We are delighted to welcome five writers from other UNESCO cities of literature to Norwich for a virtual residency in February 2021. During the month-long residency, our UNESCO writers in residence will be running workshops with young people in Norfolk, making an appearance on The Writing Life podcast and taking part in events for our Meet the World series.
Their main focus will be exploring connections between Norwich and their own UNESCO city of literature, linking up with local writers and working on a range of commissions. Look out for projects involving webcams, independent bookshops, Vikings, climate writing, waterways, medieval heritage and our very own Julian of Norwich.
Liz Breslin will join us from Dunedin. She writes poems, plays and stories. In 2020 she co-created Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature’s Possibilities Project and was the winner of the Kathleen Grattan Award for a Sequence of Poems. She’s also been part of a spoke’n’word tour of the Otago Central Rail Trail, which will be screened as rail:lines, a documentary film. Her second poem collection, In bed with the feminists, will be published by Dead Bird Books in 2021.
Liz says: ‘I was fortunate enough to get a UNESCO City of Literature residency in Krakow, Poland in 2019. The experience taught me a lot – that it was possible for someone like me to do something like that, that the Cities of Literature network is incredible, that these opportunities are gifts of time, creation and connection. In our lockdown here in NZ in 2020 I spent a lot of time physically alone and connecting with others online through The Possibilities Project, through a national hackathon, through multi-voice video calls and one-one-one chats but always through screens. So now in 2021 the idea of a virtual residency seems a natural and energizing idea, and I was amped to apply with my ideas about watching modern life watching us through webcams. Plus Norwich seems like a completely fascinating place to visit and if I can only go there virtually right now, so be it.
‘I’m hoping to get the opportunity to connect with people, and particularly stoked that some of those people will be the Lit from the Insiders, as well as the other virtual residents and the wider Norwich literati. I’m also looking forward to looking closely, to having the luxury of time to form prompts and responses, and to really enjoying the liminal space that has been created by the Norwich City of Literature in opening up these virtual residency projects.’
Lynn Buckle will join us from Dublin. Irish author and artist Lynn Buckle’s literary novel, The Groundsmen, was published in 2018 by époque press. Nominated for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, it was listed as Easons Best of Irish Literature and featured in a year-long book tour of Ireland and the UK. Recent work examines gender, power, and place through the lens of fictional nature and climate writing, from her own disability perspective. Her short stories and protest poetry can be found in Infinite Possibilities, Brigid, Luisne an Chleite, époque ezine, and HCE Review Vol I, Issue II.
Lynn, a protest author who writes from a disability perspective, says she is honoured and excited at the opportunity to work with authors from other literary cultures, while promoting Irish authors abroad, creating connections, and sharing writers’ worlds. She plans to foster interest in nature and climate writing, while writing about Norwich and Dublin’s shared histories of hidden waterways through the lens of gender, power, and place.
Vahni Capildeo will join us from Edinburgh. Their background in medieval studies, lexicography, translation theory and culture for development underpins their non-fiction and poetry. Capildeo is interested in collaborative and immersive experiments; Skin Can Hold (Carcanet, 2019) and Odyssey Calling (Sad Press, 2020) offer participatory texts for readers to re-work. Capildeo’s work has been recognized with awards including the Forward Prize (Best Collection) and the Cholmondeley Award. Their ongoing research on silence, and their concern with the ecopoetics of place, are reflected in their eighth book, Like a Tree, Walking (Carcanet, 2021) and their seventh pamphlet, The Dusty Angel (Oystercatcher, 2021).
Vahni says: ‘As a writer of non-fiction and poetry, I have a longstanding concern with techniques for layering of time, place, and memory. Norwich and Norfolk have been a core part of my imagination throughout my entire writing life, both via personal connexions to local residents and writers and via creative and professional engagement with the literature and sites of the city, university, and county. I am committed to continuing to explore this inhabitation by place that is my relationship with Norwich, and should be grateful of a forum, community and resources in order to develop this relationally. Twinning UNESCO cities of literature Norwich and Edinburgh, the project I will work on will be titled ‘Lighthouse and Anchorage’.’
Valur Gunnarsson will join us from Reykjavik. Valur grew up on the Viking trail in Reykjavik, Oslo and Yorkshire. He is best known as a writer of creative historical fiction; his first novel was a Viking fantasy and his third an alternative history where the Germans invade Iceland in World War II. Meanwhile, his second novel was a piece of autofiction set in the aftermath of the economic collapse of 2008. His fourth book, expected in March 2021, is in the same vein, but this time set in the former Soviet Union. He also co-founded Grapevine magazine and has made three albums and a poetry book.
Valur says: ‘Stark coastal scenes. Incessant North Atlantic winds. Fish, give or take chips. An illustrious literary history, going back to the Middle Ages. And Vikings. On the face of it, Norfolk and Iceland are the same place, separated by a patch of water. Although preliminary research suggests that Norfolk is rather more flat. Having studied literature both at the University of Iceland and at UEA, I want to explore how the history, and the landscape, have impacted writers such as Sebald and Laxness who wandered these respective coasts and mused about their heritage.’
Marcin Wilk will join us from Krakow. He is a writer, journalist, and blogger. For many years he was the curator of the Przemysły Książki [“Book Industries”] at the International Literary Festival – Conrad Festival in Kraków (Poland), as well as the moderator of the Reading Discussion Clubs on classical literature in the same city. Author of the biographies of two famous Polish women: singer Anna Jantar (“Tyle Słońca“, 2015), and actress Irena Kwiatkowska (“Żarty się skończyły”, 2019), and a historical reportage “Pokój z widokiem. Lato 1939” [“A Room with a View. Summer 1939”] (2019). He is an editor of Wyliczanka.eu – a portal about books and literature.
Marcin says: ‘In my project I will focus on the activities of independent bookshops. This is currently a very important topic for cultural and economic reasons. Independent bookshops operate in Krakow thanks to the enthusiasm of both the booksellers who run them, gathered around small bookshops, readers and customers, but also with the support of municipal institutions and – no less importantly – a growing awareness of the role that bookshops play in the city or in society in general. In examining the functioning of bookshops in Norwich, I want to learn about their local history, find out who the people who run them are, and also look through the prism of the bookshops at the local community, the book market, and the city.’
Our UNESCO writers in residence will be working on a mix of commissions, from writing tips to Walking Norwich, and running workshops with our Lit from the Insiders. Look out for them on the Writing Life podcast and in the spring season of Meet the World. Throughout February the writers will be sharing daily writing prompts inspired by their own UNESCO city of literature.
These residencies are generously supported by the ACE Ambition for Excellence Fund.