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Culture: Manchester Becomes A Lit City

Posted by Mark Cantrell on November 28, 2017 at 11:10 AM

There's a million stories out there in the lit city

MANCHESTER joined a global club of book-loving cities this month when it was announced it has become a UNESCO City of Literature, writes Mark Cantrell.

These are part of the UN agency's Creative Cities initiative, and this latest appointment sees Manchester join Baghdad, Dublin, Barcelona, Prague, Melbourne, and Reykjavik, as a bearer of the accolade.

Cities of Literature are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in literature on a local level, according to UNESCO. The aim is to engage “as many citizens as possible in a dynamic culture of words” and encourage people to create and share their stories.

As a network, the cities work together to develop new local, national and even international literary links, with the intention of encouraging more collaboration both locally and abroad.

“We are extremely proud to become a UNESCO City of Literature, as we recognise the power of words to promote greater understanding, well-being and learning across our proudly diverse city,” said Councillor Luthfur Rahman, the city council's executive member for schools, culture and leisure.

"Building on the strong foundations of Manchester’s rich literary history, the council and our partners from the city’s universities and literary community will work together to create a programme of events which gives all of Manchester’s residents the chance to participate in and benefit from this thriving City of Literature."

Cathy Bolton, co-director of the Manchester Literature Festival, added: "We are delighted to be one of the key partners in Manchester’s successful bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature. Boasting a rich and radical literary heritage, a vibrant and diverse live literature scene, two world-class writing schools, and a proactive library service, Manchester is already a thriving hub of literary endeavour.

"We look forward to harnessing our collective energies in the development of some ambitious new projects, collaborating with international partners and engaging more people from across Manchester in transformative reading and writing activities."

Manchester City Council and the organisers of the Literature Festival were both part of the consortium that put forward the city's bid. Other partners included: the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, plus representatives of the city’s writers, publishers and literary organisations. The bid was endorsed by the Royal Society of Literature and the English Association.

With the City of Literature status in the bag, the city is now set to develop a programme of cultural events and community writing projects to celebrate. The bid’s steering committee has drawn up plans for a programme that includes a libraries festival, the establishment of a new writers’ hub and “far-reaching” initiatives to support new writing, promoting writing in translation, music and words, and the writing of Manchester residents.

The programme is intended to encourage collaboration – both internationally and within the city’s literary arts community.

Manchester is home to a world-class Central Library, as well as three “historic gems” – The Portico, John Rylands, and Chetham's libraries – and the legacy of its native authors is celebrated at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.

Furthermore, the city boasts two of the country’s most highly regarded writing schools – The University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing and the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University – plus Manchester Literature Festival, said to be one of the most innovative and popular literary events in the UK.

The city is also home to a thriving live literature scene, with thousands of people attending book launches, author readings and performances, open mic nights and reading groups across the city, plus world-class publishers including Carcanet and Comma Press.

“This is a cause for great celebration, which will help us to strengthen our university’s many partnerships with the city and its communities,” said Professor John McAuliffe, of the Centre for New Writing. “Our staff and student writers know that Manchester is a City of Literature, a place whose graduates include Anthony Burgess and the war poet Alun Lewis, Jeanette Winterson, Booker winner Barry Unsworth and bestseller Sophie Hannah.

“We all benefit from the presence in the city of great publishers like Carcanet and Comma and from what this announcement recognises – the enormous array of literary events, festivals and opportunities for engagement with new writing and new audiences which Manchester offers.”


Image courtesy of Pixabay


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