In Manchester, literature has always been a force for change and innovation in the city, as well as openness to cooperation and partnership. Its remarkable role in the history of the city is reflected in the institutions of culture and heritage which are active here and which celebrate literature as having a positive and transformative impact upon the development of the city, the country as well as its people. Engels and Marx worked together in Manchester at Chetham’s Library; Elizabeth Gaskell wrote her campaigning novels there; suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst engaged in their polemic writings in support of women’s liberation. Also, working-class writers linked their career with Manchester, among them Shelagh Delaney, Walter Greenwood, Ewan MacColl or the makers of the Coronation Street series. They all addressed social issues pertinent to the city dwellers; their activity is commemorated in the local People’s History Museum.
Manchester has a thriving community of writers, translators, publishers, librarians, creative writing teachers, editors and arts professionals who make their living on literature. Literature is perfectly interlaced with the urban fabric: events are held in local libraries, coffeehouses, pubs, theatres, clubs museums, bookshops, cinemas and places of religious cult. It creates jobs and is a powerful boost for development – more and more creative people are coming to Manchester in pursuit of their dreams.
There are a number of writing and translation groups in Manchester, such as the North-West Translators’ Network (a group of independent translators) or the Manchester Muslim Writers, Great Britain’ only association of Muslim writers. Since 1970, Manchester has been home to Carcanet Press, one of the world’s leading independent publisher specialising in poetry and translation. Published by Carcanet Press, the literary magazine PN Review promotes contemporary literature across the world.
The Manchester Literature Festival, which has taken place in the city since 2006, showcases contemporary writing and promotes the city as a hub of cultures from across the world. The programme of the festival features meetings with authors and translators, activities for children and young people, and thematic discussions. The city works with popular neighbourhood literature festivals such as Chorlton Book Festival, which is led by the local library in partnership with schools, independent bookshops, pubs, and local cultural venues. As well as this, Manchester regularly hosts translation workshops, open mic events, poetic slams and feminist book cabarets, and is visited by authors such as Paul Auster or Moshin Hamid.
Another form of the city’s support for writing are the numerous awards it grants, among them the Cathedral Poetry Prize, the Manchester Writing Competition (the highest award in the UK for an unpublished work), the Portico Prize for Literature (awarded since 1985), the Bruntwood (awarded to playwrights since 2005) or the Bolton Octagon National Theatre Prize.
Manchester is also one of the British capitals of poetry. Manchester University and Salford University appoint poets as lecturers and chancellors (the celebrated Lemn Sissay and Jackie Kay respectively), while Manchester Metropolitan University has among its faculty Carol Ann Duffy, currently the honorary UK Poet Laureate.