Manchester rated ‘Excellent’ by UNESCO as a Creative City of Literature

20 February 2023 - News
Manchester is a UNESCO City of Literature and to maintain our UNESCO Creative Cities designation, every four years a detailed report is submitted for assessment. Manchester’s first report covering 2017-2021 was submitted to UNESCO last year and the peer and expert review came back rated ‘Excellent’ in all relevant categories!

This is exceptional for a City of Literature submitting its first ever report (a copy of which can be downloaded below). UNESCO went as far to say the report was “high quality, setting a good example for other cities to follow”. 

UNESCO praised Manchester’s:

  • work to support vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • its commitment to poetry
  • its vibrant publishing sector
  • the partnership approach and strength in literature development and the vitality its approach to multilingualism brings
  • The annual week-long Festival of Libraries was described as “a most impressive initiative… [attracting] great attention both locally and internationally”.
  • the active political involvement in the designation from Manchester City Council, and from the two universities.
  • the city’s focus on benefits for residents
  • Manchester’s ambition in contributing to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In conclusion UNESCO said “the report reveals that Manchester makes literature a driving force for the city’s sustainability 

External influencers are recognising both Manchester and our excellence as a City of Literature.

  • Last month, Fodor Travel created a list of the 10 UNESCO Creative Cities you should visit, Manchester is not just the only City of Literature that made the list, but the only Creative City in the UK. 
  • One of only 2 UK cities included, National Geographic included Manchester in its Best of the World 2023 selection, in the ‘Family’ category, discussing a host of cultural activity within the city. 
  • Manchester is the only UK city included in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2023 list for the learning and cultural developments coming to fruition this year. This was picked up by news outlets all over the country, and The Guardian pointed out how Lonely Planet’s accompanying one-day itinerary includes two Manchester Libraries (Central and John Rylands). 
  • Time Out listed Manchester as 4th of the best place to visit in the UK and included the guided tour of our UNESCO City of Literature sites as part of the perfect day here.
  • Manchester is top of Conde Nast Traveller’s Best Places to Go in the UK in 2023 list, choosing a picture of Manchester Central Library as a header for a discussion of Manchester’s move to sustainability, green space and culture. 


The result has been met with excitement from key partners, such as Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Deputy head of Manchester City Council, who agree that “[t]his is a fantastic achievement for the city and shows that we are investing in local talent and the cultural future of Manchester.” The Vice Chancellors of both Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester are pleased as well.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

The designation has raised the profile of our City as a beacon destination for creative industries, cultural tourism and students of the arts and humanities, and established the reputation of its literature ecosystem as an exemplar of creative excellence and inclusivity – Malcolm Press CBE, Vice Chancellor Manchester Metropolitan University


Nancy Rothwell, President & Vice-Chancellor

The UNESCO City of Literature designation has fostered a true ‘Manchester spirit’ of collaboration between our universities, the City and the city’s diverse literary communities. This report recognises that transformational work, and we are very proud of our staff and students’ contribution to a great literary, creative environment in what our colleague Professor Jeanette Winterson has called an “alchemical city” – Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice Chancellor University of Manchester.

Literary Reasons to visit Manchester in 2023 

  • International Mother Language Day 2023
    Is in full swing with Exhibitions open to celebrate Manchester’s language diversity and global connections through the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Around 25 active events for families and solo adults alike, from our partners and community centres across Greater Manchester, take place between 18th February – 12th April. 
  • Festival of Libraries 7 – 11 June 2023
    The third year of this Manchester Festival that highlights the exceptional community hubs our libraries have become across Manchester, each year is bigger and bigger. For a taste of what is to come this year, our Digital Festival of Libraries 2022 is available. 
  • Northern Publishing Fair in April
    An opportunity for book lovers and industry professionals to come together and browse an impressive selection of books from some of the North’s most respected publishers. 
  • Manchester Literature Festival
    The main festival takes place in October with three weeks of top author events, from readings, to talks and Q&As, to afternoon teas. This year there are some warm up events in March including Sebastian Barry in Conversation with Kit de Waal, Eleanor Catton and Rob Biddulph presenting the digital event ‘Blue-Footed Booby’ for Schools.