Saturday Selection: FIFA Women's World Cup

To coincide with the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we’ve picked out Montague Shearman’s 1887 ‘Athletics and Football’, an entry in the 28-volume ‘Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes’.
The 1880s and 1890s were a formative period for football in Manchester, with local clubs forming around churches, pubs and railway depots, and joining rival football leagues whose teams rarely played against one another. In 1887, Gorton A.F.C. (later Manchester City) would relocate to their first long-term home on Hyde Road. In 1892, Newton Heath (later Manchester United) would join the precursor to the modern English Football League.
In 1863, football governing bodies had introduced rules to prohibit violence on the pitch, making it more socially acceptable for women to play. In 1894, the British Ladies' Football Club was founded by Nettie Honeyball, becoming Europe’s most well-documented women’s team.


The Portico’s summer Quarterly is here!

Just in time for the arrival of T-shirt weather The Portico’s summer Quarterly is here, where you can find our upcoming events and exhibitions, and keep up-to-date with library news. This edition contains a fascinating article on Victorian literature and old age by member Alan Shelston, plus illuminating research on The Portico’s hidden heritage and treasures from members Alex Boswell and Nicola Higgins.  

You can also read about the re-launch of The Portico Prize 2019, and our upcoming exhibition Making the News which commemorates the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre. Artist Robel Temesgen will exhibit a brand new work for Manchester, created in collaboration with members of the Manchester Centre for Place Writing.

Download the Quarterly here for more details.

Screenshot 2019-06-10 at 10.06.55.png

The Portico Library and Manchester Secondary PRU

The Portico Library and Manchester Secondary PRU

The Portico has been exploring the world of books with students at Manchester Secondary PRU. Workshops at school and visits to The Portico Library, led by Reading Consultant Janet Fitzgerald, have marked the beginning of a wonderful new partnership.

English Teacher, Jay Lanyon talks about the first few sessions:

“The Manchester Secondary PRU is a complex organisation and our students can be complex too. They arrive here often having had a negative experience of education and sometimes with undiagnosed conditions and difficulties with learning. They can be reluctant to engage with traditional ‘lessons’ and teaching styles. It can take a long time, even for a permanent member of the staff team, to build a rapport and establish relationships and learning habits.

When Janet arrived for her first session it became clear quite quickly that we would, in partnership, have to redefine what the objectives would be and reflect together on our expectations for the ‘Reading for pleasure’ project. Janet listened and observed - asking questions and adapting her approach. She talked to staff and students to find a positive way forward and brought great resources to engage the groups. During the third session Janet encouraged students to create posters using the materials she provided… the book review posters helped the students remember books they had enjoyed in the past.

 It would have been easy for a less experienced practitioner to have abandoned the project on seeing how non-compliant our young people can be but instead she reflected on their wide range of needs to get something worthwhile out of the sessions. I appreciate the effort being made to open the doors for our students who have frequently missed out on opportunities for enrichment in education.”

The Portico Prize is now open!

We are delighted to announce the 2019 Portico Prize is now open, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University. £10,000 will go to the book that best evokes the spirit of the North of England - across fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Our judging panel includes social media influencer and broadcaster Simon Savidge (chair); actor Holliday Grainger; novelist and writing mentor Zahid Hussain; Professor of Creative Writing Jean Sprackland; and writer, broadcaster and performer Kate Fox. £10,000 will go to the book that best evokes the spirit of the North of England - across fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Our judging panel includes social media influencer and broadcaster Simon Savidge (chair); actor Holliday Grainger; novelist and writing mentor Zahid Hussain; Professor of Creative Writing Jean Sprackland; and writer, broadcaster and performer Kate Fox.

Grouped logos MMU PP.png

Job Opportunity!

Job Opportunity!

Director of Manchester City of Literature


£42,000 per annum, pro rata

Contract: 3 years from appointment in the first instance. 

Working pattern: 28 hours per week, equivalent to a 0.8 FTE position. 

This is a flexible role with some evening and weekend work.

Manchester was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017, following a successful bid from a partnership led by Manchester City Council, The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and involving a range of partners across the city’s literary and cultural sectors.

In order to maximise the opportunities that this designation will bring to our city, a new charitable organisation is being established to coordinate Manchester City of Literature. There will be an Executive Office, which will report to a Board of Trustees, working with a wider Partnership Network, to ensure the designation celebrates the diverse range of voices in Manchester and is truly owned by the city at large.

We are looking for a dynamic leader to join us at this exciting time to help shape this brand-new organisation. If you would relish this challenge, and share our ambitions to create an inclusive, sustainable organisation, we would be delighted to hear from you. We are looking to appoint a Director for a three-year period (with the possibility of extension) who will lead the organisation within the city, region, and internationally, working with a diverse set of stakeholders and partners. We want someone who can commit to ensuring that diversity and inclusion are at the heart of Manchester City of Literature, and that the organisation truly represents the rich diversity of Manchester’s voices.

You should have experience of delivering high quality cultural projects within a complex environment. You will have experience of developing partnerships with education providers, cultural partners and community groups, and excellent planning skills and confidence in dealing with a wide range of people.

Closing date for applications: Friday 14 June 2019 

Interview date: Monday 8 July 2019

Employment Start Date: Ideally 1 September 2019 

First Aid for Books!

Many of our books here at The Portico Library are very old and well loved, so are often not in the best condition. Luckily we have had Tim Higson, who has a wealth of experience in book conservation, volunteering here at The Portico. He has been taking care of some of our books that are in need of repair, such as The Republic of Letters by Alexander Whitelaw. As the pictures show, these books were in poor condition and needed several minor repairs, which were carried out by Tim.

The leather on the books was very fragile and peeling away.

The leather on the books was very fragile and peeling away.

This picture shows the damage to the spine of one of the books.

This picture shows the damage to the spine of one of the books.

First each book had a surface clean to remove any dirt and dust. Other work carried out included stabilising the leather on the books using a leather consolidant and doing some marbled paper repairs using wheat starch paste. Small weights were used to help weigh down the leather and marbled paper while the adhesive dried and one book even needed a bandage to help with its recovery!

Small weights on one of the repaired books.

Small weights on one of the repaired books.

A member of staff assisting Tim with his repairs

A member of staff assisting Tim with his repairs

The bandaged book.

The bandaged book.

The pictures below show the condition of the books after the repairs. As you can see they look much better and are now sitting on the shelf, waiting to be read!

The repaired books.

The repaired books.


'Breathing Spaces': St Luke's Art Project tour of The Portico Library

St Luke's Art Project is a community-based open studio for people experiencing any form of mental health problems and emotional distress - including just having a bad day! They recently came to visit us for a tour of the library and a look at some of our books. Rae Story from the group said that ‘Everybody appreciated the peace and quiet in this special place, and we felt very welcome and comfortable in the space. I think this will turn out to be a very unique breathing space for us all.’

Read more about their visit here:


Event: Alan Turing's Manchester Talk


The mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing is more widely known and admired today than he ever was during his lifetime. In February 2019 BBC viewers voted him the most important person of the 20th century; he was certainly a man who changed the world. Today, his iconography greets Mancunians in Sackville Park Gardens, across the University campus and on the way to the Manchester Velodrome. Even The Portico played a small part in his story.

Jonathan Swinton is the author of a new book called Alan Turing’s Manchester, which explores both Turing and the city he encountered when he lived here from 1948 to 1954. At this event, Jonathan will give a talk on the book and his wide-ranging research into this great scientist and his life in Manchester. You can purchase the book on the night, or at Jonathan’s blog 

Saturday Selection: World Health Day


Tomorrow is World Health Day, and the Portico’s shelves contain numerous writings by 19th-century physicians and biologists who attempted to advance our collective understanding of human wellbeing. Some of them, like the phrenology advocate Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776-1832), didn’t always get it right. This illustration from his ‘Phrenology’ (1825) is part of the 'Off The Shelf' exhibition, which runs at The Portico until 24th June.

Though Portico member Richard Cobden (1804-1865) was among many who still believed in the pseudo-science of Phrenology in the mid-19th century, it had been powerfully discredited by Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869) in 1838. Roget, who was the Portico’s first Secretary, is best known for publishing the first 'Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases' in in 1852.

Saturday Selection: International Children's Book Day

Tuesday April 2nd is International Children's Book Day, so we're commemorating some of the most beloved 19th-century children's books in our collection: from Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) and Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) to Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) and Hans Christian Anderson (1805-1875), whose birthday also falls on April 2nd.

Hodgson Burnett was born in Cheetham, Manchester. Her father owned a business selling ironmongery and brass on Deansgate, before the family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. In America, she wrote her three popular children's novels Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911).


Off the Shelf Exhibition

Whether you're pro-Europe or want to leave, the chaos in parliament this week has been a spectacle to behold! However, national dilemmas are nothing new...

Charles Mackay's 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds' begins with this preface:

"In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first."


You can see Mackay's influential publication in The Portico Library's upcoming exhibition 'Off the Shelf: Books & their borrowers in 1850' from next Friday 5 April to Monday 24 June 2019

Saturday Selection: World Meteorological Day


Today is World Meteorological Day, so we're celebrating the 19th century's most renowned meteorologist, physicist and chemist, John Dalton (1766-1844). Dalton was made the first honorary member of The Portico, on the condition he came to 'superintend the going of the clock'. His 'Meteorological Observations and Essays' was among the first 610 books added to the library's collection, and was present in the 1810 catalogue. Dalton is best known for introducing the atomic theory into chemistry, and for pioneering research into colour blindness. The Portico was known to be 'one of his favourite haunts'.

Saturday Selection: St Patrick's Day


With St. Patrick's Day just hours away, we're highlighting a selection of books from some of Ireland's most beloved writers; Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), James Joyce (1882-1941) and W.B. Yeats (1865-1939). The early decades of the Portico saw Manchester's Irish population expand exponentially. By 1841, one-tenth of the city's population was Irish, with many living in the "Little Ireland" district.

Many Irishmen found jobs in the armed forces, and a few became financially-successful pugilists. Most migrants found jobs in construction, such as the fabled 'navvies', who learnt their trade in the construction of Manchester's many canals, before moving into railway and road construction. Today, it has been estimated that around 35% of Manchester's population has some Irish ancestry.

Annual General Meeting 2019 documents

In preparation for The Portico Library and Newsroom’s Annual General Meeting on 28 March 2019, downloadable copies of the 2018 Annual Report & Accounts are available below, as well as proposed revisions to the Articles of Association and Rules & Regulations.

EVENT: Fancy Pants Fancy Party

Lindsey Mendick, Fancy Pants, The Portico Library, 2019.jpg

In 1836 newspapers across Britain reported a “Grand Fancy Ball” held at The Portico Library. Now all you fancy people are invited to create and wear your own wild and wonderful costumes to the closing party of the Portico’s current exhibition Fancy Pants. There will be a dance performance by House of Ghetto in exhibitor Ruby Kirby’s wearable artworks and a prize for the best dressed guest will be judged and presented by the artists.

The event will take place on Friday 22nd March from 7pm-9pm, first at The Portico Library and later downstairs at The Bank Pub.

Book your tickets here:

EVENT: A Crafternoon of Wearable Art with Ruby Kirby

Come and create exciting wearable art pieces using your pre-loved items. Artist Ruby Kirby will help you to re-invent them into new wild creations using a variety of other recycled odds and ends. The more bonkers the better! This event accompanies The Portico Library's current exhibition 'Fancy Pants', looking at dress and costume’s historic and contemporary relationships with ritual, play, morality and resistance.

Saturday 16th March, 12pm.

Book Online here:

Crafternoon with Ruby Kirby.jpg