Hannah Kate

poet, short story writer and editor based in Manchester

October 26, 2019

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 29 October, 12-2pm

Join me on Tuesday at 12 for another Helping of History on North Manchester FM. This week, I’m posing you a little quiz question: How many listed buildings are there in Heaton Park? (Bonus points if you can name them all!)

Most people in North Manchester probably know that Heaton Hall is a Grade I-listed building (and regular Helping of History listeners should definitely know that!). But Heaton Hall is far from the only listed building in the park – a number (but not all) of the others previously featured as answers to the show’s Who Am I? quiz. So… do you know how many there? Find out if you’ve got it right on this week’s Helping of History, as I run through the list of Listed Buildings of Heaton Park!

In addition to this little wander through the park, I’ll also be taking my usual look through Yesterday’s Papers.

Catch the show on Tuesday at 12 on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

October 24, 2019

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 26 October, 2-4pm

Join me on Saturday at 2pm on North Manchester FM for the (slightly early this year) Hannah’s Bookshelf Halloween Special!

With a great selection of entries for this year’s 3 Minute Scares competition, I’ll have plenty of spooky stories for you on this week’s show. I’ll be playing the Top 5 tales from this year’s entries, before revealing the winner of the competition – Greater Manchester’s Spookiest Wordsmith! Big thanks to this year’s judges – Emily Oldfield of HAUNT Manchester and novelist Andy Remic – who had the unenviable task of deciding this year’s winner.

And big thanks to Breakout Manchester for once again supplying a fantastic prize for the 3 Minute Scares competition as well. The author of the winning entry will be locked in a room with just one hour to escape! Woohoo!

As always, I’ll also have a couple of seasonal stories of my own to tell you, plenty of Halloween-themed music, and I may well be doing the show in fancy dress!

Catch the show on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Update: Ever the adherent to tradition, I once again presented the Hannah’s Bookshelf Halloween Special in fancy dress…

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

October 22, 2019

Ten Tales: Ghost Stories for North Manchester

A new show for North Manchester FM!

I am very pleased to announce my brand new show on North Manchester FMTen Tales: Ghost Stories for North Manchester. Every Wednesday at 10pm, I will be sharing a new and original piece of fiction, written by yours truly exclusively for North Manchester FM.

The nights are drawing in now, and there’s a bit of a chill in the air. Perfect weather for old-school ghost stories on the wireless. Ten Tales very much belongs to the classic tradition of spooky stories for the season… but with a uniquely North Manchester flavour. From Crosslee to Crumpsall, Hollinwood to Harpurhey, these stories draw on settings and history from around the local area.

Essentially… imagine if M.R. James had visited Dam Head instead of the British Library…

Ten Tales: Ghost Stories for North Manchester begins on Wednesday 23rd October at 10pm. The first story is entitled The Threat of Blossom. It’s set on the Crosslee estate in Blackley, where the cherry trees have blossomed early…

Episode List

The Threat of Blossom (Wed 23rd Oct)
Turkey Red (Wed 30th Oct)
Help the Poor Struggler (Wed 6th Nov)
The Singular Disappearance of the Old Man from Jumbo (Wed 13th Nov)
Corporation Pop (Wed 20th Nov)
The Occultation of Saturn (Wed 27th Nov)
The Lost Map of Doctor John Dee (Wed 4th Dec)
Tinker’s Gardens (Wed 11th Dec)
At Booth Cottage (Wed 18th Dec)
Christmas in Gotherswick (Wed 25th Dec)

You can listen to Ten Tales: Ghost Stories for North Manchester every Wednesday at 10pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or online (if you’re further afield). Episodes will also be available on the station’s ‘Listen Again’ service for a limited time after broadcast.

Draw the curtains, make some cocoa, try to ignore that rapping, tapping at your chamber door, and tune in the wireless for a brand new story every Wednesday night… only on North Manchester FM 106.6.

October 21, 2019

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 22 October, 12-2pm

Join me on Tuesday at 12 for another Helping of History on North Manchester FM. This week, I’m catching up on the story I was talking about last week, when I was unexpectedly interrupted by a fire alarm!

Listeners of last week’s Helping of History will remember that the second hour of the show was cut a little short when the fire alarm went off in the studio! I was about to talk about Mrs Margaret Taylor of Strangeways, and the boarding school she set up at the hall. Well, I thought Mrs Taylor deserved a little bit more attention, so I’ll be returning to her story on this week’s show. Fingers crossed there are no alarms this week!

In addition to this, I’ll be sharing some more info about the local history behind my new show on North Manchester FM – Ten Tales: Ghost Stories for North Manchester. And, of course, I’ll be taking my usual look through Yesterday’s Papers.

Catch the show on Tuesday at 12 on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

October 20, 2019

Double Trouble!: Some of my Favourite Literary Twins

On Saturday’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM, I decided to take a little look at some literary twosomes. Inspired by a book I’ve recently read, the theme of this week’s show was twins. I had to give a bit of thought to this, of course, because I didn’t want to accidentally include any books where the existence of the twins is a twist or a reveal – I don’t do spoilers on Hannah’s Bookshelf! Instead, I concentrated on books where the presence of twins – and the relationship between them – is a focus of the story.

You can listen to the show again on the player below. But, as promised, here’s the list of books I featured on my Double Trouble Special. Did I miss off your favourite? Do you disagree with any of my choices? Let me know in the comments!

The Image of You by Adele Parks (2017)

My Double Trouble show was inspired by a book I read recently, which I discussed on today’s show. I wouldn’t say it was really a ‘favourite’, but given it sparked off the whole idea for today’s theme, I thought it deserved to be included on the reading list!

Parks’s novel introduces us to a set of identical twin sisters – Anna and Zoe – who couldn’t be more different. Zoe is unrestrained, wild (and possibly dangerous), while Anna is demure, romance (and possibly wildly naïve). Despite having been badly hurt in the past, Anna is desperate to find true love and has set up an online dating profile. When she meets and falls for Nick, Zoe is convinced that this Mr Right isn’t quite as perfect as Anna thinks he is. In fact, Zoe is convinced that Nick is lying to her sister and determines to put him to the test. What transpires is a domestic noir thriller – a genre I don’t always love wholeheartedly – with a bit of a twist to it. Unfortunately, I did see the twist coming quite some way away, which made the rest of the story a little obvious (and it does have rather a twee ending). However, The Image of You is an entertaining enough read, and is definitely a recommendation for fans of the genre. And for the purposes of this show, it certainly did a good job in encouraging me to think about other pairs of twins in literature…

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (1950)

The next book is one my favourites – one of my favourite books in general, but also one of my favourite twin storylines. My first encounter with Christie’s story was when I was a kid, and I watched the BBC adaptation (starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple). I loved the story, and I was absolutely fascinated by the twins.

The murder that is ‘announced’ in the book takes place at the home of Letitia Blacklock in Chipping Cleghorn. An advert appears in the local paper, informing readers that a murder will be taking place at Miss Blacklock’s home – and everyone’s invited. Of course, Miss Blacklock’s friends and neighbours think it’s all a big game… they think again once the shooting starts! So, who might have wanted to see Miss Blacklock dead? She has very little money as it stands, though she is due to inherit a substantial fortune. Her former employer, financier Randall Goedler, left his fortune in trust, to come to Letitia on the death of his wife Belle. However, if Letitia dies first, the money will pass on Belle’s death to Goedler’s estranged sister, Sonia or to Sonia’s children – the twins Pip and Emma.

The reason why this storyline intrigued me so much as a child – and why it continues to be one of my favourite Miss Marple stories – is that no one in Chipping Cleghorn (including Miss Blacklock) has ever laid ideas on Sonia, Pip or Emma (that they know of), and so it’s quite possible one or more of them could be masquerading as one of the ‘harmless’ inhabitants of the village. There are certainly plenty of people the right age, but are any of them Sonia Goedler? And could any of them be one of the mysterious twins? The reveal is, of course, absolutely brilliant.

There is a lot more about A Murder is Announced that I love – Hinchcliffe and Murgatroyd are wonderful characters, and Miss Blacklock’s cook Mitzi is also a favourite (perhaps because she was renamed ‘Hannah’ in the adaptation?). But, for today, the characters that have earned it a place on the list are the enigmatic Pip and Emma.

Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kästner (1949)

Erich Kästner’s 1949 children’s book – German title: Das doppelte Lottchen – is perhaps not instantly familiar to modern readers, but I can guarantee you know the story. You’re bound to have seen at least one of the adaptations at some point!

Lottie and Lisa tells the story of the eponymous girls who meet one summer at camp. They’ve never met before, but are amazed to discover that they’re completely identical. And that’s when they discover an incredible secret that their parents have been hiding from them. Lottie and Lisa are twins. When their parents divorced, they took the unorthodox (and, let’s be honest here, really cruel) step of separating the girls – Lottie was raised by their mother, and Lisa by their father – and not telling them about the other’s existence. When the girls finally meet and put everything together, they decide to hatch a plan to swap places. Initially, this is done simply so they can each get to know their other parent – but eventually, of course, it develops into a scheme to reunite the estranged adults.

Kästner’s book is probably best known now from its adaptations. The two Disney films – with Hayley Mills (in 1961) and Lindsey Lohan (in 1998) – are well-known to Anglophone audiences, but the book has been adapted numerous times for both film and television, including Lithuanian, Hindi, Swedish, Polish, Korean and, of course, German versions. Interestingly, Kästner originally intended his story to be a film treatment, but due to his pacifism and opposition to Nazism, he was prevented from working as a screenwriter during the Nazi years (his books were also burned). Well… Lottie and Lisa has certainly made its way to the big screen now!

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)

The next book moves us into somewhat more Gothic territory. Setterfield’s novel promises (or, at least, one of its main characters promises) a haunting tale of twins and family secrets. I’m surprised I haven’t included this one on any of my other themed shows, as it includes lots of the things I enjoy talking about!

The Thirteenth Tale is the story of Margaret Lea and Vida Winter. Margaret is bookish and awkward woman, who once dabbled in amateur biography writing (but who has no ambitions to pursue this further). Vida is a famous novelist, notorious for the fierce secrecy with which she guards her past. Vida has been interviewed numerous times over the year, but the biographical details she’s given to journalists have been vague or inconsistent. Now, she’s ready to share the full story (or is she?), and to Margaret’s surprise Vida’s decided she’s the woman for the job. Margaret’s not sure she wants the task, but Vida attempt to lure her in with the promise of a ghost story involving twin sisters. But it’s not this that this tantalizing thread that appeals to Margaret. Rather, the would-be biographer is most curious about the novelist’s collection of short stories: Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, which was published with only twelve stories included. What happened to the thirteenth tale? and what secrets did it reveal.

Despite the fact that I found the character of Margaret rather annoying, I did really enjoy The Thirteenth Tale – which is indeed a ghost story involving twin sisters (though there’s much more to it than that). It’s a Gothic suspense story in the classic tradition, and Vida Winter emerges as an engaging and compelling character.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will by William Shakespeare (c.1601)

From twin sisters to a brother/sister pair now… Twelfth Night isn’t my favourite Shakespeare play, but I don’t think I’d get away with leaving it off a list of literary twins!

Our heroine in Viola, who is shipwrecked with her twin brother Sebastian on the coast of Illyria. Believing her brother to be dead, Viola disguises herself as a boy (of course she does! it’s a Shakespeare comedy!) and enters into the service of Duke Orsino under the name Cesario. And, naturally, she quickly falls in love with the duke. He’s not interested, though, because (a) he thinks Cesario’s a boy, and (b) he’s in love with a woman called Olivia. Olivia’s in mourning for her brother and father, and has sworn to reject all suitors for a period of seven years. However, despite her vow, Olivia’s head is turned by the charming Cesario… making for quite the tricky love triangle.

I think one of the reasons I’ve never been completely enamoured with Twelfth Night is its comedic subplot – involving the men of Olivia’s household attempted to persuade her steward Malvolio that she’s in love with him. I’ve always found it a bit cruel and hard-edged – more so than the subplots in other Shakespearean comedies. Perhaps that’s just me, though.

As you can imagine, Shakespeare finds a way to wrap things up with happy endings all round (except for poor old Malvolio). Viola’s twin might not have really died in the wreck, and would you believe it? the pair of them are pretty much identical! Twelfth Night ends with a characteristic setting the world to rights (although, as has been noted, Orsino ends up proposing to Cesario, as Viola doesn’t drop her boy-costume as quickly as some of her counterparts in other comedies). Good thing there were two identical siblings, as both Orsino and Olivia are able to find the partner they want.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (2013)

The final book on today’s list is Fangirl, a YA coming-of-age novel about a somewhat socially awkward young woman, who happens to be one of a pair of twins.

Cath is a freshman at college, as is her more outgoing twin sister Wren. Wren spends a lot of her time partying, but Cath is struggling to find her place. We join the twins at the point at which they’re starting to grow apart. As we learn, when they were in high school they had more shared interests – or, rather, one particular shared interest: Simon Snow fandom. (Simon Snow is a fictional boy-wizard, created by Rowell – all similarities to an actual book/film series are surely coincidental.) When Cath and Wren were younger, they obsessed equally over Simon Snow – queuing up for the latest book, cosplaying for film premieres, the full works – but now that they’re at college, Wren seems to be leaving it all behind. Cath doesn’t want to let go of Simon Snow, though, as continues writing fan fiction (for which she is becoming quite well-known).

Fangirl is a fun read. I must admit, I wasn’t completely convinced by how much Cath is able to win creative writing lecturers and authors over with her fan fiction, but I did enjoy the way the family relationships develop over the course of the novel. There’s a bit of an edge to some of the seemingly flippant characterization. Cath’s eccentric father, for instance, has more issues than it initially seems. And Wren’s partying may not be the benign, contrasting-twin behaviour we first think. Ultimately, though, this is a story about Cath, and about her development as an individual, and as a young adult.

Rowell’s novel is about a young woman learning who she is outside of her sibling relationship – for this reason, it seemed like a good place to end today’s list of literary twins!

To hear more about all of these books, and my reasons for choosing them, you can catch the show again here:

October 18, 2019

Clayton Hall: The Feather in the Hall

On 14th September, I was at Clayton Hall as writer-in-residence for one of the annual Heritage Open Days. I was writing flash fiction about the hall, based on one-word prompts given by visitors. I asked everyone who popped in for a visit that day to add a word to the board (an adjective, an object or a person), and then I wrote a few short pieces inspired by these words.

Here’s the first one – the prompt word was ‘feather’.

The Feather in the Hall
by Hannah Kate

The girl stood by the fireplace in the wood-panelled room. In the grate, an electric heater cast orange lights, and a flutter-scrap of cloth danced in imitation of flames. To her right, a man in a Tudor ruff and cap sat at a wooden table, sharpening the end of a feather quill.

“Is this room haunted?” the girl asked.

The man in the ruff looked up from his feather. “I’ve never seen a ghost here. And I’ve never felt anything bad in this room, either.”

The girl crossed the floor in front of the fireplace and ran her fingers over the broom propped against the wall. “What’s this for?”

“It’s to give you a feel of what it would have been like to live here. In the old days.”


The man in the Tudor costume stood up. “Have you been in the children’s bedroom yet? You can get dressed up in old clothes in there.”

“I’ve been.” The girl walked slowly across the room, letting her hand rest on an open book lying on an old bible box.

The man watched her for a moment, but when she didn’t say anything else he sat back down and busied himself with his feather again. He laid the scalpel against the stem and pushed lightly to shave another layer off the point. It was probably already too sharp, to be honest, but it was something to do to pass the time while the majority of visitors were in the history talk next door. Including, he presumed, the girls’ parents.

He laid down his scalpel and smoothed the point of the quill between his fingers.

“What are you doing?” the girl asked, suddenly turning around from the bible box and looking at the man with curiosity.

“I’m making a pen out of this feather.”

“A pen?”

“Yes. This is how they used to make pens, in the olden days. They’d sharpen one end of a feather quill, and then…”

But when he looked up from the feather he was holding, the little girl was gone. He hadn’t heard any footsteps on the wooden floor—or any creaking floorboards—so she must’ve moved very quietly. And he couldn’t help but frown at her lack of manners.

The man in the Tudor costume sat back down at the wooden table and picked up another feather. The history talk in the next room would be finished in a few minutes, and then the group of visitors would be through to look at this room. He tucked his scalpel away for safety and twirled the feather between his fingers.

“Is this room haunted?”

He looked up from the feather in his hands. But there was no one else in the room with him.

October 15, 2019

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 15 October, 12-2pm

Join me on Tuesday at 12 for another Helping of History on North Manchester FM. This week, I’m taking a trip to Strangeways.

Inspired by a conversation at the Cheetham and Crumpsall Heritage Society recently, I felt like taking a closer look at the history of Strangeways. This area of North Manchester – often discussed as a sub-district of Cheetham – fascinates me, but it’s not somewhere I know a lot about. I decided to delve in and find out more. And I’m going to share my favourite story about the area on Tuesday’s show!

So far, the story that has most interested me is that of Mrs Margaret Taylor, a woman whose family leased Strangeways Hall in the late eighteenth century. Mrs Taylor operated a boarding school for genteel young ladies at the hall, but she also wrote a book outlining what she believed were the important aspects of education for charges such as hers: An easy introduction to general Knowledge and liberal education; by Mrs Taylor: for the use of the young ladies, at Strangeways Hall, Manchester. I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about Mrs Taylor (with the help of some ‘easy introductions’ from some excellent books and websites) on the show!

In addition to this, I’ll also be taking my usual look through Yesterday’s Papers. And I’ll have a special announcement about a new show on North Manchester FM as well!

Catch the show on Tuesday at 12 on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

October 8, 2019

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 12 October, 2-4pm

Catch Hannah’s Bookshelf on Saturday at 2pm on North Manchester FM. When my guest will be the fab Denise Beddows (aka D.J. Kelly).

Retired Chief Immigration Officer Denise has a background in research, investigation and intelligence analysis. Writing both as Denise Beddows and as D.J. Kelly, she publishes books on local history, biographical fiction and true crime. Born and raised in Manchester, she has worked in numerous overseas locations but nowadays lives in Buckinghamshire.

Denise is the author of The Cheetham Hill Murder – A Convenient Killing?, Odd Man Out – A Motiveless Murder?, and Homes for Heroes – Life in a 1940s Prefab (ghost-written with Joan Brant). As D.J. Kelly, she’s written Bulstrode: Splendour and Scandals of a Buckinghamshire Mansion, Buckinghamshire Spies & Subversives, The Famous and Infamous of The Chalfonts and Gerrards Cross, Chalfont St Peter and Gerrards Cross at War, A Wistful Eye – The Tragedy of a Titanic Shipwright and Running with Crows – The Life and Death of a Black and Tan.

If you listen to A Helping of History, you may remember that I spoke to Denise back in March about her book The Cheetham Hill Murder. It’s a pleasure to be able to welcome her to Hannah’s Bookshelf to talk about some of her other books, and her writing more generally. And, of course, Denise will be sharing her selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Catch the show on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

October 7, 2019

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 8 October, 12-2pm

Join me on Tuesday at 12 for another Helping of History on North Manchester FM. This week, I’ll be talking Citizens Advice! In a bit of a crossover show, I’ll be joined in the studio by Rosi Avis (who you may have heard presenting the Citizens Advice Manchester show on the station).

Manchester CAB turns 80 years old this year. Started in 1939 to assist people with enquiries and problems of wartime, Citizens Advice Manchester continues to provide free, impartial advice to people in Manchester. I’ll be talking to Rosi about the history of this organization – sometimes called the ‘Poor Man’s Lawyer’ – and the ways it has developed since it began in 1939.

In the second hour of the show, I’ll be sharing a few of my favourite stories from the early days on Citizens Advice Manchester – from clothing coupons to chimney sweeps.

In addition to this, I’ll be taking my usual look through Yesterday’s Papers!

Catch the show on Tuesday at 12 on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

October 6, 2019

North Manchester FM: Crowdfunding Appeal!

North Manchester FM is 10 years old this year! The station has been broadcasting on FM (for North Manchester audiences) and online (for international audiences) for ten years, producing great radio content and supporting hundreds of volunteers with training, work experience and apprenticeship opportunities.

But we need a bit of help…

North Manchester FM is moving from its studio in Harpurhey soon – hopefully to a new studio down the road. This is an incredible opportunity for the station to develop its output and the opportunities it offers to local volunteers. But we can’t do it without some support. The station doesn’t receive any core funding (its income comes from SLAs and project funding), and as a truly community station that doesn’t bombard listeners with advertising, commercial income is limited. So we’re crowdfunding to help with the move and to secure the future of the station.

I have been a volunteer presenter on North Manchester FM for five years now, and I can honestly say it’s been an incredible experience. Not only has it offered me really interesting and unexpected creative opportunities that have allowed me to develop my own work, but it’s given me the chance to meet an amazing range of people and projects that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I’ve had over 200 guests on Hannah’s Bookshelf alone – interviewing people from almost every continent (just South America and Antarctica left to go!), as well as a huge number of local poets, authors, comedians and publishers. But I’ve also been part of a diverse, enthusiastic, passionate and slightly bonkers volunteer team, all from different walks of life and different backgrounds, who have come together to create something special for their local area.

We have an ambitious target to reach, but it would be wonderful if you could consider pledging to our crowdfunding appeal. North Manchester FM needs your support to keep producing its unique, original content and offering a voice to communities that are so often overlooked.

Please consider donating something (no matter how small) to our appeal. Anything you can give will go towards helping the station continue to offer local radio with an international appeal.