Culture, Manchester

Manchester awarded prestigious UNESCO City of Literature status

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By Lexi Bickell

Manchester has been awarded City of Literature status by UNESCO and will join a global network of 27 other cities across six continents, each awarded the acclaimed title.

Manchester pioneered free libraries in the 1800s, with Chetham Library being the oldest in the English speaking world, and the city has built on this tradition of valuing literature ever since.

Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate and Creative Director of Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “I’m so pleased that Manchester has been recognised as an international city of literature. We have a proud history of working together to find new voices and support and celebrate new writing. Ours is a city where literature is loved. I’m excited about the opportunities this recognition will bring.”

Currently Manchester, perhaps unsurprisingly, has a thriving literary scene, with frequent events, open lectures, open mics nights and more, including Bad Language and Verbose, and festivals, such as the Manchester Children’s Book Festival and Manchester Literature Festival, which engage with thousands of families each year.

Two successful indie publishers are also based in the city, Comma Press, which specialises in short stories, and Carcanet which publishes poetry.

Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate and Director of the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Met.

Manchester’s bid for the title was backed by the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and organisations across the city, as well as by the Royal Society of Literature and the English Association. A programme of events will now be planned and delivered across Manchester to celebrate the award including, according to The Bookseller, “a libraries festival, the establishment of a new writer’s hub and far-reaching initiatives to support new writing.”

It is hoped that being a UNESCO City of Literature will encourage even more people to get involved in reading and writing and to foster international literary projects and relationships.

Nicolas Royle, Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, neatly summed up the meaning of the award to the city in an article for The Guardian. He stated that while Manchester is already “a city for readers and writers… With this award, life for book people in Manchester can only get better.”

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Lexi Bickell

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