The UNESCO Cities of Literature network brings together 39 cities across 6 continents. The designation recognises excellence, calling upon cities to nurture creativity, support freedom of speech, and ensure literature reaches as wide and diverse an audience as possible.

Cultural leaders from 39 cities met digitally for the network’s first online meeting (21-25 September), hosted via Zoom by Prague City of Literature. The Cities of Literature showcased best practice and workshopped a range of collaborative projects, as well as launching their shared website.

Kateřina Bajo, Director, Prague UNESCO City of Literature said:

‘While an online meeting cannot recreate the joyous coming together of our network members, the cultural exchange and the stimulation of creativity that a gathering of people in our beautiful city would have brought, we hope the spirit of the annual meeting will live on in this new virtual format.’

Sandeep Mahal, Chair of the UNESCO Cities of Literature subgroup and Director of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature said:

‘We’re actively progressing our priority areas: to improve pathways for writers, commit to translation projects and collaborate on future book fairs and festivals, and in particular to conceive solutions to worldwide challenges exacerbated by COVID-19 such as improving literacy and social mobility and promoting equality.

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.’

Cities agree that the meetings are always vibrant, energising and highly engaging. A focus this time was supporting recovery, resilience and sustainability for writers and the industry as we move together through the pandemic, as well as working to effect positive change in the context of important social movements such as Black Lives Matter and the global climate crisis.

Peggy Hughes, Programme Director at National Centre for Writing in Norwich, UNESCO City of Literature said:

‘Though COVID conspired against us heading to Prague this year for our annual conference with our City of Literature family, it would take more than a pandemic to stop us connecting. This very trying and complicated year has undoubtedly had an enormous impact on all of us, our cities and our communities. But a problem shared is a problem halved and just clapping eyes on our friends from Dublin and Dunedin, from Melbourne and Montevideo and everywhere else, was a very welcome and always valuable tonic. After five Zoom-filled days of talking, listening, sharing and planning ways to collaborate, across twenty-eight countries and six continents, we left reminded of the great gift of being part of such a brilliant global network, the power of literature to unite us in times of crisis, and our collective role in ensuring that everyone in our cities can enjoy and participate in a life of stories.’


Find out more about Prague UNESCO City of Literature…

Prague, originally scheduled to host the conference face-to-face, has been a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network since December 2014. Prague’s most longstanding and significant project is the Prague residential programme, which offers 6 residential stays annually for foreign authors and translators. Prague facilitates accommodation, travel, a stipend, and literary events and readings for the visiting authors.

Another special project, Touches of World Literature, is a cycle of author readings taking place in collaboration with Prague City of Literature and the Museum of Czech Literature, aiming to showcase global literature and its creators. The bilingual programme guarantees appeal to both Czech and international audiences. The programme also includes an artistic interpretation of the texts by professional actors.

Delegates at the conference were proud to courier children’s books from their cities to the Prague UNESCO City of Literature Office for donation to the Public Library. Read more

Image: JESHOOTS, Pexels