How is Manchester’s International Mother Language Day Globally Connected?

31 January 2023 - News
Every year on 21st February is UNESCO’s IMLD. It is a day to champion language diversity and its connection to cultural and traditional heritage. It is easy to see why this day resonates so much with those cities with literary connections. 

How are the UNESCO Cities of Literature celebrating? 

While Manchester champion this event, several of our sister Cities of Literature are joining us. 

  • Bucheon have a live ‘We Are All Diaspora’ event, a commemorative event for published works of Immigrant Families Literary Project, which aims to empower immigrants to both appreciate the beauty of Korean literature and ultimately become the creators of their own works of literature by expressing themselves through writing in both Korean and their mother tongue. These works were then put together to create an anthology. Students will gather and celebrate the publication of the anthology of their writing to uphold and promote linguistic and cultural diversity. 

  • Norwich are holding a Meet the World: Rooted in Language event. Poets will examine their work to explore the connection between themselves and the roots of language. Crispin Rodrigues, Mary Jean Chan, Nina Mingya Powles and Will Harris will share their experiences of writing from the perspective of a multilingual writer and everything that comes to represent. 

  • Edinburgh are joining in with an event from Seachdain na Gàidhlig, World Gaelic Week, celebrating Scottish Gaelic across the globe.Sèimh: The State of Calm celebrates Gaelic singer-songwriter Gillebrìde MacMillan who will perform his eagerly anticipated album of original Gaelic songs Sèimh: The State of Calm. Immersed in the Gaelic traditions and customs of his native South Uist, Gillebrìde has gained critical acclaim for his powerful and evocative songwriting. In the best traditions of singer-songwriters he shares stories of love, loss and longing as well as songs dealing with political and social issues with the Gaelic lyrics, original melodies and instrumentation weaving together to create a soundtrack of contemporary Gaelic Scotland rooted firmly within the tradition.
    Gillebrìde is joined by Ewan MacPherson (guitar), Deirdre Morrison (fiddle) and Fraser Fifield (whistle). 
  • Gothenburg have various activities around the city for International Mother Language Day that tie into the celebrations of the 400th Anniversary of the founding of the city of Gothenburg. 
  • Dublin’s Francesca La Morgia from Mother Tongues Ireland is part of a Protecting Multilingualism Panel from Manchester City of Languages. 


To join the global conversation this IMLD, use hashtag #MotherLanguageDay


How is Manchester celebrating our City of Literature connection during IMLD this year? 

Manchester is a city full of languages with the densest multilingual population for a city of our size. This year, over 25 events spanning from 1st February – 31st March will showcase a huge variety (not including the languages participants will bring themselves) of languages in libraries, museums, language centres, theatres and other community spaces, allowing people in Manchester to engage with languages and practitioners from all over the world.  

Manchester City of Literature have an IMLD exhibition running for two whole months throughout February and March, celebrating our connection to diverse languages at home and through our global UNESCO Cities of Literature network.

This exhibition includes: 

La Ville d’après: Visions artistiques de notre futur urbain

In 2020 Angoulême, a city with a rich history of celebrating comic books and graphic novels, launched a competition to find visions of how cities would function and the hopes and fears of a post-COVID world from other UNESCO cities.
For International Mother Language Day, we have collated ten entries from our sister UNESCO Cities of Literature along with a brief insight from the artists about their work. 

Multilingual Film Exhibition

On the screen in The Manchester Histories Festival Hub, where our exhibitions will be displayed, we will have a playlist of films from Manchester and other sister UNESCO Cities of Literature.
From Manchester we will have the ‘Made in Manchester’ poem based on Zahid Hussain’s poem, comprising of 65 languages, and different translations of Manchester Multilingual Poets, Anjum Malik’s ‘This Here’ and Ali Al-Jamri’s ‘In Prisms of Knowledge’.
Outside of Manchester, we will be playing films from Nottingham, Tartu and Reykjavik, all UNESCO Cities of Literature. 

And from Monday 20th February – 31st March, the very special 

Words from the Childhood Home: A Chain Poem for International Mother Language Day 2023

‘Words From the Childhood Home’ is a brand new, exciting, multilingual chain poem written by nominated poets representing UNESCO Cities of Literature to celebrate International Mother Language Day 2023. 

Manchester City of Literature invited our fellow UNESCO Cities of Literature to nominate a poet to respond to Anjum Malik, a Manchester Multilingual City Poet who writes in Urdu and English. 

Anjum started the chain poem with a four-line stanza on the theme of ‘Childhood Home’, reflecting on the power of family (and all the forms that this takes), native languages and memory. Each participating poet was tasked with producing a four-line stanza (in their mother tongue and with a translation into English) in response to the words of the poet that responded before them. Together, members of the Cities of Literature network (Bucheon, Dunedin, Edinburgh, Heidelberg, Lviv, Melbourne, Montevideo, Nottingham, Seattle, Tartu and Wonju) have produced a stunning poem which captures the rich nuances of international poets’ lived childhoods. 

“Globally, some languages are under threat and 40% of the World’s population doesn’t have access to education in a language they understand. Here in Manchester, we want to celebrate multilingualism and promote the importance of multilingual education.
These events and those of our past celebrations allowed me to honestly champion our multilingual strengths at the UNESCO Creative Cities Network Conference last year and I will confidently say again what I said there; “all these initiatives say to people: your language, your culture is important to our city. They help promote equality through creativity and self-expression.””

– Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Deputy Leader, Manchester City Council