Norwich and Nottingham UNESCO Cities of Literature have issued a rallying cry for cultural co-operation to coincide with this week’s UNESCO Cities of Literature Summit, calling for the global cultural sector to pull together amid political tensions and uncertainty.
As cultural leaders from 27 cities across 5 continents arrived in Norwich for the network’s first meeting in England, Chris Gribble and Sandeep Mahal argued for literature to be used as a catalyst for building bridges, for bringing about greater community cohesion, and for fostering empathy, understanding and tolerance.
Topics high on the agenda during the gathering are 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. The lecture will be a powerful testimony to the ways in which writing shapes, reflects and creates our understanding of the natural world.
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.
“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,” said Chris Gribble, CEO of the National Centre for Writing. “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.”
During the week, delegates will visit the Norwich Millennium Library, donating a collection of children’s picture books from around the world, visit the University of East Anglia and attend events during the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, before travelling to Nottingham to continue the conference. While there they will visit the Nottingham Marketplace, take part in a conversation about comic strips and illustrated prose with Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell and visit an exhibition at Lakeside Arts.
“We’ve identified priority areas for development,” said Sandeep Mahal, Director of Nottingham City of Literature, “to improve mobility of writers, commit to translation projects and collaborate together on book 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 Forum 2019 in Norwich and Nottingham is supported by funding from Arts Council England.