Janet Allan had been working at the Portico Library in Manchester as a librarian in the 1980s, when she first met Michael Schmidt. She had previously worked in publishing production for Manchester University Press, Liverpool University Press and the London-based publisher Methuen (which later became part of Associated Book Publishers). Michael Schmidt was keen for her to join the Carcanet Press team and despite having no experience of marketing, she joined them in 1992 as Marketing Manager. She subsequently moved into production working alongside Robyn Marsack for many years until she left Carcanet.
She has been the Chair of the Elizabeth Gaskell Society (1998-2004) and helped to set up the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust (MHBT). Through the trust, she helped purchase and guide the restoration of Elizabeth Gaskell’s house in Manchester. The house was successfully opened to the public in 2014 and in 2015, Allan was elected as President of the MHBT in recognition for her work. She has also been a Trustee of the Buxton Opera House, the Spring bank Arts Centre in New Mills and is currently member of the Board of the Portico Library. Whist working at the Portico Library in the 1980s she initiated the prestigious Portico Prize, a biennial award given to the book that best evokes the spirit of the North of England.
Janet Allan wrote (26 June 2020): “I remember my first days at Carcanet, confronted by a strange new machine, a tiny Macintosh, which had only just replaced the Amstrad. We were crammed into small offices in Manchester’s Corn Exchange, with the carpets held together by sticky tape. . . . by a miracle both the office and Michael [Schmidt] himself escaped the Manchester IRA bomb. Carcanet was unlike any other publisher. The presiding genius of Michael Schmidt had a combination of sensitivity, knowledge and charm. Michael was (and probably still is) able to make you feel your unique importance. He was devoted both to the publication of poetry and to the poets whom he nurtured over the years. Many of the writers he had already published are still available today. They have been joined by new voices. What a wonderful 50 years.”