Lockdown eases as UNESCO City of Literature Manchester put on the first ever The Festival of Libraries

  • The festival is a mixture of up to 80 Digital and face-to-face events put on between 9-13 June 2021 organised by Manchester City of Literature
  • 113 libraries are involved, including Manchester Central, John Rylands, Portico, Chetham's and Manchester Poetry Library
  • Workshops, tours, performances and outdoor events such as picnics will be offered

The Festival of Libraries are running events all this month supported by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Project Grants programme.

The National Lottery Project Grants programme supports thousands of individual artists, community and cultural organisations offering grants between £1,000 – £100,000.

This year will be the first time that the festival has taken place in the city and will be a part digital event, as well as offering outdoor activities.

The festival will put on 80 free online and in-person events across every Greater Manchester borough this June.

Manchester Metropolitan University creative writing lecturer and award-winning poet Andrew McMillan kicked off the festival on Wednesday by sharing what books inspired him in an online event.

The festival will explore art and creativity, wellbeing, activism and will be family-friendly.


Manchester became a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017. 

In a press release, the Festival of Libraries stated that the festival itself will“honour Greater Manchester’s internationally renowned network of 133 libraries with a completely free county-wide program of ­more than 80 creative and engaging events, taking in music, dance, poetry, outdoor trails, and activism, as well as stories, reading, and writing.

“There are 50 artists taking part in the Festival of Libraries, delivering fifteen new commissions and a wide range of creative workshops, performances, and interventions that truly bring libraries to life.”

Speaking to a representative of the festival, Caroline Kelly who is the creative producer of the festival, said that the festival’s arrival in Manchester has been a long time coming.

She said: “When Manchester became a UNESCO City of Literature the libraries were at the forefront. 

“In the past I have worked on festivals for the BBC and the British Council.

“For this particular one, I suppose my job was to put the programme together, working with all of the libraries across Greater Manchester and all of the artists involved too.

“It was brilliant to meet everyone from those libraries and hear about how they are emerging from this pandemic, and what support they have been offering to people.”

During the discussion, Caroline also revealed her own love affair with libraries.

She said: “Personally I already loved libraries and knew that they are brilliant places, but since working on this festival it has ten folded.

“We want people to know that libraries are for the community.

“It’s for book lovers.

“Libraries are a community hub you can search local records or get business advice.

“There’s so much on offer.”

She added: “We have artists, writers, and poets that are renowned.

“We are also a city of activists, of creativity, and is all a part of our culture.

“Historically, looking back it’s always been this way from the industrial revolution.

“That’s why Manchester is the perfect place to have libraries.”

Rosie Garland, an award-winning novelist will take visitors of all ages on a video tour of Manchester’s historic libraries. 

In a press release she said: “I was raised by libraries.

“I learned how they are exciting, magical, transformative, and dangerous.

“I explored new worlds, learned new things.

“And here’s the dangerous part: I thought new thoughts. I read my way out of loneliness and into the world.

“It was the beginning of a love affair that’s still going strong.”

Other UNESCO Cities of Literature in the UK include Nottingham, Norwich, Edinburgh, and Exeter.

The Manchester City of Literature website says: “UNESCO Cities of Literature are awarded the title based on their dedication to pursuing excellence in literature locally and work together to promote new national and international literary links.”

Manchester central library
Manchester Central Library
Manch3ster Poetry Library, poetry, Manchester Metropolitan University
Manchester Poetry Library

Some of the Library partners involved with MLF include Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Centre, Archives+, Central Library, Chetham’s Library, John Rylands Library, Manchester Poetry Library, NHS Libraries, The Portico, Working Class Movement Library, the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and Greater Manchester.

The full schedule can be found here.