Returning for 2024 with another enchanting programme of exhibitions, performances, talks, workshops, installations and more, the Festival of Libraries takes over the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester from Wed 12-Sun 16 Jun with a celebration of our precious literary institutions and their unique capacity for imagination, creativity, learning and connection, as well as the vital public services they provide.

From fascinating environmental installations to untold stories of diversity, here are the must-see highlights at this year’s Festival of Libraries.

LYR Open Festival of Libraries | Wed 12 Jun | Manchester Central Library | £4/£12

On Wed 12 Jun, talented band LYR kick off this year’s Festival of Libraries with a one-off show starring hometown singer-songwriter Josephine Oniyama at Manchester Central Library, as well as a debut performance of their single The Enlightenment, written exclusively for the festival.

Composed as a stirring paean to the sense of boundless wonder and adventure found within libraries, The Enlightenment honours the importance of accessible literature to the wellbeing of society from the band’s personal perspectives, and its first live performance celebrates the world-class institutions and regional investment that has grown Manchester into a UNESCO City of Literature.

Manchester Central Library St Peter's Square, Manchester, M2 5PD
Inspired by Libraries with Antony Szmierek | Manchester Poetry Library | Fri 14 Jun | FREE (Donations encouraged)

Following a sold-out headline tour, a TV performance on Later…With Jools Holland and a richly deserved co-sign as one of BBC 6 Music’s Artists of the Year for 2023, Manchester-based spoken word and indie-hip-hop artist Antony Szmierek joins the festival for an uplifting talk with Andrew McMillan to discuss the myriad ways in which libraries have inspired him throughout his life and career.

Manchester Poetry Library, Grosvenor Building, Cavendish Street, Manchester M15 6BG
The Embassy of Utopia | Fri 14-Sat 15 Jun | Manchester Central Library | FREE

Running from 10am-4pm across both Saturday and Sunday, The Embassy of Utopia transforms Central Library into a two-day open forum featuring speeches, spoken word, ideas and performance in a collaboration between artists from Manchester and Tartu, both UNESCO Cities of Literature, with a binding mission to set forth a bold vision for the future.

Visitors can enjoy short stories, eco-poetry, music, fashion shows and books used in unusual ways and surprises throughout the innovative extravaganza. Friday’s Ambassadors will be writer David Hartley (UK) and performance artist Henri Hütt (Estonia); Saturday’s will be the poets Penny Boxall (UK) and Maarja Pärtna (Estonia).

Manchester Central Library St Peter's Square, Manchester, M2 5PD
Hidden Shadows | Stalybridge Library | Sat 15 Jun | FREE

Taking place at 11am on Sat 15 Jun, engaging new workshop Hidden Shadows invites visitors aged 8 to 13 to discover untold stories of diversity throughout British history with a series of interactive shadow sculptural scenes created with local communities.

Led by Rachel Riggs, the session brings together traditional elements of toy theatre and interactive crafts to examine the impact of industrialisation and colonisation on young people from different cultures, as visitors create their own paper cut-outs using vintage and contemporary papers, recycling old books, magazines and comics to tell their own stories as a response to the work.

Stalybridge Library, 1A Trinity St, Stalybridge, SK15 2BN
Landscapes of Change | Manchester Poetry Library | Until Sat 31 Aug | FREE

Inspired by their visit to Narsaq, South Greenland in September of last year, scientists Kathryn Adamson and Lestyn Barr alongside poet Helen Mort present their groundbreaking ecological project as a profoundly moving new exhibit, Landscapes of Change, which blends photography, research, workshops and more to examine the effects of global warming on the remote Arctic community, from coastal erosion and melting permafrost to wildlife damage and economic crisis.

Alongside features films, poetry across multiple languages and special activities for children devised to explore environmental change and its effects on native groups, the fascinating project unveils a limited-edition hand-printed poetry broadside co-created with MMU students and staff.

On Sat 15 Jun, the library hosts a Landscapes of Change Family Day, in which visitors of all ages can drop in to create new poems inspired by the exhibition as part of the Festival of Libraries.

Manchester Poetry Library, Grosvenor Building, Cavendish Street, Manchester M15 6BG
A Manchester Wire Partnership post
Wed 12 Jun - Sun 16 Jun
Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Fri 7 Jun 2024