Nottingham and Norwich to host a global Cities of Literature forum – Nottwich 2019

Cultural leaders from 27 cities across 5 continents will come to the UK in May 2019 for a global gathering of the UNESCO Cities of Literature. Norwich and Nottingham (two of the UK’s four Cities of Literature) have been successful in a joint bid to host the week-long programme of cultural events. It will be the first time that the prestigious international forum has taken place in England.

Norwich and Nottingham UNESCO Cities of Literature have called for the global cultural sector to pull together amid political tensions and uncertainty. Ahead of the network’s first meeting in England, Chris Gribble and Sandeep Mahal argue for literature to be used as a catalyst for building bridges, for bringing about greater community cohesion, and for fostering empathy, understanding and tolerance.

Literature can’t move mountains, but it can galvanise social progress,” said the heads of the two Cities of Literature. “We need culture and we need literature and a good political policy to demonstrate what a cultured, civilised society can do; what a cultured, civilised society can be. It’s what we, the UNESCO Cities of Literature, are about.”

For the first time, the global network of UNESCO Cities of Literature will hold its annual summit in England. Representatives from 27 cities – from Baghdad and Barcelona to Melbourne and Milan – will visit Norwich and Nottingham, splitting their time between the two cities for a week-long UNESCO Cities of Literature Forum, running 20-24 May 2019.  

At the summit, the network will share examples of the year’s successes, plan future projects, and consider new applications to the group. Topics high on the agenda will be international exchanges and residencies and how to promote books in translation. The programme includes an evening with prize-winning Scottish novelist Ali Smith and this year’s UNESCO 2019 Lecture, delivered by Robert Macfarlane.

Chris Gribble, Norwich City of Literature and CEO of the National Centre for Writing, said: We are delighted to welcome the network to Norwich and showcase the city’s outstanding cultural offer as a world leader in literary excellence. The National Commission for UNESCO estimates that the UK’s Creative Cities generate an additional £2.4 million per year through their association with UNESCO.  It is with the help of these vibrant partnerships that we remain resilient in a changing world. The Cities of Literature Network has emerged as a powerful force advocating the importance of culture and creativity in driving regeneration and tourism, creating jobs, and making people healthier and happier. We look forward to working with the group as we plan for the year ahead.”

Sandeep Mahal, Nottingham City of Literature, said: “We’ve identified priority areas for development to improve mobility of writers, commit to translation projects and collaborate together on books fairs and festivals but to also conceive solutions to common challenges such as improving literacy and social mobility and promoting gender equality.”

The UNESCO Cities of Literature network brings together 28 cities with a combined population of over 26 million including 1250 libraries, 130 literary festivals and over 1200 bookshops. The designation recognises excellence, placing an obligation on cities to nurture their artform, support freedom of speech and ensure literature reaches as wide and diverse an audience as possible.

Norwich was England’s first UNESCO City of Literature and is home to the National Centre for Writing.  The UNESCO Cities of Literature Forum 2019 in Norwich and Nottingham is supported by funding from Arts Council England.


Posted on 17 May 2019

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