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.

To maintain a UNESCO Creative Cities designation, every four years a detailed report for each city is submitted for assessment. Manchester’s first report covering 2017-2021 was submitted to UNESCO last year.

UNESCO said that Manchester’s report was “high quality, setting a good example for other cities to follow”.

The report praised Manchester’s:

  • work to support vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • partnership approach and strength in literature development and the vitality its approach to multilingualism brings
  • focus on benefits for residents
  • commitment to poetry
  • vibrant publishing sector
  • Annual week-long Festival of Libraries
  • active political involvement in the designation from Manchester City Council, and from the two universities.
  • Manchester’s ambition in contributing to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Over the past five years, The University of Manchester has worked together with Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester City Council and the city’s literary community to deliver a 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.  

 The city’s annual week-long Festival of Libraries was described by UNESCO 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.

Being labelled as Excellent in all relevant categories comes as the city is gaining increasing recognition around the world for its cultural vibrancy. National Geographic included Manchester in its Best of the World 2023 selection 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 also topped 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 while Time Out also listed Manchester as 4th in their best places to visit in the UK list.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Deputy head of Manchester City Council, saidThis is a fantastic achievement for the city and shows that we are investing in local talent and the cultural future of Manchester.” 


Malcolm Press CBE, Vice Chancellor Manchester Metropolitan University said, “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” 


Dame Nancy Rothwell, President & Vice-Chancellor said, 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 our staff and students’ contribution to a great literary, creative environment in what our colleague Professor Jeanette Winterson has called an “alchemical city” – Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester.