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Manchester Literature Festival

Sarah Tierney looks forward to Manchester becoming the capital of the literary universe for ten days

Published on October 13th 2009.

Manchester Literature Festival

It's taken a while but Manchester has finally got the literature festival it deserves. In the past, the Manchester Literature Festival has produced innovative programmes but brought in only a scattering of well-known writers. This year, something's changed.

Those who want to create as well as consume can attend a surreal writing workshop at Manchester Art Gallery on Saturday morning, or head to Central Library to pitch their novel ideas to a panel of experts including a representative from top indy publisher Canongate.

Maybe the organisers have got more money, or maybe they've just set their sights higher. Either way, there's a great deal to get excited about with appearances from a lengthy list of popular authors and literary luminaries including Fay Weldon, Simon Armitage, Kate Atkinson, Will Self, and the ever-present Martin Amis – who appeared at a sold-out, pre festival event on Monday of this week.

The festival kicks off in earnest on Thursday 15 October. Bookworms are advised to keep their diaries free for the following week and a half, as there are notable events on every day. On Thursday, highlights are acclaimed poet Ruth Padel reading poems about her great, great grandfather Charles Darwin at Manchester Museum, and a reading by Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl children's novels. He'll be talking about being given the daunting task of writing a thirtieth anniversary sequel to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

On Friday 16 October at the Friends Meeting House, there's a trio of events featuring some of the UK's best female authors. Kate Atkinson, author of hit 1990s novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum has more recently reinvented herself as a crime writer with her Jackson Brodie books. She'll be reading from When Will There Be Good News? – her third novel in this popular series.

Next up is sharp-witted Fay Weldon who'll be launching her new novel Chalcot Crescent and doubtless providing the audience with plenty of bon mots and sparkling anecdotes. She'll be swiftly followed by an event featuring author of international bestseller Labyrinth, Kate Mosse, and 'documentary novelist' Jill Dawson.

Over the weekend, those who want to create as well as consume can attend a surreal writing workshop at Manchester Art Gallery on Saturday morning, or head to Central Library to pitch their novel ideas to a panel of experts including a representative from top indy publisher Canongate. Later on, they can go to Whitworth Art Gallery where crime writers Val McDermid and Mark Billingham will be telling the audience how best-selling novels are created.

Monday night (19 October) sees a joint event with the live literature night, No Point in Not Being Friends. Cumbrian poet-turned-novelist Jacob Polley will be one of the readers here. Tuesday's highlights are national treasure Simon Armitage reading from his much loved back catalogue in St Ann's Church, and a chance to chat with Scouse TV scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern, whose dark mind brought us gritty delights such as Cracker, The Lakes and The Street. Wednesday 21 October sees the return of the Manchester Blog Awards, plus a poetry slam where finalists will battle it out for a £250 prize, and a reading by Jane Austen biographer Claire Harman.

A recommendation for Thursday 22 October is a reading by MJ Hyland, one of Manchester University's team of creative writing lecturers. Her first two novels about loners and delinquents, How the Light Gets In and Carry Me Down, both made addictive, highly original reading. She'll be reading from her new novel This is How with Irish novelist and poet Nick Laird also appearing.

On Friday night, the winner of Manchester Met's Fiction Prize will be announced. With a prize of £10,000, this new short story competition offers one of the largest loots in the business. Hundreds of entries were received with short stories suddenly becoming a very popular form amongst cash-strapped writers.

Short stories will be the focus again on Saturday 24 October at the launch of the new Smiths-inspired short story collection Paint a Vulgar Picture, which will appropriately be held at Salford Lads Club. Sci-fi author and one-time Manc Jeff Noon and Liverpudlian literary wildchild Helen Walsh will be reading their contributions.

The final day of the festival, Sunday 25 October, sees a reading at the Imperial War Museum North from writer Michelle Magorian whose name isn't as well known as that of her 1981 book, Goodnight Mr Tom.

There's a stack of other events not mentioned here. In fact, there's several stacks of them. It's not quite Hay-on-Wye but it's certainly got a lot to offer the city's literature lovers. To see the full programme and get tickets, visit the festival website: www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk

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