Manchester is a many-storied place: good writing is in its bones, and the city has been immortalized in ink by everyone from Howard Jacobson to WG Sebald to Carol Ann Duffy and Jeanette Winterson – a tradition that continues with the next generation of scribes busily tap-tapping away at the city’s two writing schools – The Centre for New Writing at Manchester University and Manchester Writing School at MMU. What is it about the town that lends itself so well to writerly pursuits? We think it’s possibly the rain, staying in to write that novel often seems a much safer bet than venturing outdoors.
Two of the city’s most unique literary attractions are linked to great Mancunian writers.Elizabeth Gaskell House, the former home of the philanthropic writer behind North and South and Mary Barton, recently reopened after a £2.5 million restoration. The Regency home in Ardwick, with its beautifully furnished rooms, includes a study stocked with books – as well as a tearoom and garden – and is packed with stories about their lives and their many visitors including Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte. First editions of Gaskell’s novels can be found down the road at Central Library.
Another literary giant of the city is Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess, and his archives are housed at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in a lovingly restored mill on Cambridge Street, which hosts literary and musical events and has a lovely café.
Salford isn’t forgotten either with Walter Greenwood and Shelagh Delaney drawing on the city’s gritty charms for their plays and novels.
Manchester’s live literature scene is unusually robust. We’ve already mentioned Manchester Literature Festival, which runs events year round in addition to its two-week blowout every October. There are also regular readings and author events at the university writing schools and Waterstones Deansgate. But those looking for a place to experience the best of the city’s emerging and established writers in performance should head to one of Manchester’s open mic nights. Held the last Wednesday of the month for the last five years at The Castle Hotel, live lit night Bad Language regularly packs them in for an eclectic mix of short fiction and poetry and everything in between. At the same venue is First Draft, which expands its offerings to include dramatic and music performances as well as literary ones, and directly across the road at Gulliver’s, live storytelling night Tales of Whatever features real people telling true, unscripted stories – it’s always fun.