Monday, 16 April 2012

Norwich: UNESCO City of Literature?

By KoS (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Norwich is a lovely place to live, most of the time, but having just got back from visiting my brother in London, it can seem a little, um, lacking in bustle. And then there's being the butt of lazy jokes about in-breeding, webbed toes etc. So it was rather a pleasant change to read that the Writers' Centre Norwich is leading a bid for our Fine City to become England's first UNESCO City of Literature (Edinburgh is one already).

Obviously I particularly like this bit from  UNESCO's list of criteria:
"Active effort by the publishing sector to translate literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature;"
but the whole idea sounds pretty exciting. Apparently they are expecting news in the next six months or so.

I was also fascinated by the list of literary firsts in Norwich (from the Writers' Centre website):
from the first battlefield dispatch (1075) to the first woman published in English (Julian of Norwich – C15th), the first recognisable novel (C16th), the first blank verse (C16th), the first printed plan of an English city (C16th), the first published parliamentary debates (Luke Hansard – C18th), the largest concentration of published dissenters, revolutionaries and social reformers (C18th /19th ) including Tom Paine and the 30 million bestseller, Anna Sewell; the first provincial library (1608), first municipality to adopt the Library Act (1850), first provincial newspaper (1701), first British MA in creative writing (the first student of the first MA was Ian McEwan (1971)), the UK’s first City of Refuge (2006) for persecuted writers and a founding member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) and to cap it all, the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library (C21st) has the highest number of visitors and users in the UK – by far. 
Julian of Norwich and Thomas Paine I knew about, and the MA in creative writing is pretty inescapable in these parts, but the local connections of Anna Sewell and Luke Hansard were new to me.

So I wish the bid every success and will wait to see what happens. Meanwhile I will enjoy being a very small cog in a much more literary machine than I ever realised!
By Lin Kristensen from New Jersey, USA (Books of the Past) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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