The Society of Readers and Writers

For the first time, The Portico Library is introducing The Society of Readers and Writers, an appointed group of fifteen book lovers and literary enthusiasts who will collectively draw up a longlist for the Portico Prize 2019. Submissions to The Portico Prize will be divided between the Society, which includes publishers, bloggers, authors, editors, performance poets, librarians, book-sellers and critics. All members will receive honourary membership to The Portico Library between July 2019 and December 2020.


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Rachael Allen’s first collection of poems, Kingdomland, is published by Faber & Faber. She has received a Northern Writers Award and an Eric Gregory award. She is the poetry editor for Granta magazine and Granta books.



Kamal Kaan was listed in Prolific North’s Top Scriptwriters of 2017. He has worked on several projects for BBC Radio, include the highly successful Breaking Up With Bradford (BBC Radio 4) and recently worked contributing storyliner for a new BBC drama The Secret Lives of The Amir Sisters, based on the novel by Nadiya Hussain.

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Qaisra Shahraz is the Founder, Curator and Executive Director of MACFEST, Muslim Arts and Culture Festival. She is a prize-winning and critically acclaimed novelist, scriptwriter, peace and gender activist. Qaisra was born in Pakistan and has lived in Manchester since childhood. She holds two Masters Degrees in English & European literature and script writing for television.



David Coates is passionate about books and has worked as a bookseller at Blackwell's Bookshop in Manchester for the last 20 years. Having been employed in a variety of roles he is currently the Sales and Events Manager, organising in-store events and external projects such as their annual pop-up bookshop at Jodrell Bank's Bluedot Festival, as well as running the social media accounts (@BlackwellsMcr)



Arthur Bostrom graduated from the University of Durham in 1977 and then trained for the theatre at the Drama Studio London. Best known for playing Crabtree in ‘Allo ‘Allo! (BBC 1985-93), other TV credits include Richie Queenan in Father Brown (BBC), Doctors (BBC), Miss Marple (BBC) and The Return To Treasure Island (ITV). Arthur also presented Word Of Mouth for Radio 4



Mo Ray is a Manchester based writer and former corrosion engineer. She has reviewed theatre performances at HOME, Oldham Coliseum Theatre and the Royal Exchange, where she currently works in the Marketing & Communications department. Since 2012 she has run Within My Locket, a blog about storytelling across film, theatre and literature.



Simon Nichol came to Manchester in the 1960s as a student and, apart from a few years teaching English in West Africa, never quite managed to leave. He worked in Manchester as a criminal lawyer and recently gave up work to concentrate on reading, music, food and hill-walking. He is a member of The Portico Library.



Hayley Flynn is a writer, researcher and tour guide based in Manchester. She runs Skyliner, a multi award-winning online magazine focusing on the unusual or lesser-seen parts of cities. She has written for The Guardian and creatively for Caught By the River, and was the UK’s first and only City Curator for The National Trust. In 2019 she graduated with a Masters in Place Writing from Man Met.



Elmi Ali is a writer, director and facilitator based in the North West. He writes poetry and short fiction for the stage. His work has been received in venues across the country from the Power House Library in Mosside to The British Library in London. His writing is published in Scarf Magazine – of which he is an associate editor – Sable 15 and Critical Muslim 13 respectively.



Emma Marigliano was the Librarian of The Portico Library for more than twenty years, during which time access to its historic collection came to be the focus of her job. As Chairwoman of the Independent Libraries Association, co-founded by The Portico, she continues to passionately champion the importance of libraries, books and reading in everyday life.



Stella Halkyard is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Manchester Library, a Trustee of the Anthony Burgess Foundation, a volunteer storyteller for the under 5s at Fallowfield Library and an inveterate and adventurous reader. She has worked in libraries across Manchester since 1987 including: the Portico, Chethams, Manchester Public Libraries and most recently was Head of Collections at the John Rylands Library.



Emily Graham studied English Language, Sociology and Media Studies for her A levels at Runshaw College. She is an avid writer and has been published in The Time Travellers and the Crystal Dome published by Seven Arches publishing. Her short story set in Bolton won The Writing Competition at the annual Sadie Massey Awards, a literature prize for young writers hosted by The Portico Library.

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Louisa Yates is a writer and academic who works as both Director of Collections and Research at Gladstone’s Library and as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Chester. She writes and teaches on women’s writing, neo-Victorian literature and Victorian material culture, and is the Festival Director of Gladfest, hailed in the Huffington Post as a ‘great small literary festival’.



Robert Nieri is a solicitor and partner in the Charities and Social Enterprise Team at Brabners LLP, a leading independent law firm based in the North West. Manchester-born and bred, Robert's love of the written word recently led to a foray into the world of fiction with a debut novel, "The Lord of Milan", which led to the making of an award-winning documentary film of the same name.



Lucy Burns is an editorial assistant at Manchester University Press and the co-organiser of a poetry and experimental writing reading series called Murmur. Her essays on contemporary poetry have appeared in HotelPN Review, and The Manchester Review. Lucy received her PhD from the University of Manchester in 2019, specialising in the history of creative writing at Black Mountain College.