4 Autumn literary festivals in Cheshire and Manchester

Portico Library Reading Room

Portico Library Reading Room - Credit: Archant

Janet Reeder gives the lowdown on what is turning out to be quite a literary month

What is it about literary events? Ok, so readers can get to meet the authors and glean an insight into the way they work but they’re much more than that. They are a chance to meet fellow bibliophiles, share ideas and hang out with writers.

You’ve got to admit it, the profession of ‘writer’ still has a patina of intrigue and glamour, even if they themselves would claim it’s 95% sitting in front of a computer screen. What about the other 5%? Book tours, being interviewed on morning telly and if you’re really successful selling the film rights for £millions. Glam. And at our festivals we can get more up close than personal than we could to a famous movie star or TV personality. They’ll even willingly sign a book for us!

So, lucky us because there are several literary festivals heading our way over the next few weeks. Here’s the lowdown on a few of them.

Knutsford Literature Festival

October 3rd-14th at various venues

As you may expect from the town whose most famous figure is the writer Elizabeth Gaskell, the emphasis of the Knutsford Festival is literature and history.

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If that sounds stuffy, it’s not.Topics include everything from real life murder to The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Bossing Your Life with the mystery man Andy McNabb.

There’s The News From Waterloo in which historian Brian Cathcart gives a fascinating insight into a three day dash to bring the news of Wellington’s victory to London and The Munich Art Hoard: Hitler’s Dealer and His Secret Legacy by Catherine Hickley. Patrick Gale introduces his latest novel, A Place Called Winter and Vanessa Tait reads from her novel The Looking Glass House, which has been inspired by her great grandmother Alice Liddell, who of course provided inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Historian David Starkey joins the line up with Magna Carta: The True Story Behind the Charter and Matthew Parker gives a revealing insight into the life, loves and work of Ian Fleming in his book Goldeneye - Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica.

What else?

Refreshments are available, including a bar at some venues, and tickets for some events are redeemable against the purchase of books.


Chester Literature Festival

October 10th-25th at Chester Town Hall and Library

Part of Chester Performs, this is a first-rate festival that has immense popular appeal, as it includes a stellar line-up of famous names from stage and screen.

Actor and comedian Nick Frost, famed for Shaun of the dead and Hot Fuzz, is here during the week of the publication of his remarkable memoir Half Truths and Little White Lies. Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn will be discussing Naked at the Albert Hall, which mixes memoir, interview and portraits of singers in fiction to explore ideas in music. Actor Brian Blessed is in town to promote his memoir, Absolute Pandemonium.

Other celebrities who’ll be appearing include Dom Jolly, Mike Harding, Dave Haslam and Vince Cable.

What else?

As well as author appearances festival-goers can enjoy Austentatious, an entirely improvised comic play in the style of Jane Austen in which the all-star cast create a comic new Austen novel based on nothing more than a title from the audience!

Austentatious’s past literary masterpieces have included Bath to the Future, Strictly Come Darcy and Mansfield Shark. We are told that no two shows are ever the same.

Book lovers can also attend the Festival Book Club which meets at 7pm on the 3rd Wednesday of the month (4th Wednesday in October and 2nd in December) at the Cross Keys on Lower Bridge Street, Chester.

Visit www.chesterperforms.com/literature for further information.

Manchester Literature Festival

Now in its 10th year, the MLF is looking stronger than ever. 12th-25th October 2015

This year’s roster reads like a who’s who of literary talent and features in the line-up Melvyn Bragg, Margaret Atwood, Anthony Horowitz, Jane Smiley, Robert Harris, Jeanette Winterson, Les Murray, Simon Armitage, Carol Anne Duffy, Val McDermid & Mark Billingham, Louis de Bernières and much, much more.

Events such as Nick Channer on Writers’ Houses at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester and Wives and Daughters: A Celebration of Elizabeth Gaskell, pay tribute to Knutsford’s famous author and the festival includes a series of World Literature events celebrating writers and thinkers from across the globe.

What else?

There’s an Elizabeth Gaskell coach tour, afternoon tea with Deborah Moggach, walking tours including a Boho Literary Pub Walking Tour. History of Manchester in Ten Poems and a Celebration of Yeats, to name just a few. There’s also a strand for younger readers that includes Michael Rosen, a family reading day and comic masterclass.


The Portico Prize for Literature

Thursday 26 November 2015 - Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel

The Portico is Manchester’s wonderful Georgian treasure trove of books, a meeting place for lunch beneath the latest gallery exhibits and a venue for literary meetings and events. It is also famed for its annual prizes which celebrate writers and poets of Northern England and beyond.

The Portico Prize for Literature, established in 1985 by The Portico Library, aims to raise the awareness of the diversity of its cultural, literary and historical heritage and the Prize is awarded biennially to a work of fiction (including poetry) and a work of non-fiction.

This year’s judges, who will appear at a glitzy ceremony in Manchester Town Hall, include Joe Stretch whose debut novel Friction (Vintage Books) was published in 2008 and Wildlife in 2009.

In 2010 he wrote Don’t Let Go, the first ever Choose Your Own Adventure audio novel to appear on Spotify. It was read by the actress Anna Friel and marked the release of the debut album Happiness by the Manchester duo, Hurts.

In 2012 Joe’s third novel The Adult won the Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the Portico Prize.

Judge Rachel Mann writes poetry, liturgy and short stories. She also writes about music, particularly prog, folk and metal, for magazines like Prog Magazine and The Quietus.

Rachel was ordained into the Church of England in 2005, and is priest-in-charge of St Nicholas Burnage near Didsbury in south Manchester.

And Andrew Biswell is the Professor of Modern Literature in the English Department at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches modern and contemporary literature. Andrew was a Portico Prize winner in 2006 with The Real Life of Anthony Burgess (Picador). He was editor of the print and digital editions of A Clockwork Orange: The Restored Text (Penguin Classics) and is the Director of the Manchester-based International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

The shortlist is due to be announced at the end of September.