Manchester named UNESCO City of Literature

Manchester named UNESCO City of Literature

Manchester has been named as a UNESCO City of Literature and will develop a programme of cultural events and projects across the city in celebration.

UNESCO Cities of Literature are dedicated to "pursuing excellence" in literature on a local level, engaging as many citizens as possible in a "dynamic culture of words" and encouraging the creation and sharing of stories. Manchester was named alongside Durban (South Africa), Lillehammer (Norway), Quebec (Canada), Utrecht (Netherlands), Seattle (USA), Milan (Italy) and Bucheon (Republic of Korea).

Manchester’s successful bid was coordinated by a consortium involving Manchester City Council, the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Manchester Literature Festival, 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.

A programme of cultural events and community writing projects will be developed to celebrate Manchester’s City of Literature status including 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 will encourage collaboration - both internationally and within the city’s literary arts community.

Prof John McAuliffe, of the Centre for New Writing, University of Manchester, said the news is a "cause for great celebration" and that it will help Manchester Univserity to strengthen partnerships with the city and its communities. "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.”

Dr Jess Edwards, head of the department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University, added: "Manchester has deep roots as a home and subject of great literature, but its time as a City of Literature is now. The Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan, led by the UK Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy, has twenty years of experience in developing new writing and in supporting reading and creativity in Manchester’s diverse communities. We’re looking forward to working with our partners to make Manchester a City of Literature for everyone.”

Cathy Bolton, co-director of the Manchester Literature Festival, said: “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.”