Manchester City of Literature is to celebrate a creative lockdown festival from 16th to 28th February. The festival will showcase 18 virtual events in a two-week-long celebration.  It will focus on the International Mother Language Day (IMLD), celebrated globally on 21st February.

This year will mark Manchester’s fourth annual IMLD event. It is a collaborative celebration of the city’s impressive cultural diversity. According to research by the University of Manchester, with almost 200 languages spoken, Manchester is the ‘UK’s language capital’ and likely to be the most linguistically diverse city in Europe.

IMLD has been observed globally since 2000 and has significant historical roots. In Bangladesh 21st February is the anniversary of the day when Bangladeshis fought to recognise the Bangla language.


The 18 events, suitable for all generations, take in poetry, translation, community identity and international connections, including link-ups with other UNESCO Creative Cities. They will be delivered by Manchester City of Literature’s network of libraries, cultural venues, community groups, universities, schools, poets and writers.

From poetry readings to comic strips, children’s strand of events will support parents home-schooling and entertain their families across half-term during the lockdown.

Among the notable poets and artists who will participate in the festival, are Abas El-Janabi, Anjum Malik, Bodhan Piasecki, Fajana Kabir, Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Jennifer Lee Tsai, Semay Wu,  and Zaffar Kunial.

Some of the event highlights:

Saturday 20th February

10.30 – Manchester Libraries World Party

A fun-packed free day of activities from Manchester Libraries for all ages and from all parts of the world. It is all about Friendship. Families can make new friends, with a fabulous day of dancing, singing, music, science, stories, crafts, games and poems! From soulful Sufis to West Indian Reggae, or the rhythms of traditional folk songs of South America – this day will bring the whole world together, musically.

18.00 Multilingual Mushaira

This live virtual event, hosted by poet Anjum Malik at the Manchester Poetry Library, will feature poetry on Friendship’s theme. Poetry will be written and performed by the Creative Crew, a group of children from four Manchester primary schools, led by Emma Martin from Stanley Grove Primary Academy and Usma Malik from Manchester Metropolitan University. All schools can participate and run their own Mushairas. They can create their own poetry and artwork and submit videos and photographs online. This is to make this a massive celebration of the many languages spoken by children in our city.

Sunday 21st February – International Mother Language Day

13.00 – Manchester City of Literature presents Our City of Languages

The event will be broadcasted live from Manchester Poetry Library.

Members of Language and Culture of Bangladesh and Polish Saturday School members will share their stories.

Further afield there will be more about how language is celebrated in Tartu and Nottingham, two other Cities of Literature. And how young people in Nanjing and Manchester are using comics to tell their resilience stories in lockdown.

The afternoon will also feature the launch of the award-winning Mother Tongue Other Tongue schools’ competition, endorsed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

Presented within the programme is ‘Hunger’, a Community Arts North West project from three multilingual performers, Abas Eljanabi, Farjana Kabir and Louison Kangombe. They present a series of short films, extracts of their new collaborative performance piece, invoking The Mother Tongue’s hunger for home, distant memories,  change, and revolution. This is due to be shown later in 2021.

2 – 5.30pm – Manchester City of Literature, presents Our City of Languages – Connectedness Through Comics

The young people at 42nd Street, an innovative young people’s mental health charity in Manchester, wanted to express some of the thoughts, feelings and fears they had encountered during the pandemic.

Manchester-based visual artist, Ian Bobb, has been working with these young people, addressing their provocations including ‘the new normal’, ‘how can we adjust to the new world?’ and ‘information overload and its impact on mental health’ to produce an interactive 3-page comic strip,  which can be found at

Tuesday 23rd February

19.00 – Decolonising Mother Tongues

Presented by Creative Manchester UOM, Centre for New Writing and Humanitarian, Conflict Response Institute.

This panel on decolonising translation is chaired by Dr Kavita Bhanot. She writes on mother-tongue shame, translating across generations, and decolonising translation. Kavita will be joined by acclaimed British Asian playwright Amber Lone. He will discuss her writing and the creative writing workshops she has conducted with women from Safety4Sisters. This charity works to support migrant women across the North West who have experienced gender-based violence and no recourse to public funds or state benefits.

Sunday 28th February

15.00 Multilingual Museum Launch

This event will launch the online Multilingual Museum – an exciting new multilingual platform as part of the Manchester Museum’s online engagement activities.

The festival also highlights multilingual storytelling, hosted daily at 11am on Manchester Libraries Facebook Page and Twitter @MancLibraries.

Relative to its population size, Manchester is one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the United Kingdom and Europe. According to Manchester City Council report, close to 20% of Manchester’s adult population declared a language other than English to be their “main language” in the 2011 Census. More than 40% of Manchester’s primary school children speak an additional language to English in their homes. Community languages with the largest number of speakers in Manchester are Urdu, Arabic, Chinese, Bengali, Polish, Panjabi and Somali. A celebration of Manchester’s language diversity resonates with Manchester’s long-standing commitment to being a city of inclusion and cohesion. It also recognises the economic possibilities that a linguistically diverse population brings.

Manchester was successful in its bid to join UNESCO’s worldwide Creative Cities network as a City of Literature in 2017. Manchester City of Literature is a charity that manages the UNESCO designation on behalf of over thirty partner organisations. Our vision is to create an innovative, distinctive, equitable, globally-connected city of reading and writing. We want Manchester to be a city where diverse voices are celebrated, creative talent and industries are nurtured.

The virtual events will be led by, Centre for New Writing, CFCCA, Comma Press, Confucius Institute, Instituto Cervantes, Manchester City of Literature, Manchester Libraries, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester Poetry Library, Stanley Grove Primary Academy, and the University of Manchester.

Details on these and many more events can be found here: