Manchester City of Literature leads a creative lockdown festival (16-28th February, 2021) of 18 virtual events from partners across the city, in a two week long celebration centred around UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day (IMLD), which is celebrated globally on 21st February.

Manchester’s fourth annual IMLD event is a collaborative celebration of the city’s impressive cultural diversity which sees almost 200 languages spoken, making it the ‘UK’s language capital’ and likely to be the most linguistically diverse city in Europe, according to research by the University of Manchester.

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

A strand of events for children, from poetry readings to comic strips, will be available to support parents home-schooling and entertaining their families across half-term during lockdown.

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

Highlights include:

Sunday 21st February – International Mother Language Day

13.00 – Manchester City of Literature presents Our City of Languages

Broadcast live from Manchester Poetry Library

Hosted by Manchester City of Literature, Hafsah Bashir and guests present an afternoon of films, talks, interviews and performance.

Meet some of the members of the Polish Saturday School, a Manchester based Congolese organisation, and LCB (Language and Culture of Bangladesh) as they share their stories. Further afield find out more about how language is celebrated in Tartu and Nottingham, two other Cities of Literature, and see how young people in Nanjing and Manchester are using comics to tell their stories of resilience 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 multi-lingual 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, due to be shown later in 2021.

Friday 19th February

13.30 – Mandarin language taster with Confucius Institute

Learning Mandarin is becoming more and more popular and is being widely recognised as a valuable language in business and education. This is a fun, informal and interactive language taster session offering the chance to find out what it is like to learn Mandarin from the comfort of your own home in which you’ll learn words and phrases, including how to greet someone and how to count.

Saturday 20th February

11am onward – Sounds Like Scran: An Audio Cookbook, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art / Semay Wu

Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) is working with artist Semay Wu on a new commission to create an online Mancunian Audio Cookbook, exploring Manchester’s language diversity through food culture.

All residents of Greater Manchester have been invited to share audio recordings in their mother language, of stories that connect them to their favourite dish, and each page will showcase a chosen dish that is not described by its recipe, by the experiences that surround it. The story can be whatever comes up when you think about, make, or eat this dish: it could be about someone, or a poem, a memory, even a feeling. Book a short slot on this day to have a conversation with Semay about your favourite dish and food memories.

Tuesday 23rd February

19.00 – Decolonising Mother Tongues

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

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

Sunday 28th February

15.00 Multilingual Museum Launch

Multilingual Manchester, Manchester Museum, Manchester Libraries

This event will launch the online Multilingual Museum – an exciting new multilingual platform as part of the Manchester Museum’s online engagement activities. Find out how you can engage with the museum’s collections online through ‘storied translation’ – a novel approach that allows local people to translate information about museum objects into their own language and provide stories from their culture and heritage.

Children and Families

Highlights include multilingual storytelling, hosted daily at 11am on Manchester Libraries Facebook Page and Twitter @MancLibraries

Saturday 20th February

10.30 – Manchester Libraries World Party

Say Hola this half term to every language and culture with a fun-packed free day of activities from Manchester Libraries for all ages and from all parts of the world. It’s all about Friendship, and families can make new friends, with a fabulous day of dancing, singing, music, science, stories, crafts, games and poems!

Rock out to Mento B’s West Indian Reggae and ska music, soothe yourself with soulful songs and music from Sarah the Sufi, pick some Spanish at our multilingual StoryTime, share El Condor’s lush sounds and rhythms of traditional folk songs and culture from South America.

18.00 Multilingual Mushaira

Emma Martin and Anjum Malik – MMU, Manchester Poetry Library, Stanley Grove Primary Academy

This live virtual event, hosted by poet Anjum Malik at the Manchester Poetry Library, will feature poetry on the theme of Friendship. 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. Any and all schools can participate and run their own Mushairas, create their own poetry and artwork and submit videos and photographs online, to make this a huge celebration of the many languages spoken by children in our city.

Saturday 21st February

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

In partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, Nanjing City of Literature and 42nd Street

Video broadcast and digital exhibition

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 at, alongside a resource pack which contains some practical exercises for young people to respond to the strips in their own words and in their own way.

Further events include: the launch of a new Chinese Poetry Collection curated by Jennifer Lee Tsai, and a new Polish Language Collection, hosted by Bohdan Piasecki, both at the Manchester Poetry Library; a series of free online events from Comma Press, offering the opportunity to learn about the world of translation; performances of bilingual poetry and macaronic poetry, that uses a mixture of languages, and a programme of multilingual short films.

 Details on these, and many more events can


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