Literary City

Manchester was successful in its bid to join UNESCO’s worldwide Creative Cities network as a City of Literature in 2017. Joining 38 other Cities of Literature, a consortium including Manchester City Council, the Universities, Manchester Literature Festival plus a range of the city’s writers, publishers and literary organisations has formed to enable this to happen.

Manchester City of Literature is here to celebrate all of the things that make our city such a dynamic, diverse and inspiring place for the written and spoken word. It’s a chance to think big and develop exciting, collaborative projects aimed at getting people reading, writing and enjoying literature in all it’s forms, not just books. Manchester’s radical tradition means that free expression is central to civic identity.

So what makes Manchester a City of Literature anyway?

A City of Libraries

The libraries of our city are a key part of our cultural heritage, from the John Rylands Library to the North-West film archive to Chetham’s to The Portico to the Ahmed Iqbal Race Relations Resource Centre and the Working Class Movement Library. Manchester has 24 public libraries too, and we see libraries as the emotional and physical heart of community. This has been shown, as 4.1 million people came through the doors of Central Library in the 3 years since it was renovated.

A City of Poetry

Manchester is a beacon for poetry in the UK, demonstrated all the way up to institutional level. Manchester University (Lemn Sissay) and Salford University (Jackie Kay, the Scottish Makar) have poets as their Chancellors; Manchester Metropolitan University is the home of the UK Poet Laureate 2009-2019 (Carol Ann Duffy). In 2021 we will see the opening of the very first Poetry Library for the North West, in the heart of our City where it belongs on Oxford Road.

A City of Festivals

From the innovative Manchester Literature Festival to the commissioning Manchester International Festival, and from Wonder Women to Queer Contact, Manchester Histories Festival to Future Everything; Diwali, Dashera, St. Patrick’s Day and Chinese New Year festivities, Manchester is home to all manner of cultural celebrations. There are more than 40 arts and culture festivals in the Manchester calendar throughout the year!

A City of Drama

The principal theatres in the city (Royal Exchange, HOME, Contact) and smaller theatre companies like the King’s Head or Hope Mill theatre perform and develop exciting new work. Z-Arts is Manchester’s venue for children and families; their mission is to inspire and enable generations of young people to utilise their creativity to maximise their potential. We work with them all, to bring Literature projects to life.


Jeanette Winterson on what makes Manchester City of Literature


Manchester's bid to UNESCO


Manchester is the fastest growing local authority in the UK, with a population of 540,000. It is a diverse city, with 91 ethnic groups and an estimated 200 languages spoken.


Manchester is an outward-looking city, working with cities worldwide, and is globally connected by Manchester Airport, which serves 26 million passengers yearly to 200 destinations.

City of Peace

Manchester’s radical tradition means that free expression is central to civic identity. Globally famous for understanding and tolerance, it is a City of Peace that became the first ‘nuclear free city’ in 1980.