Colourful background of blue, pink and purple. Inside a yellow outline of a map of Manchester is a fist clutching a pen and the text 'Hard Pressed Mapping Manchester's Small Radical Presses'.

Manchester has a rich literary heritage, but much of it is hidden and in this digital era it risks being lost forever. The independent scene used shoestring budgets to take huge publishing risks but it paid off with the bravery and brilliance it showcased. This fringe literary scene helped sustain a lively community of writers giving a platform to opinions sidelined by the mainstream. These presses and writers deserve a place in the city’s history.

Commonword Cultureword has been awarded a grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to deliver Hard Pressed: Mapping Manchester’s Small Radical Presses. This two-year project will recover and celebrate the hidden heritage of Manchester’s independent fiction publishers and the live poetry scene that grew from them.  It builds on Commonword Cultureword’s previous archive project which explored the origins of the organisation and its vital role in regional literature development.

With the help of community researchers and volunteers, we will uncover the stories of the people behind the presses. We will share these through podcasts, live events, workshops and creative activities, an archive website and interactive map and a new anthology of contemporary responses to original archive material.

Did you run a small publication between 1970 to 2010 for voices ignored by the mainstream at the time (e.g. working class and poor, northern, Black, Asian / global majority, disabled, LGBT+, neurodivergent)? Did a small press publish your work? Are you interested in volunteering for this project? We want to hear from you. Contact

Hard Pressed is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund thanks to National Lottery players.


A white square background with a teal circle inside with the text 'Made possible with Heritage Fund' and the National Lottery logo of a hand with index and middle finger crossed