Lillehammer is among the most important cultural cities in Norway. The region has rich literary traditions and holds a leading position nationally.
The Norwegian Festival of Literature is the largest of its kind in the Nordics, with a diverse program catering to readers of all ages – ranging from on-stage conversations, debates, lectures, readings and award ceremonies to exhibitions, seminars, shows, quizzes and other festivities. Among the authors who have attended the festival in earlier years, you’ll find names such as Svetlana Alexievich, J.M. Coetzee, Herta Müller, John Irving, Adonis, Margaret Atwood, Karl Ove Knausgård, Edouard Louis, Ali Smith, Abdulrazak Gurnah and many more.
Lillehammer is also home of The World Expression Forum (WEXFO), held annually in May. WEXFO aims to ensure and empower global free speech based on high level guidance, best practice, and high-quality analysis. WEXFO is a common arena for those with a firm belief in freedom of expression as a prerequisite for a global sustainable development.
The need for a forum where the challenges to freedom of expression can be discussed and debated is greater than ever. But we also want to showcase progress. Free media, literature and other art forms are fundamental preconditions for freedom of expression. They provide knowledge, and are central to constructive, critical debate. They challenge entrenched notions, shape our self-understanding and, at the same time, are taking care of the memories of society.
Freedom of speech is necessary for trust and openness, both between individuals and between the public and social institutions. Freedom of speech is a prerequisite for a “society for all” – and is very much at the core of Lillehammer’s values as a globally oriented City of Literature.
Since 2008 Lillehammer has been an ICORN international city of refuge for authors suffering from persecution. In so doing, the city has assumed a particular responsibility not only in the struggle for freedom of expression, but also to provide practical assistance for individuals who find themselves in dangerous situations.
Lillehammer is home to the Norwegian Film School, ranked by a Hollywood reporter in 2014 as one of the world's five leading film schools. The School offers the country’s most prestigious bachelor and master programmes in screenwriting. Lillehammer also hosts the Amandus Festival, a national film festival where adolescent film-makers and film academy students meet the professional film industry.
Lillehammer’s Nansen Humanistic Academy offers a one-year study founded on the Scandinavian Folk High School tradition. The Academy offers a programme in Creative Writing, where the method of teaching is independent writing, workshops and tutoring, often taught by established visiting authors. The Academy also offers a one-year programme in Literature and Philosophy and each year offers a recidency to a writer who has experienced persecution or oppression related to their work.
Lillehammer has a long history of investing in children and youth. The Cultural Schoolbag, which is a comprehensive literature programme for students, courtesy of the County Council and the municipality, ensures that all children are introduced to literature at school. Here authors meet children and youths with activities such as reading out loud, debates and workshops. Lillehammer also hosts the Amandus Festival, a national film festival where young film makers meet the professional film industry.
COLLABORATION WITH OTHER CITIES
LETTERS FROM AN EXILE
In the fall of 2020, Lillehammer collaborated on a project with our UNESCO and ICORN partner city Reykjavík, bringing two selected writers in refuge in direct contact with each other. Under the heading «Letters from an Exile», the participating writers Mazen Maarouf (Reykjavík) and Mehdi Mousavi (Lillehammer) exchanged letters describing their hopes and ambitions and their common experiences of loss and boredom, even scrutinizing their own self-pity. Both letters were published on the web pages of both cities of literature, and widely shared within both the ICORN and UNESCO network.
Following the publishing of the letters, Lillehammer invited to a hybrid event at Lillehammer’s House of Literature, December 8, 2020. The event was attended by a local audience and was at the same time streamed online to a global audience of stakeholders and activists. In addition to underlining the importance of freedom of speech and the plight of refugees, the event also highlighted the potential in using UNESCO’s network of Creative Cities as a tool in the fight for basic democratic and human rights.
In January 2021, the «Letters from an Exile», event was followed up by an online meeting where representatives from dual ICORN and UNESCO Cities of Literature Kraków, Wrocław, Ljubljana, Reykjavík and Barcelona exchanged experiences, ideas, and ambitions. In September 2021, Lillehammer facilitated a break-out session during the Cities of Literature Annual Meeting in Reykjavík on the same topic.
A recording of the event can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQI0cRUQgg. The Letters can be found here: https://www.litteraturbyen.no/cppage.6352281-480692.html and here: https://www.litteraturbyen.no/cppage.6352300-480692.html .
The Norwegian Festival of Literature is an annual event is hosted in Lillehammer. The festival is the largest of its kind in the Nordic region, and ranked as one of the 20 best literature festivals in the world. The festival offers more than 200 different events, workshops, debates, readings and conversations. The festival is the principal meeting place for Norwegian authors, publishers, translators and agents. The festival also has a comprehensive programme for children and youth: Pegasus.
Bastard is an annual festival celebrating art books and micro-publishing, organized by Oppland Art Center.