The University celebrates successful inaugural Festival of Libraries 2021

Manchester’s first ever trailblazing five-day long Festival of Libraries took place between 9 – 13 June, organised by UNESCO Manchester City of Literature and supported by Arts Council England.

The Festival of Libraries is a celebratory series of over eighty free events, highlighting the successes of 133 libraries across Greater Manchester for their cultural significance alongside their role in providing outstanding services to empower and unite local communities.

The University of Manchester was proud to be involved in the festival, with Creative Manchester presenting a number of events throughout the week.

Creative Manchester events included the Research and Libraries event on 9 June, presented in partnership with the Centre for New Writing and The John Rylands Library. The event was chaired by Professor of Poetry at The University of Manchester, John McAuliffe, and saw publisher Michael Schmidt and archivist Jessica Smith discuss the ways in which archives are created, collated and used within research.

On 11 June, in partnership with Tameside Library, Creative Manchester presented the Radical Poets event. This featured both word and song and was presented by Mike Sanders and Jennifer Reid. They focused on two working-class poets, John Stafford and Joseph Chapman, both active radicals and poets in Ashton-under-Lyne in the first half of the Nineteenth Century.

Also running during the course of the festival were Writing for Wellbeing workshops, presented by Creative Manchester and the Centre for New Writing in collaboration with a selection of Greater Manchester libraries. The workshops explored and celebrated the impact writing can have on an individual’s wellbeing and were facilitated by Centre for New Writing professionals. These workshops were just a handful of the many wellbeing-themed activities that took place at the festival, demonstrating the role of libraries in benefitting the mental health of communities.

Writers, performers and artists such as Michael Rosen, James Holt and Stephen Holland (UK Comics Laureate) featured at the festival, integrating conversations around social justice and environmental sustainability alongside family fun and picture-book themed scavenger hunts.

Online events included library tours, delving between the shelves of a network of internationally renowned libraries such as Manchester Central Library (the most visited public library in the United Kingdom!) Portico Library, Chetham’s Library, Manchester Poetry Library and more. There were also meet the librarian sessions, providing behind-the-scenes insight into the passion and hard work of library staff.

Libraries are central to Manchester’s literary scene, offering online access to digital tools, a place to learn for citizens of any age or background, from students to the retired, enabling creativity for all. The Festival of Libraries truly emphasised the diversity of opportunities libraries provide, reminding us of the value of Manchester’s library spaces in a growing digital world.

If you missed the festival or would like to re-watch, recordings of the events are now available on Manchester City of Literature’s YouTube Channel.

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