Saturday Selection: the Oscars

Saturday Selection: With the Oscars just around the corner, we celebrate the heavyweight of 18th Century acting, David Garrick (1717-1779). One of the many buildings named in Garrick’s honour was The Garrick's Head pub, which stood for over 170 years on Manchester’s Fountain Street. The pub was originally situated next to the original Theatre Royal, which stood diagonally opposite the Portico Library, between Charlotte Street and Back Mosley Street. Construction began on the theatre in 1806, the year the Portico Library opened.


Politics, Power and the People

Join us for the final of our three events discussing Politics, Power and the People at The Portico Library. This event's theme will be ‘The High Priest of Liberalism’: John Stuart Mill and On Liberty.

Nineteenth century liberalism has enormous influence in our contemporary politics. Our discourse reflects the ideas summed up in Mill’s little book, On Liberty (1859): freedom of thought and speech (and its limits); individual rights; the role of the state in society; applying rational thought to social problems; and democracy and its limits. But is J.S. Mill’s liberalism relevant in today?

The format is a 1 hour lecture followed by tea, cake and casual discussion.

All of these events have been delivered in partnership between History Inc. and The Portico Library. For more information and to book tickets visit:…

Fancy Pants

Thanks to everyone who came to the launch of 'Fancy Pants' on Thursday evening! The exhibition will now run throughout normal opening hours until Monday 25th March, with A Crafternoon of Wearable Art with Ruby Kirby on Saturday 16th March and our 'Fancy Pants Fancy Party' on Friday 22nd March:

Special thanks to Cut Cloth's Sarah-Joy Ford, Sarah from Impolitikal, Juliet at Marc Theprinters, Rosie and Sarah at Manchester Art Gallery, Darren at Manchester Libraries and our Portico Library volunteers.

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Fancy Pants exhibition launch

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In 1836, the enormously popular Manchester Music Festival came to a close with a fancy dress ball so grand a temporary structure was built to connect The Portico Library with the nearby Assembly Rooms and Theatre Royal. Though tickets to the celebration were expensive, the event attracted around 5,000 attendees and was reported in newspapers across the country.
In this exhibition, books from the Library’s collection are presented alongside new artworks that examine how dress and costume’s relationships with gender, class, power and identity have always been complicated. Artists Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Ruby Kirby, Lindsey Mendick and Camille Smithwick offer expressive works that explore how dress and costume connect with celebration, ritual and morality. These works are complemented by volumes from the collection including Joseph Strutt’s Complete View of the Dress and Habits of the People of England and Lucy Aikin’s Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth.

Politics, Power and the People

Continuing our Politics, Power and the People series, we invite you to our lecture and discussion on 'The Monster of Malmesbury': Thomas Hobbes and Leviathan.

Thomas Hobbes, a timid man, sought peace and order in the tumultuous seventeenth century. Strong government was his answer: to ‘hold every man in awe of it’. Otherwise violence, chaos predominates ‘… and the life of Man would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’. The author of Leviathan (1651) was vilified in his own time and neglected in ours. Why?

The format is a 1 hour lecture followed by tea, cake and casual discussion.

For more information on our Politics, Power and the People series, and to buy tickets, please visit:…

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Adventures in Archiving - Call for Papers

Proposals are invited for our one-day symposium ‘Adventures in Archiving’, sponsored by the Independent Libraries Association and Heritage Lottery Fund, to be held 16th January 2019 at The Portico Library.

The deadline for proposals is the 10th December 2018. A full brief, with details on how to submit papers, can be found here.

We are eager to hear from anyone working in the information sector, especially those from smaller independent institutions, about the new challenges they are facing in both audience engagement and the archiving process. Therefore, we are welcoming submissions for 20-minute papers, and 10 minutes of questions, which can take the format of a presentation, panel session, workshop, demonstration, tutorial, or even a poster session. The general themes we are looking to discuss, but are not necessarily limited to, include:

·         Digitisation

·         Acquisitions

·         Collections care

·         Categorisation

Key Note: Naomi Korn (specialist in GDPR and archives)

Registration: £20 (includes lunch and refreshments) Book now

The Portico's winter Quarterly is here!

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In keeping with tradition, the heating was ceremonially turned on this week in the Library, signalling the end of the summer months. It also marks the release of our winter Quarterly, which lists our upcoming events and exhibitions, keeps you up-to-date with library news and contains a fascinating article by honorary member Bryan Haworth. You can also read about our exciting partnership with Spirit of 2012, a charity organisation set up to recreate the spirit of pride and positivity that defined the London 2012 Olympics, who have put together a wonderful programme of public events. The gallery will also host their exhibition that celebrates the role of young women activists in the fight for the vote.

Download the Quarterly here for more details.

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.