Manchester’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature was successful.
As a City of Literature, Manchester will dedicate to pursuing excellence in literature on a local level and developing literary links across the world.
Other UNESCO Cities of Literature include Baghdad, Dublin, Barcelona, Prague, Melbourne, and Reykjavik.
The bid for Manchester to join their ranks was coordinated by a collaborative effort between The University of Manchester, Manchester City Council, Manchester Metropolitan University, the Manchester Literature Festival, and other literary organisations representing the city’s writers.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Dame Nancy Rothwell, said in a speech last week: “It was wonderful to learn that Manchester has joined the UNESCO global network of cities of literature, in a process led by colleagues in SALC and partners across the city.”
Manchester has a productive literary history. Novelist Anthony Burgess, who wrote A Clockwork Orange, was born and schooled in Manchester. He studied English Literature at the University of Manchester, where he met his wife and graduated with Upper-Second Class honours.
Elizabeth Gaskell moved to Manchester as an adult and lived in the city until her death in 1865. Industrial Manchester inspired many of her novels, for example North and South.
Manchester was also home to the first public lending library in the UK.
Charles Dickens attended its opening ceremony in 1852, and stated on the day: “In this institution, special provision has been made for the working classes, by means of a free lending library. This meeting cherishes the earnest hope that the books thus made available will prove a source of pleasure and improvement.”
To celebrate Manchester’s City of Literature status, a new writers’ hub will be established, and a libraries festival will be hosted by the city.
Manchester maintains four historic libraries: The Portico, John Rylands, Central, and Chetham’s libraries. Author museums Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation are also open to the public.
Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Schools, Culture, and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said: “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.
“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.”
Professor John McAuliffe, from the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing, stated that “This is a cause for great celebration, which will help us to strengthen our university’s many 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.”