The rebirth of Manchester Central Library has generally been seen as something of a triumph, in that it both looks and feels wonderful and welcoming. One of the key facets of the approach has been to encourage the concept of Central Library as an open space which everyone can use to learn, discover, explore and create. Thus the whole LibraryLive programme, which finds its most exciting manifestation so far in Chaos To Order, a week of free events from artists of all disciplines, including musicians, dancers, a choir, lunch-time poetry readings and writers’ workshop sessions, plus Mercury Prize-nominated band Everything Everything working on new songs in a glass box.

The whole shebang has been collated by the Manchester-based ensemble, who say that “as a band, we see Manchester Central Library as the brain of the city, the place where a vast collection of often contradictory interpretations reside and are presented impartially”.

Approached by Brighter Sound and LibraryLive 
with a view to putting together an event or two, they admit that “when we discussed these thoughts with other artists whom we admire, the ideas snowballed, resulting in a vibrant, probably chaotic week of extraordinary occurrences and performances that will bring the audience into the action”.

Emma Jane Unsworth in Heaton Park, PrestwichOne of their key co-conspirators is writer Emma Jane Unsworth. Unsworth, whose most recent novel Animals might itself reasonably be described as vibrant and chaotic, is the Chaos To Order writer-in-residence and is giving daily readings of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, as well as hosting drop-in workshop sessions for aspiring writers. Earlier this week she read extracts from her new novel in a Manchester Fiction Showcase, alongside some of the best up-and-coming contemporary writers in the UK – including Kindle chart-topping crime author Kerry Wilkinson, comedy and fiction writer Chris Killen, plus short-story writer Zoe Lambert.

Everything Everything themselves are based throughout the week in Central Library’s glass-fronted performance space, in full view of library-goers, working on new material “influenced by this iconic building’s extraordinary architecture and the theme of Chaos To Order. Yeah, we’re pretty terrified by that,” they laugh.

Meanwhile a group of emerging Manchester musicians, chosen specifically for the residency, are working with Elbow-endorsed songwriter Liam Frost and BBC 6 Music favourite Sara Lowes, throughout the whole library every day.

Quarantine - Between Us, We Know Everything

Other free events every day until November 15 include pop-up performances from acclaimed dance troupe Company Chameleon, Quarantine’s potentially brilliant Between us, we know everything, 
a drop-in event in the Library entrance about all the useful and useless information we’ve acquired over the course of our lives.

Writer Greg Thorpe and film-maker Kim May of Asta Films will be documenting the week, the results of which will be published on, while
 Hot Bed Press will be popping up at different workstations around the library “armed with typewriters and a mischievous perspective on life”.

Just in case you can’t make it along, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie are hosting their radio show live there on November 14, with guests including Emma Jane Unsworth;  Bernard Sumner, talking about his new autobiography; and Manchester Music archivist Abigail Jones, as well as Guy Garvey, whose own BBC 6 Music show this weekend celebrates the joys of libraries in general and Manchester in particular. “The libraries we visit,” he says, “are beautiful buildings, they are parts of our history, they celebrate the things that Manchester has done first and they also remind us of our gloomier hours. They’re not just about old books. They’re also important for our community today as places where people can meet, learn and share ideas.”

The (unfortunately sold-out) Finale of the week includes the acapella sounds of the Melodico Ensemble choir; Jesca Hoop debuting a song written especially for the residency, inspired by Alan Turing; performances by Company Chameleon; before Everything Everything’s Jeremy Pritchard talks about challenging perceptions of libraries and testing the limits of what a 21st century super library can be, followed by a live session with the band.

By Kevin Bourke


Quarantine - The Reading RoomFull listings can be found at

Concurrently, 6 Music presenters are choosing a recommended read and compiling a playlist to accompany it via BBC Playlister. Mark Radcliffe, for instance, has selected As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee with supporting soundtracks from Sly and the Family Stone and Miles Davis amongst others. Listeners are encouraged to tweet their own recommended read along with a supporting soundtrack under the banner #6MusicCelebratesLibraries