Manchester has a proud history in music, science, radical thinking and sport and has long attracted migrants from all over the world. Home to a population of 540.000 with 91 cultural groups and estimated 200 languages spoken, Manchester is a diverse and multicultural city. Manchester's radical thinking tradition means that free expression is central to civic identity. Literature has been a force for change, innovation, openness and collaboration throughout the city's history. It is where Engels and Marx worked together at Chetham's Library and where Elizabeth Gaskell wrote her campaigning novels.
Literature is woven into the fabric of the city, with events taking place in libraries, cafes, pubs, theatres, museums and arts venues. It is estimated that 800 literature events take place. Since 2006, Manchester Literature Festival (MLF) has showcased contemporary writing from around the world, promoting Manchester as a hub for international cultural exchange. MLF brings writers, translators, publishers, and readers together. Events range from hosting visits by major writers to stands on translation, emerging voices, work with children and young people, and a range of unique commissions. Urban, dynamic and connected, in 2016, MLF organised 85 events with 221 writers in 26 venues across the city centre.
The Our Manchester Strategy and Cultural Ambition recognises the unique role of culture. This involves creating places for audiences to have high-quality experiences, commissioning art, presenting world leading cultural activities and delivering quality participatory activities for residents. Manchester recognises writing as an important part of its identity, but also seeks new ways of enhancing the quality of life of its citizens through writing, reading, performing and other literary cultural activities.
As a Creative City of Literature, Manchester envisages:
- fostering intergenerational and intercultural dialogue through the Write Manchester project engaging both young people, children and adults to write about their city;
- ensuring that Manchester is a place where writers, publishers and translators can thrive by increasing access to literature outside traditional centres;
- developing new audiences for the literary scene through cross-cutting and inclusive initiatives;
- organising the Manchester Libraries Festival, which will celebrate libraries around the world and debate their role in the future city and in civic life; the festival will partner with UCCN Cities of Literature, as well as with other key global actors;
- establishing celebrations and initiatives related to the International Mother Language Day, in collaboration with other Creative Cities of the Network, celebrating language diversity and multilingual education; and
- developing a core movement of festival organisations to co-commission and create literature works and events exploring literacy, writing and citizenship, as well as celebrating cultural heritage, building bridges between communities and discussing core issues around democracy, climate change and social inclusion.