Manchester rated ’Excellent’ by UNESCO as a Creative City of Literature

Manchester has been rated ’Excellent’ in all categories by UNESCO after submitting its first report since becoming a City of Literature - a unique achievement among the prestigious group of global cities.

In 2017 Manchester was successful in its bid to join UNESCO ’s worldwide Creative Cities network as a City of Literature, which recognised the significant contribution of literature to the city. As one of its key creative institutions which includes the Centre for New Writing John Rylands Library , The University of Manchester played a central role in the designation.

Over the past five years, the University has worked together with Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester City Council and the city’s literary community to deliver a rich and vibrant programme of events, showcasing Manchester’s talents and giving all of its residents the chance to participate in and benefit from the thriving City of Literature.

UNESCO called Manchester’s report "high quality" and "a good example for other cities to follow". They praised the city’s work to support vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, its commitment to poetry, its vibrant publishing sector, the partnership approach and strength in literature development, and the vitality its approach to multilingualism brings.

The city’s annual week-long Festival of Libraries was described as "a most impressive initiative... [attracting] great attention both locally and internationally". The review noted the active political involvement in the City of Literature designation from both universities and Manchester City Council.

The review also praised the city’s focus on benefits for residents, and how Manchester was ambitious in contributing to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In conclusion, UNESCO said "the report reveals that Manchester makes literature a driving force for the city’s sustainability" Manchester is gaining increasing recognition around the world for its cultural vibrancy. National Geographic included Manchester in its Best of the World 2023 selection, Fodor Travel included it in its list of 10 UNESCO Creative Cities you should visit , and Manchester is the only UK city included in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2023 list because of its learning and cultural developments.

Manchester was top of Conde Nast Traveller’s Best Places to Go in the UK in 2023 list, which praised the city’s improving sustainability, green space and culture. Time Out also listed Manchester as 4 in their best places to visit in the UK list, and included a guided tour of our UNESCO City of Literature sites as part of the perfect day here.

The UNESCO City of Literature designation has fostered a true ’Manchester spirit’ of collaboration between our universities, the City and the city’s diverse literary communities. This report recognises that transformational work, and we are very proud of the contribution of our staff and students to a great literary, creative environment in what our colleague Professor Jeanette Winterson has called an "alchemical city."

"The City of Literature has fostered collaborations across the city on many flagship initiatives, from research on creativity and well-being, to working with writers through Manchester Literature Festival and Carcanet (publisher of another Nobel Prize winner in 2020)," Dame Rothwell added. "It has also led to the development of public engagement activities for schools and libraries and festivals, a key part of our social responsibility agenda".

"Colleagues at our University’s Centre for New Writing share the City of Literature’s mission to discover and support emerging writers, and to develop projects which both strengthen our graduates’ employability skills and offer opportunities for them to become part of Manchester’s diverse, evolving literary community."

"Being a UNESCO City of Literature is such a great achievement for the city - we are one of 42 cities in the world that have this prestigious designation, and we’re proud to showcase the diverse talent of our city on the international stage," said Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council. "We have built on the strong foundations of Manchester’s rich literary history, and alongside our partners from the city’s universities and literary community we have harnessed their collective creative energies to launch and create events, libraries and spaces where words and literature can be celebrated."

"We have supported over 100 Manchester based creatives to accomplish their dreams and secure paid opportunities in the creative industry. This is a fantastic achievement for the city and shows that we are investing in local talent and the cultural future of Manchester. We’re excited for what the next years will bring!"

"Manchester Met’s involvement with City of Literature is central to our contribution to the region as a leading civic institution, and to our commitment to research and education that advances sustainable development through culture," said Malcolm Press CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University. "The designation has raised the profile of our City as a beacon destination for creative industries, cultural tourism and students of the arts and humanities, and established the reputation of its literature ecosystem as an exemplar of creative excellence and inclusivity."

"I’m proud that our University is playing a key role in this work, and excited to see how it develops."

Manchester City of Literature’s first four-year report can be downloaded here.