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Fame Is The Spur (Manchester Literature Festival)

This is a Manchester Literature Festival event. Please book with Quaytickets.


Howard Spring’s Fame Is The Spur is the great Manchester novel. It is also the great Peterloo novel and the great Suffragette novel. An astonishing achievement.

John Hamer Shawcross grows up, illegitimate, in poverty in Victorian Ancoats. At the start of the novel the elderly lodger in his house shows the young Hamer a sword, a sabre, he wrenched from a soldier who had used it to kill his girlfriend at Peterloo. Hamer inherits the sword.

Bookish and inquisitive, he is destined not to go to work in a mill. He goes abroad to find himself, in classic bildungsroman fashion, and comes back bursting with braggadocio and a heightened sense of burning injustice. He becomes a firebrand orator within the burgeoning labour movement, brandishing the sabre to cut his way through politics. As he climbs the slippery pole so he sells out his principles, Kinnock style, or actually in the manner of the contemporaneous Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour prime minister. Spring had to wait until MacDonald had died before the novel could be published, otherwise the ex-PM would have sued his ass.

Fame Is The Spur is just one of a series of entertaining Manchester-based novels Howard Spring he wrote once he had left the Manchester Guardian to become a London journalist. Ed Glinert uses his metaphorical sabre to cut a path through Howard Spring’s Manchester.

* The title comes from John Milton’s poem Lycidas: “Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise / (That last infirmity of noble mind) / To scorn delights, and live laborious days”.

Start: 20/10/2019 12:00 pm
End: 20/10/2019 2:00 pm
Venue: Central Library
Google Map
St Peter's Square, Manchester, United Kingdom, M2 5PD
Cost: Please see Quaytickets


Hidden Gems of Manchester

This tour: Mon 21 October 2019.
Meet: Art Gallery, Mosley Street, 11.30am.
Booking: Please press here to book with eventbrite.

This is a remarkable tour of city sights and sites you always wanted to see but maybe never managed to.

We go to as many of the following that we can manage: the interior of the Freemasons Hall, designed like the Baths of Caracalla in Rome), the Portico Library, a plush suite at the Radisson (maybe the very one Gordon Brown stayed in!), the Hidden Gem church (of course) and the marble bank vaults on King Street. Then there’s the glimpse of the places you can’t go to … yet (we’re working on them).

It’s the Manchester you never thought you’d see!

Masonic Hall



Start: 21/10/2019 11:30 am
End: 21/10/2019 1:30 pm
Venue: Art Gallery
Google Map
Mosley Street, Manchester, Select a State:, United Kingdom, M1
Cost: around £10


The Old Jewish Quarter (Cheetham Hill trail)

The Old Jewish Ghetto (Cheetham Hill Trail):
Next tour
: Mon 21 October 2019, 2.30pm.
Meet: Victoria Station wallmap.
Booking: Please press here to book with eventbrite.

Manchester’s Jewish community first appeared in numbers in the late 18th century around the parish church (!).

Well, that was the old town, where people lived.

Gradually Manchester Jews began to move north, first to Strangeways (the area, not the prison, you schmerel), then Cheetham Hill, Hightown, Prestwich and eventually Whitefield.

Only London has a bigger Jewish population in Britain than Manchester. But only Manchester has a Torah Street (with its own bacon-curing factory; really!) and a prison built like a mosque in the heart of the ghetto. And that’s apart from a history embracing that rogue Robert Maxwell, the rich-beyond-rich Nathan Meyer Rothschild, and the rabidly irreligious Karl Marx – all Yiddisher fellers.


Start: 21/10/2019 2:30 pm
End: 21/10/2019 4:15 pm
Venue: Victoria Station wallmap
Google Map
Victoria Station Approach, Manchester, United Kingdom, M3 1PB
Cost: £10 (or the equivalent in shekels)


Elizabeth Gaskell’s Manchester

Next tour: Wed 23 October 2019.
Meet: St Ann’s Church, 11.00am.
Booking: Please press here to book with eventbrite.

A word from the guide
This is the only Elizabeth Gaskell walking tour in Manchester which peruses the author’s Manchester haunts in great detail AND takes you to the author’s Chorlton-on-Medlock house AND to her earlier residency on Dover Street, with its own remarkable history.

That’s because this tour is led by Ed Glinert, the only official Manchester tour guide who is also an author, published by Penguin, Bloomsbury, Random House and HarperCollins.

A word about the author
Elizabeth Gaskell published Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life anonymously in 1848.

At last a novel that dealt with the local society of the world’s first industrial city in all its raw brutality!

Indeed with its harsh portrayal of the capitalist bosses who ran Manchester industry and commerce it caused something of a stir throughout the city.

The good folk who worshipped at the Cross Street Unitarian Chapel alongside her and her husband, William, the minister were horrified and suspected they were the target. How more horrified they were when they discovered the identity of the author!

Mary Barton was the first of an excellent series of novels that made Elizabeth Gaskell a major novelist. We will follow in her footsteps through haunts – the Portico Library, Cross Street Chapel, the Fever Hospital, Dover Street – which have changed (a bit), but where the tales still tell through the misty decades, and finish at the re-opened and quite wonderful Elizabeth Gaskell House in Chorlton-on-Medlock.

How the tour works
We start with a simple walk through town, looking at some key Gaskellite sites, including a stop at the Portico Library (where Mr Gaskell was chairman but which Mrs Gaskell could not join – a-ha, interesting), then take a short bus-trip to the University area to explore Dover Street, barely noticeable but packed with the most remarkable and unpredictable history, and finally another short stroll to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.
* Please note there is an admission charge of £4.95 for the Elizabeth Gaskell House but the ticket lasts a year so you can go back.

Yes, it takes some time this one, but it’s worth it!

Elizabeth Gaskell 1Mary Bartongaskell house

Start: 23/10/2019 11:00 am
End: 23/10/2019 2:00 pm
Venue: St Ann's Church
Google Map
St Ann Street, Manchester, United Kingdom, M2 7LF
Cost: Walk: £10. (Admission to the house optional: £4.95 but lasts a whole year).


Politics & Poverty

Booking: Please press here to book with eventbrite.

This tour revisits the politics, the power and poverty, the reality of what it was to be alive in 19th century Manchester.

Starting at the library where Engels worked, past the cholera pits, the markets, the mills, the housing, and the pubs the places of riot, it uncovers the dark underbelly of what made this city of extremes.

Relive the lives of those unfortunate thousands next to where their real live stories happened. This tour is a must for anyone with a passion for people. Study case histories of orphans, hawkers, scuttlers, cholera victims, bare knuckle-fighters, prostitutes and peelers it is a legacy that should never be forgotten.


Start: 24/10/2019 1:30 pm
End: 24/10/2019 3:15 pm
Venue: Victoria Station wallmap
Google Map
Victoria Station Approach, Manchester, United Kingdom, M3 1PB
Cost: £10


Manchester Cathedral & the Mediaeval City

October 2019: Fri 25 Oct, 2.30pm.
Meet: Central Library.
Booking: Hear ye, hear ye. Press here to book with ye eventbrite.

Chetham's  Cathedral (Mcr) 1

This is a tour into the heart of mediaeval Manchester, replete with extraordinary stories, such as that of the Catholic priest dragged by heels from the prison to what is now the Cathedral, and close-up views of Tudor stones and holy relics.

Here is a potted biography of Humphrey Chetham, adapted from the forthcoming Encyclopaedia of Manchester by Ed Glinert.


Humphrey Chetham (never Sir Humphrey Chetham, despite the long-gone pub in Clayton, the Wikipedia website and pages published by the BBC, who should know better) gave his name to Chetham’s School and Chetham’s Library, the latter the oldest library in continuous use in the English-speaking world.

Humphrey ChethamChetham’s name is pronounced with the long, double “ee”, despite the spelling. He was born in Crumpsall in 1580, baptised at the Collegiate Church (now Manchester Cathedral) on 10 July that year, educated at Manchester Grammar School, which then stood on an adjacent site, and was apprenticed in 1597 to Samuel Tipping, a Manchester linen draper. Chetham made his money from cloth and became the richest man in Manchester in the early 17th century.

Initially he invested in property (Clayton Hall, which survives, for instance) and later by supporting poor boys through schooling. In 1631 Charles I bestowed a knighthood on Chetham but he turned it down, and consequently never became Sir Humphrey Chetham. In some ways this was a wise move, as support from such a King would not have impressed many a decade later in Parliamentarian Manchester. But in the short term it meant that Chetham had to pay a hefty fine. Charles I later punished Chetham further by putting him in charge of collecting the local Ship Money, a tax levied on all households to protect communities from invasion by men in ships, a predictably unpopular tax in inland Manchester.

Wanting to establish a permanent school, Humphrey Chetham approached the parliamentary sequestrators in 1648 to buy the College of Manchester, built from 1421 as a college of priests and now one of the oldest buildings in Manchester. By then the old college was in ruins, with swine roaming freely. Chetham’s death died at Clayton Hall on 20 September 1653 (he was buried at midnight in what is now the Cathedral) didn’t prevent the project going ahead. His executors carried out his intentions from the £7,000 he left. Chetham’s Hospital, a school for the “maintenance and education” of 44 poor boys, a place where one received hospitality, never a medical institution, despite the philanthropic name, opened in 1653. It is now a music school. The library was established in the same year.

There has been considerable renovation and rebuilding on the site over the centuries but many 15th century features remain. These include the Library, Baronial Hall, the cloisters, the fellows’ dormitories, the Fox Court, and the Audit Room, where the feoffes who run Chetham’s meet, with its original moulded beams and bosses.


Start: 25/10/2019 2:30 pm
End: 25/10/2019 4:15 pm
Venue: Shudehill Metrolink stop
Google Map
Shudehill, Manchester, United Kingdom, M4 4AN
Cost: 10 groats


10 Things You Never Knew About Manchester: The Secret History of the City

Next tour: Fri 25 October 2019.
Meet: TfGM Travelshop, Piccadilly Gardens,6pm.
Booking: Please press here to book with eventbrite.

  • Thought that the city coat of arms signified the three rivers of Manchester? It doesn’t.
  • Thought Rolls met Royce at the Midland Hotel? He didn’t.
  • Thought the pillar box on Corporation Street was the one that survived the IRA bomb? It isn’t.
  • Thought the council built a shelter to shield the public from atomic bombs? No. It was only for VIPs.
  • Did you know Manchester was close to being the setting for only the second assassination of a British prime minister?
  • Did you know The Smiths were named after the people who shopped the Moors Murderers to the police?
  • Thought the design of Manchester Town Hall is original? No. It is based on a Belgian building.
  • Thought the Midland Hotel was free of Russian secret service bugs? Huh.
  • Thought L. S. Lowry was a kindly avuncular old gent? Not quite.
  • Did you know the army bomb disposal team was only 2 seconds away from diffusing the 1996 IRA bomb?


Eye-opening guided tour.

Start: 25/10/2019 6:00 pm
End: 25/10/2019 7:45 pm
Venue: TfGM office
Google Map
Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, United Kingdom, M1 1RG
Cost: around £10


Manchester Music: The Hacienda Years

“Manchester Music: The Hacienda  Years”
Saturday 26 October, 11am.
Booking: Please press here to book with eventbrite.


Forget Memphis and the Mersey, Manchester is Music City, a factory of superior song-making and stirring soundscapes courtesy of The Smiths, Joy Division, The Fall, Buzzcocks, John Cooper Clarke, Oasis, New Order, Happy Mondays and Elbow – all spinning around the legend of the Hacienda, the world’s hippest nightclub, chicer than the Copacabana, sexier than Studio 54, cooler than the Cavern or Cream.

• Our Music walks are now starting from HOME, Manchester’s funky but chic (as David Johansen would say) new arts venue, appropriately based at 2 Tony Wilson Place, Whitworth Street West (opposite the Hacienda, natch).

Hacienda - interiorRead on…
Despite no tradition of making memorable music, Manchester became the most feted music city in the world towards the end of the 20th century, acclaimed for its role in nurturing groups such as The Smiths, Buzzcocks, the Fall, Joy Division, New Order and 808 State.

That Manchester would attain such elevated status looked unlikely in the 1960s when the city lived darkly in the long shadow cast 35 miles away in Liverpool by the Beatles, and it remained so in the 1970s with Manchester playing little part in prog or mainstream rock.

Those with local connections that were successful like 10cc and Roy Harper made music that had little to do with Manchester culturally.

The Manchester-based beat groups of the mid-60s were phenomenally successful in terms of sales. Herman’s Hermits and Freddie & the Dreamers cleaned up in America. But this was not exactly cutting edge quality music to rank alongside the greats of that era, such as the Yardbirds, Animals and Who.

So how did Manchester music become so important?

Amazingly we can trace this back to two chaotic Sex Pistols gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in the summer of 1976.

Present that night were many of those who went on to dominate Manchester music for the next few decades, including Barney Sumner (Joy Division, New Order), Mick Hucknall (Simply Red) and Morrissey. Some formed groups, while others set up from scratch a music industry infrastructure of promoters, songwriters, agents, designers, journalists and record label owners.

We go to some of their haunts and venues on the various music walks.

That scene played a huge role in the general renaissance of the city in terms of media, design, architecture and culture. We can trace a development from the summer of ’76 to the opening of new venues such as HOME in 2015.

The music scene has attracted countless people to the city, some as students, some to work in attendant industries.

If you want to see how dull a similar city without a vibrant music scene is like, go to Leeds!


Hacienda - interior

Start: 26/10/2019 11:00 am
End: 26/10/2019 12:45 pm
Venue: HOME
Google Map
Whitworth Street West, Manchester, United Kingdom
Cost: £10


The Pankhursts: Suffragette City

October 2019 tour: Sat 26 October. 
Emmeline Pankhurst Statue, St Peter’s Square, 2.30pm.
Booking: Please press here to book with eventbrite.

• Christabel: suffragette icon, arrested at the Free Trade Hall, locked in Strangeways.

• Sylvia: suffragette icon, joshed with Lenin, befriended Haile Selassie. MI5 called her “the tiresome Miss Sylvia Pankhurst”.

• Emmeline: suffragette icon, Independent Labour Party campaigner, Tory Party candidate (not at the same time).

Walk in the footsteps of the family who won women the vote.

Okay, let’s go into it in a little more detail…

In August 1819 at least a dozen people were killed demonstrating for the right to vote at St Peter’s Fields, Manchester.

Nearly a hundred years later, in 1903, the Pankhurst family, disgusted with the Independent Labour Party’s refusal to allow women to use the newly-opened Pankhurst Hall in north Manchester, founded the Women’s Social and Political Union to campaign for the right of women to have the vote in parliamentary elections.

Suffragettes (2)sylvia_pankhurst_arrest

What had been a sedate pressure group, willing to stay within the law to change the law, soon became hostile and aggressive. The suffragettes disrupted a rally staged by the opposition, the Liberal Party, at the Free Trade Hall in 1905 and two of their leaders – Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney – were jailed. Manchester had become Suffragette City, but it took a generation and many thousands of broken windows for women to secure the vote.

This walk by Ed Glinert is in memory of the Pankhursts – Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia – fierce campaigners, resolute radicals, recalling their city centre haunts and outlining their struggle.


Here are two excerpts from the walk:
(i) the story of the infamous October 1905 Free Trade Hall rally. 

One of the key events in the early 20th century campaign to gain women the vote took place at the Free Trade Hall (now the Radisson Hotel) on 13 October 1905. By that time the newspapers had lost interest in the struggle for women’s rights. Few meetings were reported meetings and letters on the subject rarely published. But a general election was imminent. The country knew that Arthur Balfour’s Tory government was about to collapse. Balfour, who represented a Manchester seat (barely believable now) resigned as PM that December and even lost his seat at the General Election at the end of January 1906.

With the Liberals expected to win the election – they secured a landslide – the party held a rally at Manchester’s main hall that October day. The Women’s Social and Political Union, the WSPU, founded by the Pankhurst family two years earlier, wrote to the Liberal Sir Edward Grey, who was to become foreign secretary the following year, asking him to receive a deputation, but he did not reply.

So Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenny joined the audience at the Free Trade Hall, intending to heckle, and even to be arrested and imprisoned. But not Emmeline Pankhurst, who was worried her post as Registrar in Manchester might be affected, should be imprisoned. Christabel bade her mother farewell before the meeting with the words: “We shall sleep in prison tonight”.

After the speeches Annie Kenney stood up and asked Winston Churchill, prospective Liberal candidate for Manchester North-West: “If you are elected will you do your best to make women’s suffrage a Government measure?” There was no answer, so she asked again. Christabel Pankhurst stood up and waved her banner, repeating the question. This led to cries of “Be quiet”, “Let the lady speak”. A steward hauled her back and placed a hat over Annie Kenney’s face. She then stood on a chair to make her protest.

The Chief Constable of Manchester, William Peacock, told the women that if they would put the question in writing, he would take it himself to Edward Grey. But Grey fumbled and failed to answer the request, and when he rose to acknowledge a vote of thanks, Annie stood on a chair to ask again. Liberal Party stewards and policemen in plain clothes soon dragged them both from the hall.

Determined to be imprisoned, Christabel fought against ejection. When detectives thrust her into an ante-room she cried to her captors: “I shall assault you!” When they pinioned her: “I shall spit at you!” She tried to spit but didn’t succeed. She also tried to land a blow at the inspector as she and Annie Kenney were flung out of the building. Yet still she was not arrested. Outside in South Street they held an impromptu meeting as the crowds left the hall. They were arrested and frog-marched to the Town Hall. On the way to the Town Hall cell Annie Kenny said to Christabel Pankhurst: “Never mind. We have got what we wanted.” Pankhurst replied: “Yes, I wanted to assault a policeman.”

The next day they appeared in court. Christabel was fined half a guinea for assaulting a policeman and 5/- for obstruction, with the alternative of 7 days in prison. Annie was fined 5/- (or three days inside). Both women rejected all offers of help with the fines and went to the cells. Emmeline saw them leave for gaol and pleaded to her daughter: “You have done everything you could be expected to do in this matter. I think you should let me pay your fines and take you home.” Christabel responded: “Mother, if you pay my fine I will never go home.”

Annie Kenney later recalled: “I remember very little of my life in prison. Being my first visit to gaol, the newness of the life numbed me. I do remember the plank bed, the skilly, the prison clothes. I also remember going to church and sitting next to Christabel, who looked very coy and pretty in her prison cap. She took my hand tenderly and just held it, as though I were a lost child being guided home.”

Churchill thought the jailing would damage his chances of victory, so he went to Strangeways to pay the fines but the governor refused to accept his offer.

Churchill 2

(ii) the Suffragettes attack on Manchester Art Gallery, 1913
On 3 April 1913 three suffragettes attacked a number of pictures at Manchester Art Gallery. The incident occurred at 9 o’clock in the evening when Annie Briggs, Evelyn Manesta and Lillian Forrester cracked the glass of several paintings, including Lord Leighton’s 1887 work Last Watch of Hero (pictured) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Astarte Syriaca.

The dramatic incident came in response to the sentencing of three years penal servitude handed to the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst at the Old Bailey a few days previously. She had claimed responsibility for the fire-bombing of the unfinished, newly-built house of the home secretary David Lloyd George. At a meeting in Cardiff Mrs Pankhurst declared: “We have blown up the Chancellor of Exchequer’s house … and for all that has been done in the past I accept responsibility. I have advised, I have incited, I have conspired.”

Pankhurst stayed in jail only a few days and was then released on licence. Nevertheless there were a number of severe ripostes. At Manchester Art Gallery that April night the attendants found three women “making a rush around the room, cracking the glass of the biggest and most valuable paintings in the collection”, as the Manchester Guardian reported it.

"The Last Watch of Hero", Lord Leighton, 1887
“The Last Watch of Hero”, Lord Leighton, 1887

The pictures targeted were those that the women deemed abhorrent to the suffragette cause. Astarte Syriaca was particularly despised for its espousal of Victorian femininity. The three women were tried on 22 April, charged with “unlawfully and maliciously damaging” thirteen pictures in the gallery. Annie Briggs announced: “I am not guilty of the charges brought against me. I gave my comrades my fullest support but in no way aided them. Our women take their course on their own deliberate responsibility. This is not a personal but a world question… Women have to protest against things which are intolerable to them.”

Lilian Forrester stated: “I do not stand here as a malicious person but as a patriot…a political offender…. I appeal to the jury to bring in a verdict of not guilty. We have already been punished by appearing before the courts three times and going through the present ordeal…. I have a degree in history and my knowledge of history has spurred me to this fight for women’s freedom.” Evelyn Manesta declared “I am a political offender.”

The jury acquitted Annie Briggs and convicted Lilian and Evelyn. Lilian Forrester was sentenced to three months imprisonment and Evelyn Manesta to one month. The judge, astonishingly, told the court: “If the law would allow I would send you round the world in a sailing ship as the best thing for you.”

Start: 26/10/2019 2:30 pm
End: 26/10/2019 4:15 pm
Venue: Emmeline Pankhurst Statue
Google Map
St Peter's Square, Manchester, United Kingdom, M2 5PD
Cost: £10


Ancoats: World Heritage Site?

Ancoats Historical Tour
October 2019:
Sunday 27 October, 11.30am.
Band on the Wall, Swan Street.
: Please press here to book with eventbrite.

We explore the backstreets and forgotten corners of the world’s first industrial community, converted from market gardens and fields with frightening ferocity into a land of mills blackened with soot at the end of the 18th century, colonised by Italians fleeing il risorgimento to bring ice cream to the begrimed city in the 19th century, abandoned by the council with forcible depopulating in the 20th century and now being imaginatively revived as essential 21st century Manchester.

Ancoats mills


Industry began in Ancoats, a factory hoot from Manchester city centre. In 1700 it was a semi-rural enclave by the river Medlock, with Ancoats Hall home to the lords of the Manchester manor. By 1800 this was a teeming, squalid suburb, blackened with soot, the smell of belching smoke hanging in the air.

The conditions were shocking: the noise of thundering machinery, suffocating air, high accident rates and notorious employment practices at the expense of an emaciated, underpaid workforce slave-driven for unsustainably long hours amidst disease, darkness, damp and desperate heat, living in dingy streets of tiny workers’ houses, jerry-built two-up two down brick boxes standing back-to-back so that as many properties as possible could be squeezed into the smallest of spaces.

Child labour was rife.

As one Ancoats mill owner explained to the early 19th century poet laureate Robert Southey, when he visited Manchester in 1808, “You see these children, sir. By the time they are seven or eight years old they are bringing in the money. They come at five in the morning, they leave at six and another set relieves them for the night; the wheels never stand still.”

This was never a pleasant area, yet some of the mid 19th century buildings, such as the Ice Palace, which we will visit on the walk, were exquisitely detailed with Italianate effects, perfect for the large influx of Italian immigrants, while the earlier mill buildings by the Rochdale Canal, though functional and formal, were palaces of Mammon, monuments to mercantilism, magnificent in their might and mass.

Later experiments in social planning saw some wonderful additions to the locale: the vast Victoria Square, Manchester’s oldest surviving municipal estate, is still an astonishing site. Even more striking is the jazzy Daily Express building on Great Ancoats Street, its gorgeous curves of glass and vitrolite the perfect coating for what was then a quality mass market newspaper owned by the formidable Lord Beaverbrook.

The late 20th century saw Ancoats die. The mills shut, the workshops wound down, the canal almost dried up. Now it’s all cleaned up. The mills are modern workshops; the factories smart apartments, while new developments such as the much lauded New Islington project with its funkily named Chips Building and Dutch-styled houses are attracting investment…slowly.

Start: 27/10/2019 11:30 am
End: 27/10/2019 1:30 pm
Venue: Band on the Wall
Google Map
Swan Street, Manchester, United Kingdom
Cost: around £10
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