response to his recent creative residency in Krakow. It is part of a series of bilingual and multilingual poetry events that seek to celebrate and widen access to literature in Manchester’s mother languages. Polish is one of the principal mother languages in Manchester, one of the world’s most multilingual cities. The festival’s name means ‘The Joy of Writing’ in Polish and is taken from a poem by Wisława Szymborska – Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize.
In 2020, Manchester Metropolitan will open the UK’s fourth public Poetry Library, whose collections will include representations of Manchester’s principal community languages, including Polish.
Manchester Literature Festival provides unique and imaginative opportunities for audiences to experience high-quality live literature via an annual festival as well as projects and events throughout the year. The Festival aims to:
showcase the very best in contemporary writing from across the world
commission innovative literature from established and emerging writers
provide opportunities for writers to experiment with new media in the production and presentation of their work
promote Manchester as a hub for international cultural exchange
provide inspirational opportunities for children and young people to engage in creative writing and reading activities.
Manchester Children’s Book Festival encourages collaboration between the city’s libraries, museums, galleries and theatres through a year-round programme of fun-packed, inspirational events, interactive activities and projects. The festival engages with thousands of children, families, teachers and writers in Manchester and from across the globe; 99 different countries joined in the fun last year.
The Festival of Libraries takes place every year in internationally renowned institutions from Manchester’s rich tapestry of heritage libraries, including Central Library, with its impressive status as the busiest public library in the country, in addition to Chetham’s Library, The Portico Library, and the John Rylands Research Institute and Library. Also featured are Greater Manchester’s equally important and vital local libraries that deliver much needed support and services to their communities.
This festival allows citizens to celebrate the key role that libraries play in civic life. It encourages children, young people, migrant communities and vulnerable groups to use the diverse library service offer creatively. Partner libraries around the city will host performances, exhibitions, concerts, art, film, writing classes, and public debates. Writers, artists and performers are commissioned to respond to the vital role libraries play to the people of Manchester.