Manchester City of Literature project

Threads is a new physical and digital exhibition of multilingual writing and material from UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Textiles and threads are deeply woven through our city’s history. Manchester and the surrounding towns were long recognised as ‘Cottonopolis’ due to its huge contribution to the cotton industry through manufacture, warehouses and transportation.

Cotton-spinning is part of Manchester’s heritage as the world’s first industrial city and as a result is inextricably linked through history to slavery, social reform and protest. Manchester City of Literature are exploring these threads and more through literature, as well as opening the discussion around the world, inviting UNESCO Cities of Literature to look at their own links to textiles and follow these threads as they are interwoven into cultural identities.

The exhibition features creative materials, textiles and writing from Odesa in Ukraine including camouflage nets of the Ukrainian defender created using a technique called “Kikimora”.  Kikimora is also a character in Slavic fairy tales and can be good or evil depending on whom she is dealing with. To these nets creators tie in symbolic lines of poetry, woven hearts and ribbons before they are sent to be used to protect people and equipment. You can see some examples of this powerful poetry in the exhibition.

Materials also featured include embroidered artwork from Sísí Ingólfsdóttir, a feminist artist in Reykjavik, Iceland; traditional dress from Granada in Spain; handkerchiefs with Frisian poetry woven through them which were used to wave to ships at a major cultural event in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. Exciting new writing and artwork by Angelika Kukioła on the theme has been commissioned by Wrocław in Poland.

Melbourne in Australia and Exeter, Nottingham and Manchester (where the exhibition is physically hosted) in the UK have also contributed poetry and artwork to the exhibition. You will find the texts, translations and artworks for each contributing city below, plus a range of additional supporting materials such as videos and information on the writers and artists who have generously been involved.

The Threads exhibition coincides with International Mother Language Day, an internationally recognised UNESCO designated day to celebrate the importance of Mother Languages to promote unity in diversity and international understanding through multilingualism and multiculturalism. Manchester City of Literature leads the, now 53, UNESCO Cities of Literature for International Mother Language Day in February each year, to mark the fact that around 200 languages are spoken in Manchester at any one time.

This exhibition is in partnership with Manchester’s DNA at the University of Manchester. With thanks to Manchester Histories for contributing their Histories Hub for the exhibition.

Find the in-person exhibition 12th February - 23rd March 2024 in the Histories Hub of Manchester Central Library