The Portico Library wins National Lottery support


Press information for immediate release

The Portico Library and Newsroom has received a National Lottery grant of £87,000 via the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Resilient Heritage programme, for an important heritage project aimed at helping it take another step towards becoming a cultural beacon in the centre of Manchester.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project focuses on helping The Portico Library to create a resilient infrastructure in the short term, in order to realise its ambitious ideas for the future.

Despite being a 212-year-old organisation, the charity that administers the Library is less than a year old. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will enable the Library to spend time working with professional legal advisers to develop a governance structure that it is fit for now and well into the future.

Our building has seen many changes over the last two centuries. Architectural advice will help the Library make plans for repairs and refurbishment to the fabric of the Grade 2* listed Georgian structure, while also looking to the future about what options might yet be explored.

Financial and business planning advisors will investigate potential income streams for the Library and an access consultant will create a plan to make the building accessible and welcoming to all.

These individual pieces of work will result in a ten-year strategic plan for the Library, meaning it can move forward with confidence and a renewed sense of purpose.

Commenting on the award, Lynne Allan Chair of the Portico Library said: “We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident the project will help us to create a Library that looks to the future with drive and determination. We look forward to sharing the detailed results of this process, and our plans, with everyone in 2019.”

The Library will be open as usual throughout the project, which is expected to be completed in Spring 2019. A further press release will be issued then, with details of what the project has achieved – and some ideas about what the future might hold.


Notes to editors

About The Portico Library and Newsroom

The Portico Library opened in 1806 on Moseley Street in central Manchester and is still housed in its original home today. In addition to caring for and making available the largely early 19th-century collection to members and visitors, the Library organises public events and exhibitions throughout the year and is open to all six days a week. The Library is home to the prestigious Portico Literature Prizes for fiction and non-fiction.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported.


Further information

For further information, images and interviews please contact Dr Thom Keep, Librarian at The Portico Library on 0161 236 6785 or

Beautiful Monsters: Frankenstein

The Portico Library’s collection holds too many items to display in a lifetime, so our 'Beautiful Monsters' exhibition has spilled over into our fellow Independent Libraries Association venue, Jane Austen's Chawton House. For their current show ‘The Art of Freezing the Blood: Northanger Abbey,Frankenstein & the Female Gothic’ they have borrowed The Portico Library’s early illustrated copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It features the first ever illustration of Frankenstein and his creation in this frontispiece by Theodore Von Holst.

Depictions of Frankenstein’s monster have served satirists and propaganda artists ever since, and another of The Portico’s volumes, collected editions of Punch magazine, contains several examples including this ‘Russian Frankenstein’ from 1854.

Our current exhibitors continue the tradition of social and political commentary in Beautiful Monsters, Anya Charikov-Mickleburgh, Laura Dekker, Donal Moloney, Ed Saye, Evgenyi Strelkov & Dina Varpahovsky (pictured).

Catalogue project

Our archiving project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and The National Lottery, 'Sharing The Portico Library's Hidden Heritage', is now well under way!

You can keep up-to-date with the newly catalogued material as part of the project by following the link on our online catalogue homepage, which can be found here:…/Hapi.dll/search1

Pictured is our archivist Callum inspecting a deed of conveyance from 1849, which details 19 newly appointed trustees, and features the signature of one Rev. William Gaskell among others.

Heritage Lottery Fund

We are delighted to announce that Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded The Portico Library a grant to fund our archive project 'Sharing The Portico Library's Hidden Heritage'. Make sure you like the page to see what we discover as we explore and catalogue our archive.

The archive project will culminate in a programme of events at the end of this year, including a gallery exhibition showcasing many of the treasures and stories uncovered.

Expect to see material from our original minute books, early exhibitions posters, architectural plans, ordnance survey maps of Manchester, United Kingdom, and the personal archives of eminent local figures such as Joseph Sunlight, Tinsley Pratt, and Ernest Marriott.

Once again, we would like to take this opportunity to thank Heritage Lottery Fund and The National Lottery for giving us the chance to share our heritage with you all.

Visible speech

In 1867 Alexander Melville Bell (father of Alexander Graham Bell) published 'Visible Speech' - a complex system of phonetic symbols developed to represent the position of the speech organs in articulating sounds. It was intended for the use of Deaf people everywhere to “improve” their vocal articulation, and formed part of a widespread campaign in the discouragement of British Sign Language and other non-verbal forms of communication.

Both Jez Dolan and Rowland Hill have referenced this book in their new artworks, and will discuss it at In So Many Words: artists' talks this Saturday from 3pm. Then, on Tuesday 8th May, both artists will present new performance works to accompany their exhibition.

Jez Dolan has worked with composer Michael Betteridge to create a graphic score from his drawings and research and duet for clarinets.

Rowland Hill and members of Manchester Deaf Centre will present a collaborative performance using British Sign Language, imagery and voice in response to Visible Speech - undermining Bell’s ideology by introducing non-verbal communication back into the very system that sought to eradicate it. The piece is a provocation which seeks to raise questions around language, power and freedom of expression - then, and now.

Guitarist Eric Chenaux gives a concert at The Portico with Grey Lantern music promoter.

Eric Chenaux's remarkable new album came out in full on Friday. Listen to a live recording of a discussion he had in The Portico's Reading Room before the show on BBC Radio Merseyside's Roger Hill (36.10). Eric was particularly taken with the movement and precision of the library's acoustics, which influenced the approach he takes when "playing the room". They also consider an 18th century book from the library collection called An Enquiry into the Principle Phenomena of Sounds and Musical Strings by Matthew Young.

Bittersweet: Legacies of Slavery & Abolition in Manchester

Aphra Behn (1640-1689), was an author, playwright, translator and spy whose 1688 work 'Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave' tells the story of an African prince forced into slavery in the Caribbean and his subsequent rebellion. Considered one of the first English novelists, Behn influenced many who followed her to rewrite and republish this tale (including The Portico Library's first Chairman John Ferriar), and was celebrated by Virginia Woolf as a trailblazer for modern feminism. To accompany 'Bittersweet: Legacies of Slavery & Abolition in Manchester', the library has purchased a 1953 edition of 'The Royal Slave' illustrated by Iris Francis and published by The Folio Society, which will be added to the permanent collection to sit alongside its own 1793 copy, adapted for the stage by Thomas Southerne.

Turner Prize nominee Lubaina Himid MBE will feature in Bittersweet: Legacies of Slavery & Abolition in Manchester at The Portico Library

We are delighted to announce that the work of Turner Prize nominee Lubaina Himid MBE will feature in Bittersweet: Legacies of Slavery & Abolition in Manchester at The Portico Library from 6pm next Thursday, 14th September.

Kindly loaned by UCLan IBAR - Institute For Black Atlantic Research, this rare 1846 edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass has been repaired and rebound with Himid's 2015 memorial to the celebrated anti-slavery campaigner, 'Douglass Lapels'. Born in Zanzibar in 1954, Lubaina Himid is an artist and Professor of Contemporary Art whose influential works incorporate painting, textiles and installation to explore the histories and identities of the African diaspora.

Thanks to Alan Rice and Theresa Saxon at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) for making possible this generous loan, which will be shown alongside items from The Portico Library and Manchester Art Gallerycollections, new researches by historian Natalie Zacek and original artworks by Keith Piper and Mary Evans. Join us for the exhibition's free preview evening next Thursday or during its run to 14th October 2017.

Frederick Douglass's Autobiography

Frederick Douglass's autobiography, recounting his childhood and youth in slavery and the dramatic circumstances of his escape, was an instant bestseller upon its American publication in 1845. One year later, Joseph Barker published a UK edition in Leeds, to similar success. Our exhibition includes a copy of the Barker edition, with an illustration by Turner Prize nominee Lubaina Himid. Come along and see it at The Portico Library until the 14th of October, and learn more at our upcoming talks and performances for 'Bittersweet: Legacies of Slavery & Abolition in Manchester' -

Jane Austen anniversary event: Sleep & Sleeplessness in Austen

What is Fanny Price’s bed-time? Why can’t Catherine Moreland sleep? Why can’t Lady Bertram stay awake? And what general significance does Jane Austen attach to the sleeping habits and nocturnal adventures of her heroes and heroines? Covering a wide range of examples from Northanger Abbey to Persuasion, Dr Michael Greaney uncovers a subtle but persistent preoccupation with sleep and sleeplessness in Austen’s literary career, and will suggest that human slumber represents an unpredictable force operating at the edge of her tightly regulated social worlds.
Dr Michael Greaney is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

Cut Cloth Contemporary Textiles and Feminism Exhibition Launch

Good luck to all our student volunteers and their colleagues exhibiting this Friday at Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2017. Combine your visit with a trip to Cut Cloth Contemporary Textiles and Feminism Exhibition Launch at The Portico Library, the same evening from 6pm.

Cut Cloth examines the shifting relationship between feminism and textiles in the 21st century and their histories in Manchester and beyond. Thanks to People's History MuseumPankhurst Centre and BBC Radio 3's Edwina Wolstencroft for loaning us items from their collections to complement the new artworks, including Hazel Reeves' original maquette for Womanchester's forthcoming Emmeline Pankhurst statue, and African wax fabric samples from ABC textiles.