The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

A Campaign for Change

Manchester Literature Festival is re-designed with a new political incentive


Manchester based design studio MARK, and the co-ordinators of Manchester Literature Festival (MLF), re-conceptualise the annual event around community, identity, and politics through their new design campaign. The anarchic graphics serve to express the duality that not only is “Manchester is a city of stories and storytellers” but a “city of activism, protest, pioneers and radicals.”

Though literature is often thought as a root for escapism, this year’s MLF is rooted in the issues which form the political landscape of today. For 2017, MARK design studios — who have worked with the festival every year since they were founded — have asserted a narrative rather than a brand.

There’s an implicit sense of reactionary dialogue in the new 2017 campaign. Reflecting so aptly the programme’s events which cover, but are not limited to, questions of gender, race, sexuality, and politics. These images are interspersed throughout Manchester on brochures, posters and billboards — immersed in the city they’re calling out to.

The imagery uses stark and sterile monochrome posters as a base, which are then vandalised with spray painted symbols in bright pinks and greens. Yet this is not meant to be relayed as an act of vandalism, but instead an act of defiance. The defacing is political; taking form through the likes of crossed boxes, referencing the silenced electorate, or, in the Star of David, referencing divided religious identities.  The use of graffiti is an emblem for action over words, a call for arms. Yet this is off set by the fact it’s advertising an event which is very much about the power of words.

This tension though is what makes the campaign so powerful. For here politics resonates throughout — whether it’s a mark, a word, a discussion or even a conversation. By bringing these topics to the forefront of our conscious, it’s liberating.

Capturing the sense of defiance and protest which often permeates so strongly throughout Manchester, the line-up brings together high-profile guests to intimate spaces across the city.

Gender inequality is by discussed by leading human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti, while American writer Rebecca Solnit is in conversation with Jeanette Winterson to discuss silencing and rape culture. Furthermore, in accordance with the 50th anniversary of the gay rights movement, the MLF introduces activist Armistead Maupin to discuss his new work. As well as engaging with other grass root movements and demonstrations that shaped history such Refugee Tales: Volume II and Maxine Peake’s event Protest: Stories of Resistance.

These events all serve to reinforce the idea of community, many of which will be covered by The Mancunion in the following weeks. Manchester Literature Festival will be running from Friday 6th October to Sunday 22nd October.