The Portico Library, Manchester’s stunning Greek Revival independent subscription library and exhibitions space, has successfully received an enormous development grant from The National Heritage Lottery Fund to ignite the initial phase of their project, Reuniting The Portico Library, Uniting People, which aims to transform the unique heritage building with a series of environmentally sustainable architectural plans.

The project, made possible by National Lottery players, will allow the Portico to develop rigorous plans to renovate the 218-year-old library and future-proof its interior by creating an accessible and sustainable space for arts, books, learning and history for Manchester’s residents and visitors. The £453,964 grant will form the foundation of an initial development phase, to begin immediately, which will map out a plan to unite the three floors of the library, working alongside local communities to test how to restructure the ground floor and basement into an open and welcoming area with dining and exhibition areas, a ‘Northern Bookshop’, educational activities, a collections-care lab, as well flexible and high-quality event and meeting spaces.

The upper floors will preserve and amplify the existing heritage, showcasing the unique book collection, manuscript archive and architecture. The technical access requirements, such as a lift, will be supported by creative consultation to establish how best to make the building fully accessible for all.

Reinforcing the Portico’s founding ethos – to further knowledge – the project will collaborate with partners and a Critical Friends group to examine the library’s radical roots and complex legacies today, revitalising itself as a creative space that explores its own complex history while learning from shared knowledge and lived experience, as historic books sit alongside underrepresented voices in unprecedented harmony.

John Carpenter, the Portico Library’s Chair, said:

The news that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting the Portico Library’s bold scheme to open up and share its extraordinary heritage and collection, to Manchester residents and visitors, is a major cultural signal to Manchester, the North and the UK.

“This visionary project, years in the making, fulfils our mission of working with the many people in Manchester to explore, share, and celebrate their diverse stories and the city’s literary and global heritage. Embracing creativity, collaboration and inclusivity, the project will unlock the Library’s past to plan for the future. We would like to thank the National Lottery players who have made it possible to realise our vision.

The Portico will be undertaking a range of fundraising activities to help realise the rest of its ambitious plans. Find out how you can get involved here.

The Portico,
57 Mosley St, Manchester M2 3HY
, Tel: 0161 236 6785
Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Wed 29 Nov 2023