Literary exchange

At the heart of Writing Places is two-year exchange of writers and photographers between Norwich and Kolkata.

Kolkata, January 2016

This five-day research and development trip marked the start of a partnership to form cultural connections between England’s first UNESCO City of Literature and East India’s educational and cultural centre. WCN’s Melanie Kidd shared her impressions of the city:

‘WCN staff and Norwich writers form cultural connections with Kolkata, India’ (WCN, February 2016)


Images (c) Mel Kidd

The three writers were nature writer Patrick Barkham, novelist Anjali Joseph and memoirist and novelist Vesna Goldsworthy. As well as exploring the city and meeting writers and publishers, they took part in the second Literary Activism Symposium, organised by UEA’s Amit Chaudhuri at Presidency University. You can find out more here.

The shared interests that emerged included heritage conservation, environmental threat, the creation of space for dissent, and writers and translators as activists.

You can read Patrick’s piece, ‘The miracle of Kolkata’s wetlands – and one man’s struggle to save them’, in The Guardian.

Kolkata, January 2017

We returned to Kolkata in January 2017 for a visit packed with festivals, workshops and conferences. We took part in two events at Kolkata Literary Meet, on The Women Who Made History, and on Cities and Inspiration, and joined the third Literary Activism Symposium at Presidency University, organised by Amit Chaudhuri of the University of East Anglia.

Images from the Kolkata Literary Meet 2017 (c) Sarah Hickson
Images from the Kolkata Literary Meet 2017 (c) Kolkata Literary Meet

Our Norwich writers were biographer and novelist Lucy Hughes-Hallett, poet Tiffany Atkinson and novelist and short story writer Sarah Bower.

A particular highlight was having their work translated into Bengali as part of the literary translation winter school at Jadavpur University, organised in partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation. Read more about the event here.

Sarah Bower paints a rich picture of her experiences during the visit in this article, from Eden Gardens, the home of Indian cricket, to the spring festival Saraswati Puja.

Norwich, May 2017

In May 2017, we welcomed to Norwich three writers from India – Paramita Satpathy Tripathy, Mandakranta Sen and Samit Basu – for the Writing Places Symposium. During the week, they explored the city of Norwich, and the surrounding countryside.


Images from the visit to Norwich in 2017 (c) Sarah Hickson

We held two events as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, with some of the readings available to watch in this playlist:


Sarah Bower, Anjali Joseph, Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Sarah Perry discussing Writing and Place (c) Sarah Hickson

The Symposium took place at the University of East Anglia and Dragon Hall, bringing our Indian writers together with UK writers who had taken part in India visits to talk about their work.


Sreedevi Nair (c) Sarah Hickson

The following videos provide a snapshot of the event:

Kolkata, January 2018

In January 2018, we returned to India for the Kolkata Literary Meet. Poet Tiffany Atkinson and photographer Sarah Hickson took part in events on writing, photography and place at the festival. Tiffany ran workshops at Jadavpur University and the British Council. We also had time to explore the city and meet up with various Kolkata-based writers and translators who have taken part in the Writing Places exchange.

Find out more in this blog by Flo Reynolds, WCN Programme Assistant, who joined the team for the Kolkata trip.


Images from the Kolkata Literary Meet 2018 (c) Flo Reynolds & Kolkata Literary Meet

Writing Places Online

As part of the project, we offered a ten-week literary exchange between writers and translators in Norwich and Kolkata. Most of the participants were students at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and Jadavpur University in Kolkata.

Once a fortnight, the two course facilitators, Sarah Bower and Arunava Sinha, posted writing prompts on the theme of writing and place. In response, participants posted short pieces of creative writing and literary translation. Example:

An unusual view of Norwich Cathedral. What does it provoke or inspire?

We ran a second Writing Places Online course in summer 2018.