Manchester was the first city in the UK to build a public lending library. She is home to other stunning libraries such as Chetham’s, the John Rylands and the hidden gem, the Portico. Native writers include influential names such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Burgess, Janette Winterson, war poet Alun Lewis, Booker Prize winner Barry Unsworth and bestseller Sophie Hannah.
The city also has rich intellectual past, and present, with the presence of the Universities. So much of our history is wrapped up within literature; the meeting place of Marx and Engles, the beginnings of the suffragette movement and a city which has inspired countless lyrics in the music of the past fifty years.
In the present day, it is home to a thriving live literature scene, with thousands of people attending book launches, author readings and performances, open mic nights and reading groups across the city, plus world-class publishers including Carcanet and Comma Press.
With all this in mind, it is hard to imagine why it has taken so long for Manchester to be recognised. The successful bid was coordinated by a consortium involving Manchester City Council, the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Manchester Literature Festival, plus representatives of the city’s writers, publishers and literary organisations. The bid was endorsed by the Royal Society of Literature and the English Association.
Manchester will now join cities including Baghdad, Dublin, Barcelona, Prague, Melbourne, and Reykjavik in the global network. UNESCO Cities of Literature are dedicated to pursuing excellence in Literature on a local level, engaging as many citizens as possible in a dynamic culture of words and encouraging the creation and sharing of stories.
They work together to develop new local, national and international literary links, encouraging collaboration locally and across the world. I cannot wait to see what we have in store.