There can be no better way to familiarize yourself with Manchester than by attending the Manchester Literature Festival, this year celebrating its 10th anniversary as the UK’s premier showcase for international writing. This is especially true if you plan to attend one of the walking tours available as part of the event, such as the ‘History of Manchester in Ten Poems’ tour, on which you’ll learn how the city has been evoked in verse by Carol Ann Duffy, John Cooper Clarke, Rudyard Kipling and others.
Of course, there are plenty of less strenuous opportunities to hear readings from bestselling authors, including Kate Mosse, whose latest novel The Taxidermist’s Daughter finds a fitting backdrop within the university’s own Manchester Museum, while Centre for New Writing tutor and poet John McAuliffe reads on campus for the launch of his collection ‘The Way In.’ Award winning poet Don Paterson will be reading from his new collection of sonnets in the spectacular setting of Halle St Peter’s.
More so than ever before, this year’s festival promises to demonstrate literature’s importance within the wider spectrum of artistic disciplines, with a rare opportunity to hear Paterson perform not only as a writer but as a musician, supported by Rommi Smith who will read from a sequence of poems inspired by Blues and Jazz. Part lo-fi indie rock concert, part exploration of mental illness, on October the 17th songwriter Kathryn Williams and her band will play songs written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’, and will then discuss the remarkable project with Observer columnist Rachel Cooke.
Other highlights include Turkish writer and TED speaker Elif Shafak’s delivery of the Gaeia Manchester Sermon, which focuses on current ethical issues, and Manchester doctoral student Gulwali Passarlay’s discussion of his first book, which details his journey as an Afghan refugee, at Amnesty International’s Asylum and Exile event. As well as globally established names, the festival makes plenty of time for new and emerging voices in literature. There will be an exciting chance to witness homegrown talent in the form of New Identity; a cutting-edge group of young Moston based wordsmiths whose performance at the Contact Theatre, ‘Battle of the Minds,’ investigates the value of what they have so far learned in their navigation of playground fights, societal pressure and PE classes.
In its aim to make literature accessible to the public, the festival caters not only to members of the literary audience, but to those who wish to work creatively in the building of their own literature. The ‘industry insights’ section of the programme therefore features a small number of creative workshops and conferences. Michael Rosen and Mandy Coe will examine the future of children’s poetry, while Danny Brocklehurst will share his insights into becoming a screenwriter. Instituto Cervantes will host a session designed to help participants gain a head start in literary translation, working with Julio Cortázar’s children’s stories.
Although Manchester is busy all-year-round as a centre for cultural events, there will certainly not be a busier time than the 12th – 25th of October for literary aficionados. We therefore advise you to make the most of the festival’s wonderful and stimulating series of events, many of which are free of charge.
To check the event listings, visit www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk.
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